'Holiday-Proofing' a Call Center Business
December 06, 2012
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
, TMCnet Contributor
If you feel sorry for people who work in retail stores during the holiday season (honestly, how many times can you hear “Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” without going insane?), save at least half your empathy for the millions of people who work in call center businesses during the holiday season.
More and more people are skipping malls and crowds and doing their holiday gift buying online. Evidence of this is the fact that “Cyber Monday (News - Alert)” (the Monday following Thanksgiving when everyone hits the Internet to begin online shopping) is rapidly catching up to Black Friday as the busiest day of the holiday shopping season. eMarketer (News - Alert) has reported that U.S. holiday e-commerce sales totaled $46.7 billion last year, a 17 percent jump from the year before. Analysts are expecting even higher sales and stronger growth this year. And while many people shop online with no human interaction, many more require the help of a company employee at least once during the season, which means they are interacting with a call center.
As a result, many call center businesses are now taking steps to try and “holiday proof” themselves in order to meet the increasing demand and keep customer satisfaction – and repeat business – high. Resource Nation’s Kate Webster recently compiled a tip sheet for call centers looking to ensure that their facilities are ready to handle the deluge. She recommends:
- Ensuring that agents are well trained
Fill them in on the latest products, services and promotions your company is offering for the holiday season. Make sure they have all of the up-to-date information they might need in advance in order to answer customer’s questions.
- Train them to be able to cope with pressure and frantic customers
The holidays are a stressful time and some of your customers might be abrasive; consider making a “caller drill” imitating a distressed customer to see how your employees would react in a similar situation.
- Provide a technology refresher
Be sure agents are fully trained on the call center software and other technology they are leveraging on a daily basis.
In addition, it’s worth looking into more substantial fixes if you think your call center simply may not be able to handle the demands. Turning to business process outsourcing companies to boost agent head count is a good option as well. Also consider offering scheduled callbacks to customers when queues get too long: this way, you can spread the high call volumes into quieter times of the day.
Many successful companies go even further during the holiday season, recruiting a few home-based agents who are willing to put on a headset and log on to handle call overflows during times of the day when the existing agent pool simply can’t keep up. This method, of course, is predicated on a company using a next-generation VoIP-based call center platform.
Cloud-based solutions from companies such as Voicent and others allow agents to connect from anywhere and be a working part of the call center environment. These solutions also eliminate costly overhead such as hardware acquisition and maintenance and automatically monitor and manage resources to meet the call center’s service level goals.
While you may think of the holidays as your busiest time of year, remember that this is actually your most important, both in terms of sales and building customer loyalty. Be sure you’re equipped to meet the challenge, or you’ll wind up doing more harm than good to your brand.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein