If you’re like many call center managers, the holiday season is undoubtedly important to you. For many businesses, the holidays represent a majority of their sales, and during this time is when repeat customers are either won or lost. Unfortunately, it’s also a high volume, high stress time of year. Essentially, right at the time you need to be on your best performance, your challenges are the greatest.
One thing to keep in mind is that customers are buying online more than ever before. This year’s Cyber Monday (News - Alert) (the Monday after Thanksgiving when Americans take to their computers to begin placing e-commerce sales) was expected to exceed all previous years – and if anything, the online shopping spree among Americans has only increased as the holidays are now officially in full swing.
It’s important to remember, however, that backing up all these online sales are call centers, and many of them simply aren’t prepared for this onslaught.
So how do you “holiday proof” a call center to handle the increased call volume, the large number of harried or stressed callers and the high potential for confusion?
ResourceNation’s Megan Webb-Morgan recommends a multifaceted approach to ensuring the call center is ready for the holidays:
Technology. It doesn’t matter if you have an optimum number of agents ready for the flood. If your technology isn’t up to snuff, you won’t be able to connect your agents to your customers effectively. Webb-Morgan recommends testing your IVR and telephone switching system for problems, weaknesses, inconsistencies or misinformation.
Training. It doesn’t matter how long agents have been with you: during the holidays, even veterans will hear calls outside of the parameters of typical calls. Ensure that all agents – old, new, part-time and full-time – are rigorously tested on the kinds of questions they are likely to hear during the holiday season, particularly those regarding specific product information, shipping and gift wrap inquiries and holiday promotions, Webb-Morgan advises.
Be proactive with your customers. If problems or confusion occurs, nip it in the bud by proactively communicating with customers if an issue is identified. Instead of waiting for the hordes of confused customers to call you, be proactive and post the information they require on your website, in your e-mail marketing blasts or even in your IVR menu. No time is better to implement such a strategy than during the holidays.
Consider a call-back solution. No matter how well prepared you are, at some point, your call volume will likely exceed your capabilities. A callback system allows customers facing a long queue to book an “appointment” with an agent, allowing you to keep the customer happy and offload traffic to less busy times of day.
Have a strategy for dealing with unhappy customers. No matter how well you do, you’re going to raise the ire of at least a few customers. Be sure you have a clearly outlined escalation process for unhappy customers, and be sure you don’t part with the customer unless a resolution has been truly found. (Nobody likes calling in two or three times just to find an answer). In today’s era of social media, an unhappy customer can easily share his or her experience with a few thousand friends in a single Tweet.
Finally, keep your sense of humor and your sense of perspective tight. The holidays don’t last forever, and the rewards you are working for are high. (And be sure your customer service reps know when they have done a great job.)
Done well, holiday spirit in a call center can significantly boost your company’s sales, boost customer loyalty and win repeat business. By following the provided steps, you’ll be sure it doesn’t have the opposite, more overwhelming affect.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo