While the holidays are a time of rest and relaxation for some, retailers across the globe are preparing to scale their businesses for the busiest time of the year. There is plenty of due diligence to be done in all business departments to prepare for the chaos of the holiday season, but the most important of all may be scaling your contact center. After all, what can a missed call or bad customer interaction cost you? For most, it may mean a lost sale, a poor review, or a customer who will never return.
Retailers of all kinds expect a massive increase in customer call volume Halloween and Christmas. Luckily, hosted call center software provides a range of effective features that make call center management and caller-agent interactions smooth and efficient, no matter what time of year it is.
In this quick call center management checklist for the holiday season, we’ll review some of the most important things you can do to ensure that your call center is prepared for this seasonal rush.
Leverage Historical Call Center Data
Unless this is the first year your company has been in business, you should already have an idea of what to expect based on data from previous years. One of the best features of using a VoIP call center platform is the ability to generate detailed historical reports. Use this to your advantage and look at the call volume you experienced in the past year. Are you satisfied with the average hold time your customers experienced? What was the most common customer question/complaint? Estimate your expected call traffic by comparing last year’s holiday season call volume and your company’s growth rate this year.
Historical reporting give you an idea of what to expect this year so you can prepare your contact center. However, no matter how prepared you think you are, you will need to make adjustments on the fly when things get hectic. Use your hosted cloud platform’s live monitoring features to stay aware of what’s going on with your customers and agents and make changes as appropriate. With real-time call monitoring, you can monitor individual agent productivity and see which agents can help with more work, and listen in on calls and coach agents through customer interactions as needed. Use your analytic tools to help you prepare and don’t forget to use real time monitoring to deal with the unexpected!
Be Ready to Add Seasonal Agents
Many companies can’t get around the fact that they simply do not have enough full time agents to handle the high volume of calls they receive during the holidays. In response, it is not unusual to hire part-time or seasonal employees to help handle the extra workload.
If your company decides to hire seasonal call center agents, call center management must ensure that these temporary employees receive adequate training about your company’s policies, products, and frequently asked questions. Whether these employees are part-time or work remotely, they need to be able to handle basic customer inquiries in a manner which meets and exceeds your call center’s standard of quality.
Take Proactive Steps to Boost Agent Morale
Whether you increase the size of your staff or not, the seasonal rush is especially stressful for call center agents. This time of year often means long shifts interacting with customers who are often under stress as well.
To keep a positive work culture during these busy times, many managers offer additional in-office benefits for their employees. This may mean free coffee, free food, additional breaks during long shifts, and public praise for performance.
Additionally, if you want to give your agents some additional flexibility during the holidays, offering them the option to work some hours remotely from home is often a popular benefit for employees. Making an effort to keep employee morale high during the holiday goes a long way toward facilitating positive interactions between your customers and agents.
Adjust Your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Menu
An effective IVR does much more than just letting your customers choose which department they wish to speak with. An efficient IVR setup can allow customers to get answers to frequently asked questions quickly without ever reaching a call center agent.
Set up a menu that leads callers to prerecorded answers to frequently asked questions like business hours, order tracking, holiday specials, etc. This gets many callers the information they need quickly and frees up live agents to handle more complex or sensitive customer inquiries.
Create Call Queues that Match Customer Needs
Whether or not you expect a major increase in call volume, how you set up your agent queues has a big impact on your contact center’s efficiency. As mentioned before, many companies hire additional staff for the busy months to help with the increased call traffic. If you do this, it would be wise to set up a separate call queue for basic customer support questions that can be handled by relatively inexperienced seasonal employees. This will free up your experienced employees to handle more difficult customer requests.
Additionally, if customers are experiencing long wait times, they are more likely to hang up or have negative interactions with your agents when they actually reach them. Call center management teams can fix this issue by using the queue callback feature. When wait times are getting long, queue callback gives customers the option to hang up, keep their place in the queue, and receive a call back from the next available agent.
Preparing Your Call Center for the Holiday Season
If you manage a call center, you know you have to be as prepared as possible to handle the demands of the holiday season. Luckily, a variety of features included with most VoIP call center solutions can go a long way towards increasing productivity and reducing stress in your call center. Don’t get caught off balance this year; maximize the effectiveness of your hosted call center by taking the time to prepare early.