Facing unprecedented situations, Brandt implemented business continuity plans and precautionary measures to minimize disruption to our clients and maximize our efforts to keep our team members and clients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Business Continuity: Leadership Team is in regular contact with each other and observing local, state, and federal updates in order to monitor the situation and ensure that we are deploying best practices.
- Travel: Paused all non-essential business travel for our team members. Utilized virtual technology to connect with partners and team members to avoid any disruption or delay.
- Workplace Hygiene: Offices receive an increased level of workplace cleaning. We are actively communicating our guidelines around general safety and hygiene to our employees and partners.
- Remote Support: Ensuring the quality and security of our services, we implemented remote support for all employees, including Call Center agents.
- Agency Support: Coordinated state agency leadership conference call to allow our state partners to collaboratively and candidly discuss their situations, as well as created a private online forum to share resources.
- Marketing Support: Monitored daily digital advertising activity, adjusted messaging relevancy, and implemented new tactics to continue to evolve with the changing times.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
- Take Care of Customers First
- Take Care of Each Other
- Do the Right Thing
The Remote Transition
We pride ourselves on our in-house Call Center team members who are within a short walk of the full development and leadership team. Our direct oversight and collaborative training procedures have allowed us to provide superior customer service and support. Although increased workplace cleaning and workplace safety and hygiene measures were in place, we felt the need to transition our Call Center team members to remote support during this time. Once the decision was made, our team transitioned to working from home within a few short days. It was no small task for our crew. Not only was the transition smooth, we increased customer call satisfaction:
TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY
Our IT team proactively ordered equipment that has since become unavailable for several months due to increased demand. We met with our PCI (Payment Card Industry) auditors very early in the process to ensure security compliance for our remote employees.
To overcome the lack of in-person collaboration and supervision as a result of the remote transition, we leveraged tools for digital monitoring and individual feedback for improvement. Group chats, video conferencing, and screensharing became even more critical for asking questions and sharing information.
Today, the only few team members reporting to Brandt offices are those who do not have suitable space / settings for working from home such as lack of space, internet or distractions. We also have several employees who have had to take a leave of absence. When this pandemic began impacting our operations, we were in the process of hiring and onboarding many call center agents. This was put on hold as we navigated our remote support transition and our hiring and on-boarding has now resumed to peak performance. This five-week pause meant a decrease in available agents to answer calls. We are currently hiring and remotely training a majority of our new team members and have already completed two rounds of training.
CUSTOMER MENTALITY – “SERVE AND SELL”
Refreshingly, the public customers were generally not concerned about COVID when they were calling into our Call Center. They understood that things were different, and they may need to change the way they obtained certain services, but they were still as excited to camp, hunt, fish, and boat at the majority of our partners facilities. This excitement continued to be the major undertone of the calls which contributed to our positive team mentality.
Daily messaging to the Call Center team was to “Serve and Sell”. If we have customers who call with a desire to use our partner’s facilities and make a reservation or purchase – our MAIN GOAL was to get them to that end.
There are several factors that increased call volume during COVID-19:
- Increased call length time: Customers who previously made reservations in-park (walk-ins) or purchased licenses at physical locations were now forced to purchase online. Many calls were simply walking the customer through their first online reservation or purchase which takes longer than regular phone requests.
- Increased responsibilities: To help offset the lack of agency in-office staff, we took on several additional services for our partners, including processing lifetime applications and commercial applications. These workflows also increased the average length of calls.
- Increased call volume: Increased demand for campsites and the new online users who were calling to ensure reservations were intact (albeit they receive confirmation email or text SMS).
- Drastic and unpredicted traffic spikes: Keeping us on our toes, the spikes in call volume traffic did not follow traditional trends. Weekly fluctuations ranged from being down 30% from expected volumes to being up 30% (1,400 calls in one week for the state of Georgia alone).
To mitigate the increased call volume, it was all hands-on deck. Anyone trained and able to answer calls pitched in, starting work early and staying late. Even though we did not always shine on our required Service Level Agreements, we maintained the focus on customer service and did a great job keeping those metrics satisfactory.
We believe the following key factors to be imperative in our success:
- Be Proactive. Anticipate and plan early for potential technology, hardware, and personnel needs.
- Be Honest. Communicate risks, concerns, and non-issues in order to focus on what truly needed to be addressed and what the alternatives were.
- Trust Each Other. Proceed in unison regardless of differing opinions on best steps forward.
- Find A Way. We may not know everything or what is involved, but we solve together.
- The Right People. The power is in our team members who have positive attitudes to tackle each challenge.
A TIME TO SHINE
Our agency partners and the public has reached out to us privately and in very public ways to show their appreciation for us during this time. COVID-19 has and will continue to change our lives in many ways but for some of our team they embraced the stress and uncertainty to shine in their service to customers.
Here are a few recent public examples:
Hello Mr. Wise,
Just a quick note to let you know how much we appreciate the service my husband and I received today from Mrs. Gardner. I am not sure how (my husband is convinced I threw them away) but we lost our new registration/tags for our jet ski. Husband rang your office today and spoke with Mrs. Gardner who was ever so gracious enough to send us a new set. He fessed up and told her he is sure we tossed the mail out (he thinks I did ???? ) and she was quick to say no problem, we will just mail you a new set without question. We truly appreciate her kind service and helping us secure the replacement tags. She was a joy and we just wanted to make sure she was recognized for same.Have a wonderful day! Take care…
Lynn Durham, Agent
Goochland County Farm Bureau
WE TEACH EACH OTHER
We all have an opportunity to learn from one another to hopefully become more efficient and adaptable for the next local or worldwide event which forces us to re-think and implement our services. Together, we can make the most of the toughest situations with partnership and teamwork.