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Life After COVID – Meeting 24/7 Expectations

Life After COVID – Meeting 24/7 Expectations
07 July 2021

One of the biggest changes to come from COVID-19 is a new expectation for 24/7 accessibility.  No longer reserved for big consumer brands, there’s a growing expectation for 24/7 client care in B2B sectors too.

This presents a new set of challenges for facilities professionals, according to Jess Pritchard, Head of Corporate at Moneypenny, including how this new desire for round the clock care will be provided in the long term.



Picture: a photograph of Jess Pritchard


Pritchard said: “Lockdown life put our usual routines on hold while we juggled work and home life and as a consequence, many businesses found they were being contacted outside the traditional 9-5.  As the people within those businesses were also dealing with the same struggles – everyone adapted to a more flexible way of working – which meant that being accessible at less conventional times was much more possible.  The result is that although the end of lockdown signals the return of some normality – consumers’ expectation to deal with their service providers and partners on their terms and at their convenience, has not.”


48% of Consumers Expect Social Media Response Within 24 Hours


The 24/7 expectation isn’t purely a by-product of the pandemic - the proliferation of social media laid the foundations. A global study revealed that 48% of consumers expect social media response within 24 hours and almost one fifth (18 per cent) expect a response within one hour. Our collective patience has waned, and we now expect immediacy from the businesses we interact with.

Much of this demand still manifests through the telephone, which means FMs need to have appropriate technology, systems and resourcing in place to handle calls, take messages and field enquiries as required.  Unfortunately, as a recent survey by Moneypenny showed that many businesses failed to sort out their switchboards and therefore frontline call handling at the height of the pandemic – it seems there is still work to be done before a consistent and professional 24/7 experience can be delivered.

Pritchard said: “Our poll of 200 businesses in the capital revealed their struggles with call volumes and client care during lockdown. An alarming number removed their phone numbers from their websites in a desperate bid to stop the phone ringing. Others asked security personnel to handle their calls, and some hoped that voicemail would do the job - which it largely didn’t.  For these businesses, the idea of ensuring 24/7 client care may well seem like a huge mountain to climb. Plus we know that two thirds of businesses expect increased call volumes over the next few months, so they’ve got their work cut out to meet all of these issues simultaneously.”


"Voicemail is a red herring; it gives businesses a false sense of security and the illusion that they won’t miss any calls or opportunities if they have it in place But it’s actually to the contrary. 69 per cent of people ring off when they reach voicemail." 

– Jess Pritchard

Head of Corporate, Moneypenny


The biggest and most obvious challenge regarding the provision of 24/7 client care is that of resource – not to mention ensuring an appropriate on-brand response and that it meets a company’s wider service level values and agreements. However, there are a number of simple steps to follow to arrive at the best solution, according to Pritchard, starting with having a clear handle on expectations and the availability of in-house staff. 

She said:  “When we talk about 24/7 client care, people instinctively think it’s not possible because they can’t afford an around the clock response from their team.  Businesses looking at improving client care in this way need to consider the implications of 24/7 accessibility. For example, could front of house and switchboard teams work different shift patterns to provide extended cover – or is outsourced third party support needed so that once typical office hours are finished, it’s someone else’s responsibility.”

It's also useful to define what accessibility means for individual organisations and to assess demand outside traditional hours. Pritchard continues:  “Heightened accessibility for a law firm might mean ensuring that whenever someone calls, at whatever time, they are answered by a person. In this instance, the focus might be on taking a message and letting the caller know they’ll be called back the following day. After all, no one expects their solicitor to be available at 2 am.  But for a firm of building engineers, for example, improved accessibility might just mean a combination of having their team available for extended hours (say 7 am to 9 pm) to meet the needs of clients on site.”

The phone is still the number one channel for people to contact businesses, but it must be considered alongside other important channels such as social media and live chat, says Pritchard.

“Whether it’s speaking to someone to leave a message, receiving a response to a tweet or knowing that you can get an answer to your query via live chat – the two common threads are immediacy and people.  The expectation of 24/7 client care requires a human response in real-time – there and then. That’s what sets excellent client-centric-care apart.”


Ditching Voicemail


It’s perhaps not surprising then, that one of the biggest improvements businesses can make to their customer care is to ditch voicemail. Pritchard says: “Voicemail is a red herring; it gives businesses a false sense of security and the illusion that they won’t miss any calls or opportunities if they have it in place But it’s actually to the contrary. 69 per cent of people ring off when they reach voicemail.  Existing clients may well call back, prospects certainly won’t. We know that many businesses relied on voicemail during the pandemic – particularly where legacy phone systems struggled to meet demand or adapt to agile working.  It’s unlikely these businesses are aware of what it has cost them – both in revenue and reputational terms.”

Providing an immediate human response is even more effective when consideration has been given to how enquiries should be handled.  Having the answers to commonly asked questions to hand, knowing the names of who will handle certain enquiries and provide callbacks, being clear on where to signpost people for extra information and booking callbacks and appointments directly into diaries, can all help to improve client care.

Pritchard said “Over the last six months several businesses have told me how excellent their customer care is – but when I’ve tried to get in touch with them it’s been cumbersome, with poor call handling times and slow callbacks.  For businesses that say their client is key, the experience really has to match.”

Pritchard and her team at Moneypenny have helped hundreds of businesses improve their 24/7 provision over the last year with fully outsourced and overflow switchboard as well as live chat  – some specifically in response to heightened demand during lockdown, others as part of a wider programme to improve client care. Her parting advice for those still struggling to handle call volumes and the needs of increasingly demanding clients, is to act now. “Don’t ignore the issue or think ‘seeing what happens’ will work in your favour. As consumers, whatever the industry or business, we are increasingly savvy. We expect excellent customer care and improved accessibility is integral to that.   Getting over the challenges of COVID-19 will require us all to put our best foot forward, starting with how we make clients feel.”

Picture: a photograph of a person wearing a call centre headset

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 07 July 2021


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