9 Ways To Manage Spikes In Your Contact Center

1, December 2016

For enterprises, the contact center is the heart of customer engagement. But a contact center job is a demanding one. Anything can go wrong. Especially when agents face a sudden spike in volume of calls coming in.

Planned spikes occur when a marketing promotion or a discount sale is proposed to hit the market. This is most evident during the holiday shopping season when your contact center transforms into a battle-zone. Thanksgiving sale in the US and Big Billion Day in India increases call volumes by 200%.

With such staggering number of calls heading the agent’s way, it may not be possible to cater every interaction. And this goes against the adage – “Leave no customer behind”. Even if customer interactions are handled, the resolution time elongates. But when a random technical outage takes down the operations, the contact center turns into a bed of thorns.shutterstock_525080821However, seasonal spikes is perhaps the lesser even when compared to its twin – the dreaded unplanned spike. It can lead to revenue losses and additional stress on customer service. It can also prove to be deal-breaker to your customers and make them switch their loyalties.
Here are some tips to manage spikes – both planned and unplanned.

Access your readiness for spikes
To be prepared is half the victory. A readiness assessment to gauge your capacity and readiness to handle sudden surges in customer interactions. Analyze the degree of preparedness based on parameters including customer experience, customer accessibility and capacity to deliver.

Identify hidden capacities and risk level
Most contact centers do not operate near capacity, and there is an enormous potential hidden. Contact centers are designed to run at maybe 50 to 60 percent of utilization even without realizing it. Finding available capacity within your contact center is another way to handle peaks.

Consolidate capacity, augment on-demand
Infrastructure consolidation has become a top priority for IT leaders, especially in an environment of shrinking IT budgets. Large enterprises could consider consolidating departmental contact centers into a centralized hub to achieve higher economies of scale.
Compared to software procurement, hardware typically takes a longer period of time. While software can be procured in a matter of hours, hardware can take days, if not weeks to arrive. Therefore it is a good practice for you to build at least 30% additional hardware capacity so that you can add applications on-demand.

Promote self-service through proactive digital deflection
Customers expect the contact centers to present solutions when things go wrong, and not excuses. Therefore when a service channel experiences high traffic volumes, customers can be automatically diverted to an alternate service channel with low volumes of customer enquiries. This can potentially save millions of dollars in contact center costs and boost satisfaction among consumers who prefer to be self-reliant.shutterstock_249069385

Offer a segmented customer experience
Adopting a segmented interaction strategy can help in retaining good customer experience through planned and unplanned spikes. Your customers can be classified into categories based on their customer needs and profiles. This way high-value customers can be addressed first and this helps to keep their loyalties intact.

Get a unified view of the contact center
One of the most critical steps in dealing with unplanned spikes is discovering the reason why your customers are calling. When outages occur, the crisis managers are supposed to isolate the root cause and provide a quick solution. To arrive at the reason, a unified view of the contact center is much needed. However, getting a holistic grasp on the happenings of the contact center is something that still continues to be a challenge.shutterstock_218740615

Assess workforce productivity and realign tasks
Workforce Optimization assesses existing customer interaction routing and workforce scheduling practices, mines for complex interlinks between a set of variables (routing operations, number of splits, workforce skills, workforce groupings, shift patterns), and arrives at recommendations to improve spike management.

Negotiate with your managed services provider
Shrinking IT budgets have forced enterprises to lower the costs of contact center infrastructure, yet they need to meet the growing customer experience needs. Your contact center needs to work with a managed services provider who can offer a flexible range of services that evolve as your business evolves. Rather than signing up for fixed SLAs, you can negotiate a model that provides transparent control options, guarantee performance features such as the scope of service, response time and processing speed.

Need for integrated organizational effort
Spike management is an integrated organizational effort rather than the responsibility of a contact center or IT teams. Identifying and assessing the influence and importance of different departments and lines of business that may significantly impact customer interaction is critical. Therefore, it is vital for sales, marketing and even human resources, to be in sync with the contact center.

You can download our detailed e-book on managing spikes here