Insight by TTEC

Focus on employee experience to navigate vaccine mandate

This content is written by Andy Martin, Group Vice President of Public Sector, TTEC.

The deadline for federal employees and contractors to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is fast approaching, giving agencies little time to navigate the logistics of the federal mandate.

The looming deadline poses several challenges. Agencies must be ready to accommodate a surge in calls and inquiries, with 2.1 million federal employees and more than 2 million federal contractors affected by the mandate. A myriad of questions related to exemptions, timing of vaccinations, availability of vaccinations, organizational policies (which are unique to each agency) are all top of mind for federal employees. Agencies also need to manage various logistics: Ensuring employees are vaccinated, keeping track of any exemptions, making sure exempt employees are tested regularly and, perhaps most importantly, proof of vaccination status or attestation.

Under the mandate imposed by the Biden administration, federal employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated – which means two weeks past their final vaccine dose – by Nov. 22 or face disciplinary action. Even sooner, as of Nov. 9, agencies can begin taking disciplinary actions against those who refuse to get vaccinated and lack a legal exception.

The stakes are high: If this undertaking isn’t handled well, agencies run the risk of attrition of federal employees. If many employees leave, they’ll take a huge pool of talent and knowledge with them.

And with all this going on, agencies still need to be able to focus on their core missions. It is a lot to manage, but some customer experience (CX) best practices can help.

Taking time now to prioritize the experience as a key tenant of this mandate will reduce logistical headaches, save time and resources in the long run and bolster the overall success of the mission. Agencies aim to instill trust in agency leadership, confidence in the process and demonstrate caring in a chaotic and very personal issue.

Let’s face it, the vaccine mandate carries some emotional weight for employees and employers alike. The human element can’t be overlooked. Agencies can take control of the narrative around the mandate and avoid the risk of misinformation by embracing a human-centric and proactive approach that strikes the right balance between technology and people.

Apply CX tips to reduce friction

First, agencies must be ready to handle surging call volume. Employees and contractors have a lot of questions, so expect a lot of inquiries, especially on this emotionally charged topic.

Most inquiries are likely to be voice calls, but agencies should be prepared to offer omnichannel support in the channel of employees’ choice. A cloud-based CX infrastructure offers tools such as automated self-service, artificial intelligence, text messaging and live chat, so employees and contractors can communicate through their preferred channel.

The key is for agencies to be flexible, so they can ramp up or down quickly during this unprecedented time.

Next, build trust through empathy. There’s confusion around the mandate and its requirements and some employees are hesitant or skeptical about the vaccine. Offering empathy and emotional support will help people stay informed and overcome any confusion or hesitancy about the vaccine and the mandate.

One of the mandate’s biggest challenges is managing vaccine scheduling in a way that’s frictionless. Demand-based, organized, “assembly line-like” scheduling in real time is imperative – without it, those trying to get vaccinated will be frustrated and experiences will be full of tension, which can jeopardize the entire endeavor.

Throughout the process, proactive outreach is paramount. Agencies can use various channels – emails, phone calls, SMS messaging, and mailings – as they work to book appointments, conduct follow-ups, verify vaccination status, and manage disciplinary actions.

Let people help themselves and each other

As they navigate these uncharted waters, agencies shouldn’t overlook digital tools when working to meet the mandate. Digital self-service tools in particular offer employees the ability to interact on their own terms, in their own time.

A self-service online portal, for instance, lets employees manage their vaccine or exemption status in an easy, frictionless way. They can upload proof of vaccination; use an automated chatbot to request exemptions, track progress, or find local vaccine resources; and easily connect with a human for more advanced issues if needed.

That said, while technology is an undoubtedly crucial part of the puzzle, agencies shouldn’t discount the human element of their strategies. It’s not enough merely to have the right technology. There also needs to be a seamless connection between that technology and digitally enabled people who can offer the empathy and human touch needed to manage more-complex interactions.

When striving to achieve the perfect balance of people and technology, working with the right partner can make all the difference. At TTEC, we have been working for decades with public sector partners, helping agencies deliver meaningful experiences for citizens and employees alike.

There are many moving pieces to the vaccine mandate, which are only exacerbated by the sheer number of employees and contractors affected. By prioritizing employee experience to inform decisions made along the way, agencies can develop strategies to navigate the complexities. The easier the process is for employees, the more likely it is to be successful.

For more tips and best practices, read TTEC’s strategy guide, 5 ways to help solve the vaccine mandate challenge.

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