Smart retail contact center and call center leaders are plan ahead for the variety of challenges this period poses. In 2018, Black Friday pulled in $6.2 billion in online sales, and Cyber Monday saw $7.8 billion in sales (both record highs).
Although we may not be seeing the crazy shopping-center-meets-lord-of-the-rings-battle-scenes this year, you can expect that madness to descend on to your contact center instead.
Given these numbers, it’s unsurprising that calls to businesses rose more than 375% over the past two holiday seasons. While this unbelievable sales flood is a boon for a retailer’s bottom line, it can be a painful time for customers seeking assistance and those in charge of retail contact centers.
It might seem tempting to neglect the customer experience in favor of the “just get it done” mentality that stems from such a drastic increase in call volume; your call center must aim to please during the busiest sales periods of the year. After all, this is how customer relationships are made or broken.
So, how can call centers to improve customer interactions during the most important weekend of the year? Look no further: we have you covered!
In this tip sheet, you’ll read about four of the most important ways you can get your call center into gear with specific action items.
Optimize Your Self-Service Channels
Digital-savvy customers don’t want to waste time and energy calling agents when their answers can just as easily be found using self-service. Employing self-service options for classic customer interactions like order updates and tracking status will remove an unnecessary burden on agents while at the same time keeping customers happy.
Offer Multiple Channels
Communications technology has certainly evolved above and beyond the telephone. Whether chatbot, SMS, FaceTime, Skype, or other means of contact, customers today have a multitude of options at their fingertips, and literally in the palm of their hand. So, it makes sense then that contact centers should embrace the fact that consumers want and expect choice when it comes to reaching out to brands for support.
Some prefer self-service or a handy FAQ page, while others prefer speaking with a human being – each customer has a different preference, but all expect the end result to be a quick and efficient resolution of their issue. With this diversity of consumers in mind, employing self-service options for customer interactions will keep both customers and agents buoyed, especially during your busiest seasons.
Increase Your Contact Center Staff Before Black Friday
Seasonal hiring isn’t something that just happens; it must be deliberate. Start planning months in advance, and hiring weeks ahead.
You need to leave yourself time to calculate how many call center agents you’ll need from Thanksgiving to the new year, hire them, train them, fire some, hire some more, fix that technology that just broke, and then you can handle the flood of customers calling wondering why their InstantPot hasn’t arrived yet.
Get Forecasting Right
One of the most critical issues call centers will face this upcoming season is scheduling their staff. During the holiday season, call centers in the retail industry typically have the most staff on board and new staff joining their teams.
In 2016, Radial hired 20,000 seasonal workers for its call center customer service and freight fulfillment – three times that of its permanent staffing numbers.
Offer Customers a Call-Back
Another way to manage an increase in angry callers is to have technology in place that offers them choice and agency: Call-backs.
Consumers’ top two complaints were: a) having to contact customer service multiple times; and b) being kept on hold for too long. Customers hate waiting on hold – there are no nuances here. Subsequently, agents start the transaction at a disadvantage with a less-than-pleased customer. It’s a lose-lose situation.
When you offer your customers the option to receive a call-back from the next available agent or to schedule a call-back for a convenient time later, you’re giving the customer choice. And you’re respecting their time.
You’re also giving your customer service agents a much-deserved leg up in the customer interaction. So, it’s a no-brainer: Consider replacing hold time with a call-back: It’s a win-win for all involved. (Read more about how call-backs work here.)
Don’t Neglect Training
As mentioned, many call centers hire additional temporary staff to deal with call spikes. Omaha Steaks, for example, hired an additional 2,900 seasonal call center agents. Even the highest-quality agents will need training and time to get up-to-speed and effectively handle their work during peak times.
As any contact center manager will tell you, even in these increasingly automated times, people are key to strong customer service. As any contact center manager will tell you, even in these increasingly automated times, people are key to strong customer service.
Make sure they have the professional and peer support they need, and a training program which includes how to manage the stresses of working in a customer service space – mentally-taxing work to be sure. After all, an increase in customer calls means an influx in the probability of angry callers, which can weigh heavily upon a contact center agent, especially after repeated incidents, and can be considered a workplace hazard. A focus on uplifting employees by offering them the support they need or having procedures in place to escalate abusive customers to more senior staff, will raise productivity and morale, lower attrition, and keep contact center offerings strong.
Prepare Your Contact Center for Cyber Monday Now
A call center’s number of customer interactions increases dramatically post-Thanksgiving and, because of this, so too does the importance of those interactions. Offering a good experience in the face of increased demand isn’t impossible: It’s a task as great as the season itself but manageable with a sound plan that can adjust to all the twists and turns this time of year is known for.
Learn how to get holiday-ready with this tip sheet, which you can download below.