Christmas is coming. Are you ready?

In this article we look at the challenges of coping with seasonal demand, and consider a few possible solutions for providing a great customer experience without overstaffing.

Bring forward training and development

Your employees’ ambitions don’t stop just because Christmas is coming. And while you are focused on preparing for the additional demand produced by seasonal shoppers and festive marketing campaigns, your agents may be more interested in gaining skills and developing their career.

Instead of simply freezing all learning and development activity, try to bring these activities forward. Not only will this keep your agents happy and engaged, but it will equip them with the skills and knowledge to help them cope with the festive frenzy.

Encourage channel shifting

Christmas is one of the key times when an omni-channel customer service approach will pay dividends. It’s not just about lightening the load on the contact centre; giving customers choices about how they access support gives them a better chance of finding the most suitable method for their issue.

How many of the calls reaching your contact centre could have been resolved with a webchat? Or a chatbot?

Flexible working

If your agents can from work from home, then they can be quickly brought online in the event of a staffing shortage, or a spike in demand. Home working can also insulate your contact centre against disruption caused by snow or train delays.

And on occasion, agents may be well enough to work but too contagious to attend the contact centre; flexible working gives people more opportunities to manage their time – which usually equates to increased productivity.

Efficiency applications

When your agents are under pressure, every second counts.

This is why contact centres are investing in technologies like robotic process automation (RPA). RPA helps accelerate routine tasks, such as ID&V processes, application switching, common requests and data entry. Instead of relying on your agents to copy and paste information between apps, or to use multiple applications to record the details of calls, RPA can manage these workflows.

A key advantage of RPA is that it provides a software overlay that can interface with any application. Instead of coding a hard link between apps and using APIs to extract data, the RPA solution relies on the front-end of your existing software. This makes RPA far quicker and easier to implement than traditional integration.

Recruitment

Do you have the perfect team to manage the seasonal workload? Or is your contact centre already stretched?

Christmas doesn’t just mean shopping, of course. It also means holidays, sickness and travel disruption. So any forecasts of your workforce should account for these kinds of unexpected problems. Do you have enough qualified agents to cope?

If you need to recruit additional agents, now is the time to start.

Forecasting

Forecasting contact centre workforces is hard. There are so many variables involved, and of course there are a host of unexpected issues that can make your exquisitely crafted spreadsheets redundant.

But even though forecasting demand is difficult, it is worth doing because even small improvements to workforce management can make big improvements to customer service levels – and big savings on the bottom line.

Whether you use spreadsheets, Erlang calculators or a sophisticated workforce management (WFM) application, make sure you take into account one-off events like new product launches, TV ads or complicated services that may drive up demand. Conversely, if you use historical data as the basis for this year’s demand planning, make sure you strip out anomalies that will not be repeated.

Your workforce management software might give you some solid numbers for planning staffing levels, but don’t forget the human element – it’s not just about the numbers of agents; it’s also about who is best for different times/days.

Fall-back options

Creating spreadsheets and plans can give us a false sense of security. It’s essential to remember that all these plans can come undone with one bout of flu, one software failure or one stricken container ship (and the delayed orders that follow). How quickly can you reassign staff in the event of a crisis? How malleable are your plans?

From everyone at IP Integration, we hope you have a great Christmas and a successful holiday season.

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