Uniphore Executive Interview
Umesh Sachdev, Co-Founder and CEO, Uniphore
Call Centers Pivoting to Contact Tracing Hubs
Please provide a brief overview of the role
contact centers play in contact tracing.
The CDC has confirmed contact tracing is a key
strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks. Because
local, state and federal governments did not have a contact tracing workforce
trained and ready to handle such emergencies, we find ourselves in a difficult
situation. As a result, many states are turning to another option to help with
contact tracing: call center workers. While contact tracing can be challenging
because of the socio-political debates surrounding the practice, it is merely
another application that contact centers can be optimized to handle. With
trained agents ready to take and make calls, processes in place to effectively
analyze and submit data received, call centers can be an incredibly effective
tool for contact tracing.
Is it realistic to expect contact tracing to
work? What are best practices to make sure call centers are doing their best to
help with this effort?
While call centers have been helping with
contact tracing, some states have run into issues. The issues include, the need
for timely and immediate action. Previously, call centers were able to field
caller questions and then have the ability to look into answers to resolve
their issues, sometimes the next day. While not ideal, we can wait until
tomorrow to find out if our auto insurance rate was lowered. However, when
dealing with COVID-19, tracing is dependent on time, tracking and informing
those who have come into contact with the virus immediately. Another issue
comes with the dynamic nature of the information exchanged and the course of
action to follow which is needed to quickly and effectively trace people,
locations and interactions. Unlike standard call centers, which typically have
established and approved responses based on policies, escalation paths and even
exception processes, contact tracing is continuously being updated with the
latest contacts/exposure, positive/negative testing status, and even the latest
guidelines from the CDC/WHO. A final issue being dealt with is around ensuring
the call centers meet the multiple healthcare compliance regulations in order
to conduct their new role.
Some best practices to consider would be to
align overall goals with the new processes.
Be sure to have a holistic lens, focusing on realistic timelines and be
sure to properly train teams to handle such personal and private information.
Next, be sure to explore a complete technology solution to help streamline
these processes, meet compliance regulations, and establish effective protocols
to handle the broad range of incoming and outgoing calls. There are currently
machine learning (ML) and AI technologies in the market today that can work
closely with call center representatives to provide agile, cost effective, and
intelligent solutions (even that help coach agents on empathy and real-time
response suggestions). And lastly, make
sure your technology supports continuous “learning”, just as your agents are
expected to always learn and adapt.
Most consumers do not answer their phone if
they don’t know who is calling. Why
would they pick up this type of call?
Thankfully, most people want to avoid getting
sick and so once they understand that it is a contact tracing center calling,
they will likely engage. And that engagement may be self-driven, or they may need
to be contacted. The key is to leverage conversational technology that
continues to connect with people so they can understand if they’ve been exposed
to the virus. This can be done via intelligent voice assistants, text or social
outreach or it can be added on to existing calls people make to inquire with
their healthcare provider or insurer.
The important thing is, organizations are not wasting expensive agent
time waiting for people to pick up the phone.
Another new reality was recently uncovered in
a survey we sponsored in the early days of COVID. We found that an overwhelming
majority of people preferred to speak with an agent, rather than have contact
through some other digital means. This bodes well for contact tracing and the
ability for humans to interact with technology to ensure people and families
are kept safe. With people more willing to talk with agents, and with the
support of advanced conversational service automation technology, contact
tracing can help in the fight against COVID-19.