This article is a continuation of one I posted last week regarding preparing now to better handle spikes in volume during next year’s peak seasons. After thinking about the strategies I mentioned in my first post on combatting seasonal peaks, I may have left the best for last.
The way you respond to call volume fluctuations - and how quickly - can make or break your peak season. That’s because when consumers are unhappy, they react swiftly.
“Drivers of disloyalty hinge on the amount of effort customers must use to resolve a service issue”
In a recent article on effortless experience, Rick DeLisi, principle executive advisor at Gartner, explained the result of a survey they conducted: “45% of the people who had something positive to say about a company told fewer than three other people. However, 48% of people who had a negative experience told more than ten people.”
If you want to preserve customer loyalty, forecasting and queue management are two key approaches to tap into as part of your overall strategy for peak period call management.
Forecasting: Variability should not be confused with unpredictability
Forecasting is the most important tool that businesses can use to anticipate a spike in volume. Collecting a substantial amount of data, which can then be used to put together a predictive model, is essential to developing an accurate forecasting process. But let’s not forget that forecasting is just as much an art as a science - because we are, after all, predicting the future. The accuracy of your forecast will be due in some part to your judgment and experience.
The first thing my team does with clients during the planning process is ask them for historical forecasts by half-hour intervals for the entire year (two years is even better!). We also request a schedule from their marketing departments for upcoming promotions, as well as any other factors that may impact call volume (e.g. social media strategy, billing changes). Variability in call arrival patterns in most cases can be attributed to these events. If you can account for them, you can in fact, predict the calls that will result. You can then decide whether you want to overstaff slightly and fill in the quieter times with other tasks or whether you want to understaff slightly.
Forecasting should be an ongoing activity. The more variable the call volumes are by day/week/month and the faster they are changing, the more frequently you will want to reforecast. You will begin to see trends in both the call volume patterns and the volume increases, which will help you to be more accurate with your forecasts over time. Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling, and without it, over- and understaffing will occur and impact the profitability of a contact center.
Average Revenue per Sales Call x Abandoned Calls = LOST REVENUE!
Lifetime Value of Customer X Abandoned Calls =LOST REVENUE & LOST CUSTOMER!
Queue management: Cut training costs in half
Once you have your forecasting model in place, you can look at additional options for managing your call queue, such as interactive voice response (IVR), recorded messages, voicemail, skills-based call routing, or queue callback.
Queue management - accounting for skill group queue assignments and queue priorities - is just as important as forecasting accuracy. Are your queues structured for maximum efficiency?
A great way to reduce wait time during peak period is to create specialized queues so calls get forwarded to agents based on their training/competency or driven based on a specific type of request (e.g. billing dispute). Bonus – when you create specialized queues you can cut training costs in half by only sending agents calls you know they are going be able to handle.
A recent survey found that consumers dislike waiting in a queue for the next available agent with 61% of the public disliking not knowing how long they will be on hold.
That’s why one of the most important call queue management tools available today is queue callback. This feature allows customers to leave the call queue without losing their place in line by requesting that an agent call them back as soon as possible. Studies show that a callback service can reduce abandoned calls by at least 32%, so your customers can connect with live agents without increasing call volumes.
A customer’s time and money should be worth what they get back in terms of services/ products they purchase and the experiences they have - whether it be on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon or Monday morning during peak season. So, utilizing good forecasting techniques and tools like skills-based call routing and queue callback can help improve customer perception and, ultimately, impact customer retention and brand loyalty.
Maybe it’s time for you to take a look at how flexible and proactive your customer care organization is so you can plan now to meet the unexpected demands of next year’s busy season.