As summer draws to a close, many of the short-term measures put in place to help UK citizens and businesses to get through the Coronavirus pandemic are also ending.

On 31st October 2020, for example, the national job retention scheme, payment holidays on loans and mortgages, and the ban on home repossessions are all due to finish.

This means that people who have been relying on this support since March will be facing a whole new set of problems: being in debt (possibly for the first time in their lives), losing their jobs and / or their homes, needing to save money to lessen the impact of homeworking on their utility bills, a greater possibility of being off sick or quarantined after travelling abroad, and so on.

So it’s crucial that you have the capacity to provide the best possible service to customers who are understandably stressed, worried, anxious – and desperate to talk to someone who can help them make up missed payments and then keep on paying. What preparations have you made to deal with the soaring demand for collections activity, while still meeting your regulatory obligation to treat each customer fairly?

The increase in customers needing help requires you to have operational measures in place that are flexible enough to allow you to respond to fluctuations in demand, so that you always have enough customer service agents available to ensure that every customer can speak to someone who has the time and expertise to deal with them fairly, empathetically and proactively. One way you can do this is via a call-back service, which means that customers aren’t put on hold until an agent becomes available and are advised about the information they should have to hand when an agent calls them back.

In addition to call backs, conversational AI tools allow customers to get answers to straightforward questions, carry out simple transactions and be signposted to other sources of information, without having to queue to talk to an agent. It can also put callers with complex enquiries through to the right agent or book a convenient call-back if no one is immediately available to give in-depth, personalised help.

Long wating times to speak to advisers has meant that customers are increasingly turning to digital channels first. However, if they cannot self-serve, they expect to be able to talk to an experienced customer service agent, particularly if they find themselves in a vulnerable situation.

Capita’s intelligent technology gives users a range of digital self-service options. For example, our Pay360 income AI learns customers’ behaviours so that we can proactively engage with them at the time and in the way that suits them best. Not everyone wants to talk about their financial situation to another person, so giving people a choice in how they approach you gives them a sense of control and makes them more willing to tackle issues.

And our flexible resourcing capability is helping our clients to maximise their customer service capacity with rapid response call centres and home working solutions. During the summer, for example, we trained and deployed an initial cohort of 200 call handlers and managers remotely in just four weeks and subsequently deployed another 1,000 call handlers to support the Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit helpline. We provided them with the equipment, technology and training to work successfully from home, giving vulnerable people crucial information and support for their Universal Credit applications during the pandemic.

Having the customer service capacity and expertise to meet the increased demand from customers needing help to deal with the pandemic’s impact on all aspects of their lives is absolutely vital, whether that’s mitigating the effects of working at home on communication networks and utility bills or catching up with loan repayments following a payment holiday.

Whether you use technology or people to meet soaring demand, the key is to be able to deal with all customers fairly and proactively, in a way that gives them confidence in you and your brand.

Written by


Ian Elam

Business Development Director, Capita Customer Management

Ian has spent the last 25 years working with regulated businesses, helping them improve customer outcomes, reducing costs whilst remaining compliant. He is part of team responsible for Capita’s collections, complaints and rectification proposition development. Prior to joining Capita he has held senior leadership and board roles in consultancy and outsourcing businesses.

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