Conquering peaks in seasonal demand with smart service strategies
Almost every business will exhibit seasonal demand of some kind or another. For the travel industry this wave builds up as soon as the schools close and the weather warms up, while other businesses will see peaks as the winter draws in and we enter the frenzied Christmas period. This sudden and massive increase in customer enquiries mean that we need to leave our comfort zones if maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction is the goal. And this year, the combination of war on the borders of Europe, rising interest rates and rampant inflation are prompting unprecedented levels of disruption in every sector that are likely to amplify call volumes at a moment’s notice. But being prepped for the unexpected within customer service is not out of reach for most organisations, given a little thought and some solid preparation.
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Bearing in mind that customers no longer have any sympathy for the stock “unexpected call volumes” message, the first step to meeting a peak straight on is to look at the basics. For companies with the available resources, this will mean doubling down on hybrid working to make more staff available for the peaks. Having agents at home on standby ready to meet a spike in demand at short notice is something that can be planned for.
It’s a mistake to assume that customers always want to speak to an agent. More often than not, they simply want an answer to their question and get on with the rest of their day. Empowering customers to self-serve using the communication channel they prefer can decrease engagement times and increase resolution rates, resulting in higher customer satisfaction. An omni-channel and self-service approach is now considered an essential rather than an optional service.
Operating a knowledge management system is another basic requirement, which pays dividends when new staff join the team too. Having a dedicated knowledge manager to update this process is recommended to keep information live and prevent further inbound calls. During busy periods, it’s important that customers get their queries solved without delay, and teams that have the latest and most accurate information to hand will always achieve this faster than teams that don’t.
One of the biggest challenges in catering to seasonal demand is the infrastructure that needs to be in place to manage it effectively. It’s impractical to scale a contact centre to deal with peaks, as it means idle and unproductive seats during normal periods of demand. A new approach to manage temporary surges in service volumes comes in the idea of CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Cloud Service).
CCaaS means call centres can scale up and down automatically in line with demand. Because it’s a subscription service, businesses only pay for the services they consume, which means no fixed costs.
CCaaS seamlessly integrates with all the latest technologies such as ACD (automated call distribution) and IVR, along with omnichannel support, analytics and reporting. Integration with other systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) enable greater efficiency and empower agents with access to the information they need to operate effectively.
There is no question that peaks and troughs make providing consistently high levels of customer service challenging. As customer service is often seen as a cost centre, flexible approaches that scale up and down as the peaks and troughs arrive and pass are better for optimising capital allocation, particularly in the current uncertain climate.
But used in combination, proactively communicating with customers, reaching them on the channels they actively use, and applying triage using AI can solve a number of problems as demand for customer service increases. Further measures, such as implementing a robust knowledge management solution and utilising the flexibility of an on-demand cloud solution allied with hybrid working provide a solid foundation for maintaining service levels during peaks.
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