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Addressing the New Normal in Retail Contact Center Services After Pandemic

Posted by Sunny Morgan
Addressing the New Normal in Retail Contact Center Services After Pandemic

Change is inevitable whether we like it or not. Change is also a necessary phenomenon that occurs to every being and entity because that is how evolution takes place. When it comes to business, we are all required to foresee the future so we can adapt accordingly. The advent of the recent pandemic changed the whole perspective of business. When we were forced to go into quarantine, the entire world got shunned before us.

Fortunately, we had enough resources and technology that helped us to lead our business operations remotely. Today we are going to discuss how retail shop owners transitioned from brick-and-motor infrastructure to online providers. Plus, we are going to discuss some new possibilities we are yet to witness in the retail contact center services. We will also discuss how technology can contribute to retail contact center services.

Challenges Caused by Pandemic in Retail Contact Center Services

Problems have always existed in the BPO industry, regardless of what business sector it serves. Worst situations manifest when we are out of sufficient resources. Similarly, retail contact center services faced challenges from time to time. Whether it is about implementing omnichannel strategies for maintaining consistency, recruiting for an occasional surge in workload, or keeping ourselves abreast of the latest techniques and technology.

One of the major catastrophes occurs when the retail contact centers are not able to fulfill their obligations during a major catastrophe. Customers won’t hesitate to switch to a different brand if they get better deals from another brand. Building a good rapport with customers has always been a challenge for contact center services. Customer services agencies work at the front office and so they act as the face of the brand that they are representing.

  • During the pandemic, the travel and hospitality industries were the worst affected businesses. Industries that require on-site interactions and work model is run in such a way that it couldn’t be done sitting remotely.
  • Conversely, the companies that were dealing with IoTs (Internet of Things) and digital transactions rarely faced friction in their work. The average customer support requests rose to more than 50% during the pandemic.
  • The havoc caused pandemic prompted every business to work under quarantine conditions which led to contingencies related to compliance and security. Although digital-oriented businesses were able to shift to a remote work model there were still some issues such as communication gaps and innovative thinking.

When circumstances required improvisation, companies did their best to cope with the situation using their predisposed resources. Before the pandemic, retail contact center services never contemplated the success rate of working remotely. Working remotely was not welcome in the retail contact center services because there were high chances of compliance negligence among the agents.

Agents require regular training and real-time improvisations in customer handling. Since the TL and managers were not able to monitor the work performance and discrepancies actively, it led to a few disruptions. However, retail contact center services also noticed a drastic improvement in customer experience as these contact center services were able to keep their services more available to the customers.

Illustrating the New Normal in the Retail Contact Center Service

Every problem is a new challenge and every challenge gives us an opportunity to optimize our performance and productivity. Retail contact center services were able to rule out the critical aspects of their operations. These criticalities were responsible for the growth and welfare of the overall process. Things like performance monitoring, compliance rate, communication efficiency, customer experience, and satisfaction rate were top priorities.

The retail industry is not just about contact center service. It involves the transportation of goods and services that involves people going out and interacting with other people on-site. Not all the operations can be done sitting on a desk using a computer. If one of the operations gets disrupted, there could be ample reasons. However, the stress would be on the retail contact center service because they are responsible for handling customers.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Supply chain management was always a siloed division where seldom there is a requirement for customer service interventions. However, during the pandemic, all the ports and factories got shut down and the shutting down caused a dramatic disruption in transportation. The retail industries were often facing so many delays in sending and receiving goods. A strong communication system was mandatory during those times.

Furthermore, there are many factors that are ultimately fueling the supply chain crisis. The factors such as the Russia-Ukraine war, recession, and inflation going rampant in developed countries like the US and UK, all of these problems will disrupt the supply chain, and since the supply chain crisis is a customer service problem nonetheless. The shipment interruptions and delays will eventually raise WISMO (where is my order?).

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Shortage of Labors

The labor shortage is a constant problem in retail industries. Hiring and staffing in on-site stores feel almost like a lost cause. It is quite hard to find reliable and hard-working staff members.

  • If you go to customer service kiosks, you will find new employees every once in a while because there is a lot of instability in the employees working at these kiosks. Many times businesses close these kiosks temporarily for managing the imbalance.
  • From reports collected from reputed supply-chain-oriented companies like FedEx, it has been observed that they often reroute thousands and millions of packages due to the shortage of staff members for processing. The same thing happens in retail contact center services.

The employee attrition rate is always abysmal in retail contact center services, which is why these companies bring employee-friendly policies to keep things stable. According to many experts, agent attrition is going to be a major threat in 2023 in the retail contact center industry. The countermeasures to avert these threats are already being tested. There should be more policies where employees and the company can be mutually benefited.

Longer Hold Times

The requests for customer support have quadrupled ever since the advent of the pandemic. The service delay and disruption are still at large. The retail contact center services are in a position to take most of the heat. It is quite natural that consumers would be rushing into customer support when their services get delayed. At this point, the agents generally can’t do much than just apologize and empathize with the customer.

Also, due to the inefficiency of the work model, the issues become more complex, and finding a viable solution for customers’ problems takes a longer time. Therefore, the hold time becomes lengthier than it should be. The longer hold times lead to poor experience and satisfaction rates. According to a recent study, the average hold time is 3 times as compared to the previous hold times.

Rising Inflation

The ongoing financial crisis is taking a heavy toll on world economics. The rise in gas and oil prices has triggered an increase in the prices of all goods and services all over the world. This is going to impact the retail industry greatly and whenever the retail industry is affected, the load on retail contact center services increases inevitably.

From the customers’ point of view, the price is a major concern and due to inflation, the budget of customers will get affected adversely therefore the customer experience will face a downfall.

Although we are gone past the pandemic the aftermath of the pandemic is still haunting the world economy. Still, there are many countries that are not able to recover from the economic crisis that starts during the pandemic.

Technological Limitations

The advancements in technology have eased up the retail contact center service operations to a great extent. There is enough evidence suggesting the improvement in performance and productivity of the retail contact center services. However, that is not the end game. It would not be wise to think that technology is the panacea to all future problems. When it comes to customer handling, technology can only help up to a certain extent.

The technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Metadata have helped many agencies to assess information at greater speeds and process human-like interactions. However, bot communication systems will have zero consequences if the issue resides at the service level only. Plus, when it comes to grievance support, customers still prefer to have real human interactions rather than chatbots.

Relinquishing Customer Service

In general, we are encountering apathy for customer service from the retail industry itself. Since the problem is pertaining to the service level due to the aftermath of the pandemic and other unavoidable circumstances like inflation and recession, the companies are putting let emphasis on the customer service part. Earlier, companies invested their effort and time in delighting customers for repeating business but things are different now.

There are bigger problems at play at this moment. The problems related to inventory shortages, logistics, shipping problems, rising costs, and volatile customer behavior, the retained brands can no longer prioritize customer service because customers are looking bigger-better-deal. The moment they find good offers from a different brand, they will switch instantly so there is no point in pleasing the customers.


Therefore, now we can see the drawbacks we are facing in the retail industry. The things that we have discussed so far are the pain points that have emerged recently. These are the consequences of the pandemic left behind. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t overcome these issues.

The best we can do is empathize with the customers for the current predicament. The situation is helpless but it is only temporary. Instead of completely relying on AI-based chatbots and automated features, customers should get self-help UI systems where they can make transactions by themselves.

World governments and business giants are already contemplating viable options in every sector and the retail industry is also improvising in terms of logistics and supply chain. But until we reach a complete absolution, we need to focus on combating the general crisis together. Problems like inflation are temporary and we have bigger things coming.

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