How to manage seasonal variations in your contact centre
For some, seasonal variations in a call centre refers to the jolly season but for a bunch of other businesses, it is the ’how are we going to service all these people’ season which can happen at a bunch of different times with a wide variety of different triggers.
With many businesses about to face seasonality increases in sales and service inquiries, it is imperative for businesses to be prepared for an influx of higher than usual customer interaction whilst maintaining a high-quality customer experience.
But even without the obvious annual trends like Christmas, most businesses will have some form of a peak season at some stage throughout the year.
Below I will share 7 tips on how your contact centre, customer service department or engagement centre can prepare and successfully manage seasonal variations in the call centre.
7 Tips for managing seasonal variations in your contact centre
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Roy Morgan Research annual Christmas spending figures indicate Australian shoppers will spend more than $51.5 billion in retail stores and online over the Christmas trading period from November 9 to December 24, 2018 (46 days).
That is an increase of 2.9% on last years figures.
As more people are now shopping online than ever, businesses are expecting call and contact volumes from their customers to significantly increase.
This being said, for companies to gain value and cost efficiencies during this period, they will need to ensure their staffing levels match the expected customer contact volumes.
It is a balancing act to ensure you do not overstaff and eat into revenue but it is even more perilous to understaff and risk the customer experience and potential lifetime value of your customers.
With appropriate workforce management tools and appropriate planning, businesses can forecast predicted volumes via all customer channels (phone, webchat, email, social etc) and plan staffing levels accordingly.
Try our free Erlang C Calculator to work out how many staff you will need to handle the extra volumes.
2. Skills-based routing
It is not uncommon when looking for additional staff to fill the customer service void during seasonality upswings to hire a heap of temps or short-term hires to deal with this.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach but where it often falls down is businesses expect these new staff to be able to service their clients with the same skill set as long-standing employees.
This is where skills-based routing should come into play.
With the appropriate technology and your IVR, you can set up your customer contact channels to ensure the right inquiries are going to the appropriately skilled individuals thereby enhancing the customer experience, reducing handling times and keeping cost efficiencies front of mind.
You can then reduce the training time for your newest staff by having them handle the lower perceived value contacts and keep customers happy.
3. Communicate with customers via their channel of choice
With more choices than ever for customers to communicate with businesses, it is important for the customer experience to communicate with them via their channel of choice.
If customers are communicating via social media the business should be responding in kind.
Just as if customers are looking to communicate via webchat or phone, for efficiencies to be gained by the business and the customer experience to be enhanced, contact centres need to ensure they respond to inquiries via the relevant channel they arrived.
4. Use data to your advantage
How do you forecast for all of the above? Use the data your contact centre or business should be keeping.
Whether they be intraday reports on contact volumes for the same period as last year, analytics on contact volumes via social media, web chat and email etc, you will need to analyse this information to determine how many staff and what channel you can expect the customer contact volumes to be for the period in question.
5. Remember, seasonality is not just Christmas
Although Christmas time is one of the most relevant times to be prepared for seasonality upswings in customer contact, it is not the only time and preparation and flexibility for any upswing or downturn is key.
For examples other than Christmas and the retail upswing, energy and utility companies can be affected very quickly in storms and adverse weather which can spike customer contact even for short periods.
Insurance companies can also see spikes for the same reasons and more.
Health insurers in Australia also experience major contact volume spikes at rate change and tax times which can lead to 3 times or more customer contacts than usual.
Preparation and flexibility here is key for all of these circumstances and more.
6. Consider outsourcing as an option
Outsourcing during these periods can be a highly effective way of dealing with the challenges of seasonality.
It is not always practical or cost-effective to take on all of my other points. Especially if the business is attempting to do this from a standing start.
This is where outsourcing comes into its own. It can assist by having the outsourcer who is experienced in all of the above take control of this overflow leaving you to focus on core business during these busy times.
By utilising an outsourcer they can streamline this process and provide cost benefits by reducing speed to competency across channels by having them manage this process.
You can find a list of call centre outsourcers in Australia here >
With the advancements in Chatbots, Automatic Call Back, Voice Recognition and Voice Biometrics you can enable customers to self-serve and/or reduce the requirements on live agents.
So there you have it, 7 useful tips for managing seasonal variations in a call centre!
Recommended further reading: 4 Great tips for Call Centre Workforce Management