In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, all call centers have now been asked to play an important role and act as contact tracing hubs to track and contain the spread of the virus. It is estimated that the US will need to employ 100,000 to 300,000 contact tracers for this to be an effective program. However, medical call center representatives trained to handle these sensitive calls are in short supply. Therefore states had to “get creative in order to find workers”. Unfortunately it does not work.
We met with Umesh Sachdev, co-founder and CEO of Uniphore, a company that works with call centers around the world to understand why contact tracing is failing in the US
What are some of the top reasons why contact tracing fails in the US?
A: Some of the main reasons are certainly sociopolitical issues. While contact tracking can be challenging, it’s just another application that contact centers can be optimized to handle. In order for a modern contact center to be successful, well-informed and prepared agents, optimized and efficient processes, secure back office systems for storing and retrieving data, automated and integrated agent desktop software, compliance and monitoring functions as well as robust QA -Processes required.
The first reason some centers have difficulty conducting successful contact tracing is time. Unlike some applications, where information can be queued for further investigation or response within a few days, contact tracing needs to be in near real-time to prevent further spread of the virus.
The second challenge is the dynamics of the information that is being collected, processed and processed. Unlike standard call centers, which usually set approved responses based on guidelines, escalation paths, and even exception processes, contact tracking is continuously updated with the latest contacts / exposures, positive / negative test status, and the latest CDC / WHO guidelines.
The third challenge is to comply with government health regulations and strict guidelines and procedures for handling health-related information. The fact of the matter is that today there is Conversational Service Automation technology that can remove the above contact center challenges with contact tracking. Conversational Service Automation has the accuracy, speed, and flexibility to make a difference and transform contact centers.
Why are call centers so important to contact tracing success?
A: When both humans and conversational technology are properly paired, contact centers can be a powerful tool in the battle to mitigate the effects of this virus.
Why do certain states fail more than others?
A: The key to broader success in contact tracing is using the right tools that are best for the people involved, and then training them appropriately to become familiar with the technology. Some areas of the country are more used to speaking to automated voice-activated systems, while others prefer to speak to a live agent. Some agents in some areas are more willing to be coached and can adapt in real time than others. The key lies in using flexible technology to achieve the goals set by the organization.
Ultimately, technology has to adapt to people. That’s the beauty of artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation technology that work side by side in real time.
What are some best practices for call centers to ensure they can handle the calls successfully?
A: Make sure you understand the overall goals and schedule. Don’t look at each process individually. See how they all work together, identify the dependencies between them, and then identify ways to streamline.
When making technology decisions, look for a partner who has both the breadth and depth of experience to do things differently. Call center technology has been around for many years and it’s stagnating and changing profoundly thanks to the latest AI, machine learning and automation technologies coming together in new ways.
Look for solutions that combine the best human agents (empathy, person-to-person conversations) with the speed, accuracy and cost effectiveness of AI, machine learning and AI. The answer to solving call center challenges, including contact tracing, is not to be dominated by a single approach. It’s a combination of two!
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