The New Year is here! For many contact centers, that means one thing—a dramatic shift in call volumes.
Retailers are enduring the end of the holiday influx. Fitness centers are preparing for the crunch (and not the abdominal kind). And other sectors, such as B2B, are readying themselves for lulls that present a different type of staffing challenge.
With the right strategies in place to manage high call volume, sharp changes in contact volumes shouldn't overwhelm agents, degrade the customer experience, or harm the call center budget. Managing call center call spikes is all a matter of forward-thinking.
Staffing is Never Simple
To anyone unfamiliar with contact centers, it would seem that staffing is a basic math problem. Take the average call volume and divide by the number of calls that agents can handle per hour, and you’ve got a shift schedule.
Experienced managers recognize that staffing is far more challenging. Numerous variables combine to drive volume peaks, while average handle times are subject to change, as well. And things have gotten more complicated in our omnichannel world, where the demands of each contact type, from chat to text to voice call, must be considered.
Then there are quality goals. These are critical at a time when more than half of respondents whose issues go unresolved are considering switching to a competitor. admit to abandoning a brand due to a poor customer experience, like being stuck on hold. Consumer tolerance for anything less than exceptional service seems to decline every day.
Managing Peaks with Telephony Infrastructure
Two common solutions to volume spikes tap the increasingly sophisticated telephony infrastructure employed by many contact centers.
In the past, options were mostly limited to offering callers alternatives to live response, such as AVR systems for simple bank balance inquiries or a website address for more product information. These tactics could eliminate some volume but left most customers hanging on the line.
Today, advanced call routing can direct contacts to agents for more diverse service needs, while also evening out volumes all shift long.
Key tactics for managing call center call spikes include:
A frequently used approach is to cross-train outbound and inbound service agents. Agents who are typically engaged in outbound contacts can serve as overflow resources when inbound contacts spike. By the same token, when inbound agents are idle, they can answer emails or handle other channel communications that don't need to happen in real-time.
This tactic can make the most of agents’ time but it isn’t always possible to blend, if for example all agents are dedicated to inbound calls.
Many contact center systems also permit callbacks. During peak periods, customers are offered the opportunity to leave a number instead of holding. Representatives can then respond once volumes drop.
There are obvious advantages for staffing efficiency, but customers lose immediate access to an agent that many people value.
Powerful Forecasting with WFM Software
Call routing and callback strategies can help contact centers cope with short-term spikes in volume, but they are no substitute for accurate forecasting. Only on-target predictions enable contact centers to effectively staff up and down, shift by shift, throughout the year.
Fortunately, workforce management software (WFM) makes it easier than ever to draw on large volumes of historical data to detect patterns and craft solutions for:
- Seasonal variation, whether that’s the holiday retail peak or the hurricane season influx of insurance claims
- Week and time-of-day differences, which could include spikes on Monday after being closed Sunday, or highs during lunchtime hours when working people have time to get in touch
- Predictable changes, such as those that follow a new product launch, an advertising campaign, or other business activity
Contact center leaders will always have to deal with cloudiness on the horizon. It’s difficult to compile precise growth figures months in advance, predict that a fall social media post will go viral, or have any inclination the year’s biggest craze would be your fidget-spinner product.
Most managers find that with a powerful WFM solution, contact volumes are much more predictable than initially assumed.
To help cope with remaining uncertainty, high-performance WFM software empowers managers to run simulations examining different scenarios. This can help determine how various staffing levels and routing strategies will play out on the floor, helping to build a “margin of error” for the truly unexpected.
Automated processes eliminate manual analysis of ACD data, and optimized call center scheduling—with breaks and off-phone work slotted for the best times—becomes a click-and-go endeavor. Ecotricity, the greenest energy company in Britain that supplies 100% green electricity and frack-free gas to over 200,000 customer, uses Verint Monet WFM software. With Verint Monet Workforce Management Software, Ecotricity has slashed scheduling administration time by 67% while creating staffing efficiencies.
Bring on the Contact Center Budget
With better contact volume management comes better budget adherence—and that matters, too, at this special time of year when FY2020 preparations are in progress.
We have more help for the contact center manager responsible for putting together the budget details. Our white paper, The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Contact Center, takes a comprehensive look at call center planning and the role of WFM software in budget development and managing call center call spikes.