If you run, own or manage a call center that sells consumer products, you know what’s coming: the holiday shopping season. The pressure is on; customers are expecting better, more immediate service than ever before. They are coming at you via more media channels than ever before, and – as if the pressure isn’t high enough – your company’s health and continued existence depends on these critical holiday sales.
No wonder they call it “Black Friday.”
So how do you prepare for the rush? Chances are, there are steps you take each year to ensure that you’re ready for high call volume, cranky customers, a wide variety of questions about shipping and returns and some rather tight deadlines. Does it go as smoothly as you would like every year? If you’re like most contact centers, probably not.
So what can you do to further “holiday proof” the contact center?
While it may be a little late for this year’s holiday rush (which starts in two days), 1to1 Media’s Cynthia Clark is offering some ideas about how to cope with the pine-scented, tinsel-covered wave that’s about to descend on you.
Callback technology is your friend. This technology, which allows you to schedule callbacks with customers who prefer not to wait on hold, benefits both you AND the customer. It helps you spread your call volume over the day, avoiding sky-high spikes in volume. It also eliminates the need for customers to wait on hold for a long time, which is known to be a customer relationship killer. Look for a solution that allows customers to choose a time that’s good for them.
Ensuring temporary agents are assets instead of liabilities. It’s not uncommon for call centers to bring on temporary staff to meet the holiday rush. But often these people are hastily trained, which could lead to customer receiving misinformation or finding themselves at one end of a very unprofessional call (or chat, or e-mail). It’s critical that temporary agents are put through a rigorous training process to ensure that they understand processes and the company’s philosophy…and uphold it.
Be sure to have good technology, and make sure it scales up. While your call center’s technology may ensure a smooth ride for customers during normal times, it may not be able to cope with increased call volume. Make sure your IVR is prepared to handle a high volume of calls, and make sure it’s routing them properly to avoid putting customers through agent musical chairs. Load testing all your systems in advance can help.
Beyond these recommendations, you may also want to look into using professional home agents who understand call center operations better (as opposed to unskilled temps), extended call center hours to spread the call volume over a larger time period and boot-camp style training for your existing agents to help them learn unfamiliar policies and promotions as well as stress-busting techniques.
Proper preparation may help Black Friday – and the days that follow – be not quite so dark.
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