One of the top challenges every call center faces is a spike in call volumes. It could be a big spike or a small one; It could be planned or unplanned. Whatever the reasons may be, a spike in call volumes can inevitably make the hold-times go up, and this could lead to an increase in the call abandon rates. Basically, what this means is a considerable impact on the productivity of the business. Also, most often, the spike many not be a mere 5% or 10% or 15%, it could be well over three times of that. And so, it is vital that a contact center manages the spikes in call volumes.
Spikes can generally be classified into two, seasonal spikes and event spikes. Seasonal spikes happen during festival seasons, like Christmas or New Year. The main reason is companies launching new products or offering promotions during the festive seasons. Event spikes usually happen during a product launch. People call in with queries or complaints regarding the product.
Contact centers usually prepare for the spikes, by over-staffing or constant training (for the agents to finish the calls fast) or working overtime, however, most often, all of it falls way short of the mark.
Following are some best practices that you may implement in your contact center to manage call spikes.
For a call center, it is important to adhere to their targeted service levels, however, it is equally important to keep the staffing costs down. It is a constant challenge for managers everywhere to balance the priorities of labor costs and service levels. This is where forecasting comes in. Forecasting is basically assigning workforce according to the need. For example, assigning more agents during the time of a product launch or during festive seasons helps to manage the call spikes. A precise forecasting is a win-win situation for everybody. Nowadays, it is possible to come up with accurate forecasting most of the time with the help of a Workforce Management software. Of course, there would always be unforeseen contingencies.
Provide adequate training
Prompt handling of the calls by the agents can make a huge difference when the call volume is high. If the agent is able to resolve the customer’s issue quickly, then he/she can move on to the next call, thus reducing the overall hold time of the team. Now, this is possible only if the agent knows the process or about the company’s product, in and out. Hence, it is essential to provide adequate training to the agents. It is also essential to monitor the calls of the agents and give them constructive feedback. As much as it is necessary to finish a call during a high-volume period, it is also imperative that the call does not suffer and that you leave the customer happy and satisfied.
Call Back system
Call back technology enables a customer to get a callback. During spikes, the IVR could advise the customers waiting in the queue to send an SMS or e-mail to register their complaint. The agents can then get back to the customers at a specified time, usually when the call volume is low. However, it is important that you provide the customers with a time frame, as to when they will get a callback, and it is imperative that you get back to the customers within that time frame. This is a win-win situation for the customers, as well as for the contact centers. The customers can avoid the frustration of waiting in the queue, and the contact centers will be able to manage the spikes pretty well.
Providing self-service channels
Nowadays, when you call a contact center, you would most probably encounter an IVR that informs you if there is a service outage or would ask you to carry out simple troubleshooting steps. Many a times, it works well enough. Providing updates on social media, troubleshooting or providing critical information via SMS or e-mails, and chat support, all eliminates the need for the customers to call into the contact center. This helps to reduce spikes in call volume. The role of the voice channel will always remain in the customer support world because there are many issues that only a live agent would be able to handle, like hardcore troubleshooting or some banking transactions. Also, some people prefer talking to customer support agents rather than communicating via the other channels. According to a survey conducted by Wells Fargo, 60% of banking transactions are made by customers who still prefer to do it via a contact center, therefore, a live agent.
Coordination between different teams
Teams working with each other can, to an extent, manage spikes in call volume. For example, if the marketing department is planning any marketing activities, then informing the same to the customer service would help them to prepare better for the increased amount of queries that may be directed to the contact center.
Customer expectations are on the rise. According to a report by Parature, 68% of customers left a business due to poor customer service. Compared to the previous year, 56% of customers now have higher customer-service expectations.