Improve Seasonal Call Center Customer Experience
It’s the Fourth of July. Do You Know Where My Luggage Is?There’s a chance that someone at a call center is currently talking to an agitated traveler who just wants to locate his flip flops and swim trunks so he can enjoy the fireworks on the beach. If he’s already irritated, and the call center is already experiencing high volume, what could the call center have done ahead of time to keep him happy while his issue is solved? There are ways to improve call center customer experience quality during seasonal high call volumes by planning ahead.
Have you ever driven past a HoneyBaked Ham store during the week of Thanksgiving? Or a Jackson-Hewitt tax preparation office in April? It’s astounding to see how successful these companies have become, especially knowing they generate over 2/3 of their annual revenue in the span of 2-3 months. Their business models are predicated upon a feast-and-famine sales cycle, with jammed parking lots one week and open asphalt the next.
Those who manage call center operations are often intimately acquainted with this boom-and-bust mentality. Yet, it isn’t always clear how to ride these cyclical waves without being pummeled by headaches and stress. We thought we’d share a few strategies to help you survive the thrill ride of the seasonal rush.
Lighten your Infrastructural LoadTwenty years ago, a company might have tripled the number of agents in their call center to prepare for the holiday rush, adding 200 seats to their 100-seat operation to handle the spike. However, this wasn’t something they could do overnight. They may have needed to add 8-10 physical trunks, which would need to be installed by their provider, purchased the additional phone equipment (including cables and network hardware), and then ordered service. Creating this added capacity would need to be planned weeks in advance, due to the time needed to procure and install new termination hardware and circuits.
With SIP, scaling up and scaling down can be done in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Need a new trunk? Five new trunks? 150 new phone numbers? A call center can accomplish this quickly and painlessly. The only thing you need to worry about is network bandwidth and making sure your agents are ready for battle. For quality call center customer experience, more trunks but lower call quality is not an acceptable trade-off.
Check the ForecastThe folks at HoneyBaked Hams always know when Christmas will be celebrated, but your business may not have the same kind of red-letter days on your calendar. Spend the time to review the prior year’s call logs and sales trends to see if any patterns can help guide you going forward. If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Salesforce integrated with your SIP service, it can help generate that analysis for you. Data analysis is key to increasing call center customer experience quality.
Also, make sure the call center remains in the loop with your product and marketing teams. If there is an important product launch or release coming, ensure that your team is not only trained to handle the flood but given ample warning so they can plan and staff accordingly.
Seasonal StaffingIf you know that the back-to-school period typically produces a 50% spike in call volume at your company, it might make sense to bring on temporary staff to help you get over the hump. Offer training mini-camps for these part-timers so they can handle basic questions and learn how and when to transfer a client seamlessly to an experienced staffer. Bringing on seasonal staffers comes with its own administrative issues. However, friendly, competent, and stress-free agents answering every customer call quickly lays the foundation of quality call center customer experience.
Setting the Ground RulesIn the same way that meteorologists aren’t always successful in predicting tomorrow’s weather, your call spikes don’t always hit when you expect them. Improving your call center customer experience requires having a plan in place, so everyone knows how to respond when the lines light up like fireworks.
For instance, if there are five customers on hold, you may issue a Watch, which means conditions are favorable for a spike. If there are more than 10 on hold, issue an Alert, which means you should postpone optional meetings. If the number bobs above 20, it’s time to issue an All-Hands-On-Deck warning, where everyone finds a station and picks up the phone until the spike subsides.
Stay on MessageIf you know that your customers will need to spend time on hold, make sure that you are communicating with them throughout. Let them know how long they can expect to wait, provide automated updates, and see if you can solve their problems by offering them tactical information. If you know that 40% of your callers are having problems with a specific product that has a simple fix, include it in the message or point them toward a specific URL on your website for more information. Many customers call as a last resort, so keeping track of what your customers are calling about might allow you to solve their issue without tying up an agent.
GeoRoutingIdeally, you never want your customers to be on-hold. Long on-hold times, dropped calls, and bad service quality all have the power to quickly turn a simple phone interaction into a frustrating, exasperating customer experience. GeoRouting allows your call center to accurately route customers to the right people, with minimum on-hold delay and lower risk of drops. This type of call routing platform provides an intelligent safeguard if spikes occur, taking the guesswork out of connecting your clients with the right agent.
DashboardsWhether it’s a real-time wallboard or an integrated dashboard reporting system, you must be able to visualize the volume. Real-time reporting and statistics help you make the right decisions when the call center is at its most chaotic, and underscore the sense of mission among your team.
Click here to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the next spike and improve your call center customer experience.