How Contact Centers Aid in COVID-19 Vaccine Rollouts

eWEEK NEWS ANALYSIS: Contact center providers Avaya and Genesys step up to help fight the COVID-19 battle.


The journey from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to the discovery of the vaccine has certainly been a strange and winding road. As a society we’ve gone through many ups and downs; now there is light at the end of the tunnel, yet there are still some hills to climb. With COVID-19 vaccination broadly rolling out in 2021, health-care providers must prepare on a massive scale to provide people with the information and services they need.

Cloud-based contact centers can help manage vaccine distribution and related inquiries across multiple digital channels, including mobile, web and email. 

The vaccine brings hope but also plenty of questions 

It’s inevitable that the vaccine will spark many questions and concerns from the general public. People will want to know how to get the vaccine, what the options are, how long it takes and other information. This poses quite the challenge for the health-care industry because practitioners need to not only treat people but ensure that all these questions are answered in a timely manner. Cloud-based contact centers can be set up quickly by health-care providers to handle the influx of inquiries that are expected during vaccine rollout. Providers can also track effectiveness and possible side effects to successfully distribute a vaccine to the masses.

Cloud-based contact centers are ideally suited for omni-channel communications 

One benefit of such call centers is their ability to detect from which digital channels the inquiries are coming. For example, if someone is calling from a mobile device, an agent can redirect the caller to the mobile web or an app where they can complete a pre-screening form. The agent can also send the caller to a nearby vaccine site based on the device’s location. 

Providers can implement a variety of digital tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbots, voice, messaging, email management and notifications to handle incoming inquiries and inform the public. Alternatively, people can choose a self-service option to fill out forms or schedule vaccinations, freeing up call center agents to handle more urgent or complex inquiries.

Genesys chatbot automates empathy and information flow 

Cloud-based contact center vendor Genesys just launched a COVID-19 Vaccine Rapid Response solution that leverages “empathy-first” chatbots, which engage with people in a sensitive manner. The chatbots can respond to inquiries about vaccine safety and provide in-stock information at specific pharmacy locations to limit foot traffic. They can also redirect a person to a contact center via voice or other digital channels.

The digital-first solution is designed for organizations participating in Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership that facilitates the development, manufacturing and dispensing COVID-19 vaccines. With several new vaccines on the market, vaccinating two-thirds of the global population to stop the spread of the virus will be difficult without trusted sources of information and support on which the public can rely. 

Avaya introduces digital toolkit for health-care providers and governments 

To help organizations address some of the communication challenges of vaccine distribution—including reaching priority populations and collecting key data—Avaya introduced a suite of digital solutions specifically for health-care providers and government agencies. The solutions, which are part of Avaya OneCloud communications platform as a service (CPaaS), can be applied on top of any existing infrastructure.

Using OneCloud, health-care providers and the government can proactively reach the public through automated calls and text notifications. While the purpose of these notifications is to generate vaccine awareness and get people to sign up, they can also be used for contactless screening and post-vaccine surveys. The cloud-based communications platform can be deployed in the health system’s contact centers as well. So, inquiries can be prioritized based on urgency without overwhelming agents, who can send callers online for self-service. 

Since Avaya OneCloud is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant, it protects any personal health data that is shared on the communications platform. OneCloud utilizes biometrics to authenticate devices and user identities without them having to repeat the same information when calling a contact center.

Differences in the two solutions

While both solutions are similar in that they help disseminate vaccine information, the Avaya offering is much broader. Genesys offers an automated chatbot, which is great for first contact and can be used to triage calls being escalated to a live person. Avaya's can be considered a complete COVID-19 solution. The combination of Avaya OneCloud CPaaS and Google contact center AI can provide an end-to-end vaccine administration solution that includes citizen awareness, practitioner resource recruitment, first shot check-in and notification, post-shot notification and second-shot reminder. Avaya provides the building blocks for each customer to tailor the solution to their needs.

The expression “knowledge is power” has never been truer than in these times of uncertainty. Undeniably, contact centers will play a key role in triaging inquiries about the new vaccine. The tools are there to help organizations reach the public across every digital channel. Whether organizations successfully utilize these tools in the coming year remains to be seen. 

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.