There is no way to prepare for seasonal spikes if you’re unable to accurately predict when they’re going to take place and what kind of increase in demand you’re going to experience. This means that you need to get your forecasting right.
In most cases, historical data should provide a fairly clear picture of what you can expect in the future. For instance, local government Revenue and Benefits departments know that there will be a surge in demand around Main Billing for the new financial year for Council Tax, while utilities companies understand that the winter and cold weather is likely to result in increased call volume.
If the increase in demand is driven by a single issue, it’s often a good idea to get in touch with your IVR service provider. A good IVR provider is one that’s responsive and able to make changes to your technology quickly and efficiently. This allows them to alter the script and add options and menus to cater for the large number of callers getting in touch for this single reason.
Rather than having to pass through the usual menu system, callers are immediately presented with a prompt that allows them to cut out the rest of the options, speeding up the process and minimising customer frustration.
You can drill your human agents and refine your automation technologies all you like but if your call centre systems aren’t able to handle large surges in demand, it won’t make a blind bit of difference. As a result, performing load and recovery testing is vital.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have the backing of a responsive and proficient support team. If your IVR system goes down, you need to know that you’re going to have experienced experts working around the clock to get you back online.
One way of reducing the strain on call centres during seasonal spikes in demand is to maximise access to automated channels and encourage customers to self-serve. While this does require the development and integration of certain technologies, such as chatbots, IVR and self-serve email, it also depends on the implementation of a comprehensive channel shift strategy. After all, it doesn’t matter if you have the technology in place if customers aren’t able to quickly, easily and intuitively access it.
Meeting surges in demand requires careful planning and preparation. While most call centres recognise the need for greater staffing during peak periods, it’s also necessary to engage in intelligent workforce management.
This means taking into consideration several other factors and ensuring your contingency plans allow for them. Chief amongst these factors are day-to-day timetabling and absenteeism.
During seasonal spikes in call volume, even factors such as when employees take their breaks can impact on your ability to provide satisfactory customer service. Similarly, many organisations experience greater demand at times when absenteeism is likely to rise. For instance, many businesses will have to handle a boom in Christmas-related enquiries at the same time as their workforce is hit by winter illnesses.
In both cases, careful planning and attention to detail will help ensure that the standard of your customer service doesn’t decline.
Long wait times and being kept on hold are two of customers’ biggest frustrations. During seasonal spikes, both of these eventualities are likely. However, organisations can go some way to alleviating customer frustration by offering a call-back service.
Rather than waiting in a queue for long periods, many customers would rather be called back when an agent is available. Not only does this reduce wait times, it also relieves pressure on agents, allowing them to respond to enquiries in a more measured and accurate manner.
In many instances, seasonal spikes in demand will pertain to a single or narrow range of issues. For instance, as the tax assessment deadline closes in, local authorities will likely receive a large number of calls relating to tax enquiries.
Well-designed reference guides are an efficient means of ensuring that your human agents have all the information they need to respond to these enquiries quickly and accurately. By providing your staff with ‘shortcuts’ to answer high-volume enquiries, you’re offering superior customer service, while also reducing call duration and wait times.
Improving your services is all about understanding what you did the last time around and where you went right and wrong. This means measuring your performance. While we often have an intuitive understanding of why things either went well or poorly, the devil is in the detail and only customer experience metrics will give you the insight you need to improve service provision and tweak your forecasting.
Preparing your contact centre for seasonal spikes in demand is typically a case of both workplace management and intelligent use of automation technologies. While ensuring you’re well-staffed and that relevant resources are readily available will go a long way to improving performance over peak periods, self-serve technologies, such as chatbots, IVR and self-serve email, must also play a part.