Managing High Call Volumes During the Holidays
You guessed it, it’s that time of year again. Contact center leaders across all industries are preparing their teams for the inevitable spike in customer calls and digital interactions in the coming weeks.
If this holiday season is anything like last year’s, customer service teams should brace themselves. In fact, contact center call volume was up 41 percent year-over-year during the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday in 2021. This year could break all records.
The question is: Are your contact center agents ready for the holiday season rush?
Look Back On Past Mistakes
Some contact center managers underestimate the number of calls they receive during the holiday season, resulting in longer than average wait times and disgruntled customers.
An inadequate approach to handling inbound calls during this time of the year can jeopardize your business and the customer experience in the following ways:
- Long waits make your agents look unprofessional and unable to deal with spikes in call volume.
- Consumers might take their business elsewhere if they can’t reach an agent, resulting in lost revenue for your company (or the company you handle calls for).
- Angry customers might take to social media and express dissatisfaction with your call handling processes. That might prevent other consumers from purchasing your products and services.
As you gear up, look back at customer reviews and customer satisfaction scores from previous holiday seasons. Reviewing this type of historical data helps understand pain points customers have experienced in the past, and how contact center teams can prevent these from occurring again.
Some of your agents may have experience in handling high call volumes from previous holiday seasons. However, newer hires might not know what to expect when call volumes rise. Training all your employees in the weeks leading up to the holidays can enhance call management objectives in your contact center, including boosting first call resolution averages.
You might want to train existing agents to:
- Use a script during busy call periods. A call script guides agents when talking to customers over the phone and can reduce errors that prolong calls.
- Use the correct etiquette on all calls. That might involve addressing a customer by their first name to increase engagement and rapport, which can improve the customer experience.
- Add notes to profiles in your customer relationship management (CRM) system or other contact center software. Updating customer profiles can help agents learn more about a customer’s previous interactions with your company, reducing the time it takes to establish someone’s reason for calling your center.
- Upsell and cross-sell products to increase revenue during the holiday season.
One of the most common ways of dealing with increased holiday call volumes is to hire seasonal agents. However, this process can often become cumbersome due to a lack of viable candidates, or even desperate if waiting too long to begin the hiring process. Best to start looking for seasonal staff as early as possible to account for training and orientation processes in your organization.
The best new hires will:
- Have experience in a busy contact center environment
- Keep calm when call volumes go up
- Be able to upsell and cross-sell products and services efficiently
- Be able to work throughout the holiday season, including evenings and weekends
- Know how to improve the customer satisfaction
Call agents should also be excellent communicators and reflect the values of your contact center or the company you work for.
For even more effective results this holiday season, assign new hires to agents with the most experience or best performance metrics as part of your coaching program. Or you can outsource agents from a BPO call center to handle an increase in call volume at this time of the year.
Push Digital Channels
Allowing customers to contact agents via email, chat or social media during the holiday season will alleviate high call volumes, allow agents to attend to multiple inquiries at once, and help improve the overall customer experience. Additionally, hiring agents who already have experience with these channels will simplify training efforts.
Another advantage of incorporating email, chat, or social media channels into centers is the ability to automate multiple conversations using artificial intelligence and chatbots. While these technologies can’t resolve more complex inquiries, they can be effective for payment collection, answering simple questions that customers might have about products and services, and other tasks.
Don’t forget to inform customers about the many ways they can reach out for assistance or support. Including this information on your website or in a recorded message while customers wait in queue can help distribute customer interactions during busy seasons.
Make Self-Service Your Friend
Customers can easily become frustrated when unable to get through to the correct agent or find the answers to their questions. Providing general information to commonly asked questions directly on your website is especially helpful during the holiday season.
Self-service options can improve the customer experience and free up resources for agents, for example:
- A knowledge base serving as a central repository for customer information. Customers can learn how to troubleshoot an issue or find out more about products and services.
- A frequently-asked questions (FAQ) page is part of a knowledge base. It answers the most common questions that customers ask your call center reps.
- Video tutorials let you share information about popular topics. You can upload video tutorials to YouTube or another video-sharing website.
- A community forum allows customers to ask questions and share knowledge with other customers.
Your Secret Weapon: Analytics
One of the best ways to manage high call volumes during the holiday season is to invest in analytics. Contact centers collect an immense amount of data on a daily basis. With the right analytics, your team can sort and better understand insights that this interaction data holds.
Powerful analytics and reporting, like Brightmetrics™, lets you identify patterns and trends in contact center data, helping you predict busy periods, and anticipate staffing needs. You can also use analytical tools to learn more about your agents and call management processes. For example, discover which agents handle calls in the quickest time frame.
Additionally, tools like Brightmetrics REAL TIME Analytics™ help you monitor call queues and make smarter decisions when call volumes increase. Use REAL TIME wallboards to provide a 360-degree view of your contact center operations at any time, allowing agents to not only manage their own activity but also stay informed on current call counts and wait times.
With the holiday season upon us, call center managers should prepare for an influx of customer inquiries and calls. Hire additional agents, train them extensively, and invest in self-service options and technology – including the right analytics tools – at this time of the year to improve call management outcomes.
Learn more about how Brightmetrics products can help you manage high call volumes during the holiday. Get more information about generating insights from your contact center data here.