Learn What Major Companies Know About Delivering Seamless Operations during Planned and Unplanned Events
With the winter season in full swing and in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, a great divide has emerged between companies that can deliver quality customer care regardless of circumstance and companies that leave callers stranded. In today’s highly competitive business environment where customer expectations are higher than ever before, service interruptions are simply unacceptable. Busy signals or long on-hold times can damage brands, diminish loyalty and cause customers to switch to competitors.
Yet, providing consistent service delivery during times of call volume fluctuations, even when they are anticipated, is a tremendous challenge. Consider, for example, the situation faced a few months ago by a major cruise line that had nine ships impacted by Hurricane Sandy. As the hurricane ran its course, more than 20,000 passengers were faced with port of call and itinerary changes. The cruise line had an immediate need for the equivalent of 120 full-time additional agents to help answer travelers’ calls. Fortunately, the cruise line knew how to access a network of highly-skilled and immediately available customer service representatives and was able to add 60 percent more hours of support over what was previously forecasted.
Below are the top three secrets that the cruise line, as well as hundreds of other well-recognized brand leaders, uses to help provide the highest quality service during times of planned and unplanned events. Whether it is operating in the aftermath of a tornado or ramping up for the holidays, the following information can help companies meet customer expectations at all times.
Service Secret #1: Add Virtual Element to Customer Care Solution
Perhaps the benefits of a virtual business model are not a closely held secret, but the flexibility afforded by home-based resources is a key factor in allowing companies to closely mirror call curves.
When people work from home, without 45 minute commutes, it is faster and easier for them to take calls and service customers with little advanced notice. Couple that with the fact that the majority of virtual professionals have part-time schedules set in 30-minute increments, and you have a vast resource of skilled customer service representatives that can be quickly ramped up or down as necessary. This is a significant advantage for companies because it allows them to provide high quality service without additional overhead costs.
To illustrate this benefit, imagine a client situation in which each virtual resource on the program worked an average of 10 hours a week. Now imagine that same client has an urgent need to cover an unanticipated increase in call volume, perhaps due to a blizzard that shut down its brick-and-mortar facility. If each resource on the program worked just one more hour a day for 5 days, they would be able to increase coverage by 50 percent with no overtime costs.
Service Secret #2: Leverage the Passion of Entrepreneurs
Partnering with a virtual call center that provides services through crowdsourcing, using a network of independent business owners (IBOs) rather than employees, is another secret leaders use to provide seamless customer care. IBOs are constantly looking for opportunities to maximize revenue potential for themselves and their employees. Therefore, when a client needs help handling higher-than-anticipated call volumes, IBOs are usually eager to accept the additional workload. This is a major advantage over the employee-based call center model where employees can be reluctant to work extra hours and frequently require over-time pay when they do.
Service Secret #3: Utilize Technology for Workforce Operations
In a world where technology is constantly changing and improving, utilizing the most sophisticated solutions for workforce operations can be difficult. This is the third reason industry leaders choose to outsource customer care to virtual call centers.
Many virtual centers have advanced systems that allow them to provide operational efficiencies not available in traditional brick-and-mortar environments. For example, to quickly engage an independent business owner when an immediate need arises, virtual centers can send out urgent service requests through real-time communication channels such as instant messaging and text. Additionally, proprietary scheduling systems developed from years of first-hand experience, allow for real-time adjustments to coverage levels, thereby ensuring high quality service at all times.
The ability to provide continuous service during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy or winter blizzards, as well as during planned events like product launches or seasonal business cycles, is a quantifiable advantage of virtual call centers and crowdsourcing. With the flexibility of a virtual environment, a large network of independent business owners, their skilled customer service representatives and an advanced technology infrastructure, virtual call centers give clients peace-of-mind knowing their customers will be insulated from potential service-impacting events. It’s time to put these secrets to use and establish a virtual call center and crowdsourcing partnership before the next storm hits.
Dan Kusel, Vice President and General Manager at Arise Virtual Solutions Inc., is responsible for operations and client relationships in the travel, hospitality, energy and services industries. Dan has more than 20 years of experience in operations and management consulting. Prior to joining Arise, he was a partner at Accenture. Dan is a graduate from Union College in New York with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Minor in Physics.