Relieving the Call Center

How collection operations are managing the crisis and preparing for what’s next

As the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world, we can practically track its movement by the surging inbound call volumes to collection operations. Call centers in Asia, Europe and now North America have seen volumes 10 times normal or higher. Their ability to smoothly handle this surging volume is greatly affected by whether they have intelligent, automated omnichannel customer communications.

In China, one bank experienced a peak volume of 300,000 cases per day—20 times its normal volume—with zero agents. Here’s what happened: many buildings were ordered to close, and call centers in these buildings were quickly shut down. Data privacy regulations prevent collectors from working from home.

Fortunately, the bank was already using FICO® Customer Communication Services (CCS) for a large portion of collection cases. They were able to handle the surge with no downtime by putting 100% of their volume through CCS. The regional CCS team handled nearly 100% volume for other banks, too.

If that sounds a bit boastful, it probably is. Full disclosure: I’m Vice President for Customer Communication Services, commonly referred to as CCS, for North America. I mention this because when facing the challenges the COVID-19 virus presents, there’s no substitute for automation and omnichannel capabilities. Not only to relieve the immediate, overwhelming call volume, but to quickly communicate empathy and respect for the position many of our customers find themselves in. We’re all in this together, for the long haul.

Here’s a quick video example of an inbound call script:

The operational changes happening around the globe have highlighted the need for interactive dialogues 24/7. This includes the ability to scale to any volume of calls and quickly change rules, workflows and scripts in an evolving, dynamic environment. Which means less reliance on call centers.

The pandemic has proven what we’ve known all along: automation can manage the majority of cases, with better timing, compliance and consistency, at a fraction of the cost of an FTE. Connecting to an agent when needed means 100% of calls can be resolved in a much shorter timeframe. Wait times are shortened, teams create more of a best-practice culture and customers are more satisfied. 

Automation and omnichannel communications are what today’s consumers want, and the only way to manage in an era of closed-down call centers and staffing decreases due to health concerns and work from home issues.

To read more about effective, interactive communications, go here: or contact me directly at

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