It’s that time of year. People put their Christmas trees away, take the decorations down, put their Christmas presents on the shelf and send their kids back to school. After that, there’s only one thing left to do: book a trip to someplace warm and tropical.
While the retail contact center industry takes a large breath of relief at this time of year, stressed and frazzled from holiday buying and returns, another industry ramps up its contact centers: passenger cruise lines. For the popular Royal Caribbean line, this means the contact center action in Wichita, Kansas, becomes white hot. One of three Royal Caribbean reservations contact centers, the Wichita facility gets busy at this time of year, adding more shifts and more hours, and forbidding employee vacations until the action abates in April or so, according to local newspaper Wichita Eagle. During the three-month high season, the center averages 10,000 calls a day and will book 50,000 trips.
This particular contact center isn’t spending a lot of time with line travelers, however. The majority of call center agents in the Wichita facility are dealing with workers at online or large traditional travel agencies, rather than individual travelers.
In any case, the contact center will need to take some cues from retailers at this time of year. The ability to ramp up capacity very quickly in order to meet customer demand, and ensure at least minimum standards of customer service quality, is a challenging one. No one wants idle employees sitting around the rest of the year, but understaffing is a catastrophic mistake.
Contact centers with highly seasonable variances have learned some tricks over the years. For starters, rather than be stuck with superfluous premise-based software licenses, many of these companies have turned to cloud-based solutions so they can expand the number of seats during peak calling times and scale back again when things become quiet. This way, they can use these solutions to allow agents to work from other locations: other contact centers or even their homes in the broad effort to meet with demand. One of the most critical benefits of a cloud-based contact center is that if a huge snowstorm hits the contact center facility during a critical time, agents can log in from home or from an emergency contact center in another location that can be up and running in a matter of hours.
Modern workforce optimization can help busy contact centers with varying demand ensure they have the right number of people in the right place at the right time based on historical knowledge and predictions. In a large, rapid-paced contact center, quality assurance is also critical, since managers have no time to roam the floor and listen to all their agents. Call recording solutions, coupled with analytics, can spot problems and trends before they have a negative impact on operations.
For companies with very cyclical business, whether it’s retail or the travel industry, it’s essential to be able to expand and contract as required, ensuring maximum customer service quality without wasting unnecessary resources.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson