According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are supposed to climb 3.6 percent this year from last year’s overall figures. This is modest good news for retailers (who haven’t had a lot of it lately). For contact centers, however, it means weeks of high call volumes, short tempers and extra scrutiny by the executive office and directors. Agents and managers will be under more pressure than ever, since the marketplace has decided that they can’t only sell and service, they need to provide an awesome customer journey, and an omnichannel customer experience.
The end of the year rush in contact centers is about more than taking care not to lose sales to competitors. It’s also about converting new customers, who may be calling regarding gifts for others. It’s a powerful opportunity, according to a recent blog post by Aspect’s (News - Alert) Chris O’Brien.
“The spotlight shines especially bright come holiday season, so the organizations that rise to the occasion are likely to leave a lasting imprint on consumers, setting up their business for success heading into 2017,” wrote O’Brien. “But organizations that fail to meet the needs of customers may stumble out of the gate in the New Year.”
It’s for this reason that contact centers must follow best practices, particularly during the holiday rush. Executive offices will be glad at the opportunity for more revenue, but to take advantage of it, they need to make sure contact centers have the budgets, manpower and technology necessary to “wow.” The first step is to make it easy for agents to do their jobs. If they’re hunting for answers through multiple databases, toggling between too many applications, stuck in single communication channels or simply at a loss for resources and answers, they will fail the holiday test.
“One of the most critical actions that contact center leaders must take is to ease the burden experienced by agents as they handle the holiday surge in customer contacts,” wrote O’Brien. “That way, agents can ensure quality interactions with every customer. A satisfactory interaction can make or break a customer’s experience, so setting up your agents—the front line in your contact center—for success is key.”
So what are the best places to focus effort on improving the agent experience? There are several:
Be sure your self-service works. If your IVR hasn’t been updated in a long time, or if it’s a frequent source of customer complaints, replace it with an easy to use and easy to customize solution that doesn’t give customers the runaround. If customers can successfully answer their own questions, they won’t need live agents.
Update your workforce optimization. If you’re still using spreadsheets, you’re simply not going to be able to staff properly to accommodate your customers. Look to a cloud-based solution that can be deployed across multiple sites, is easy to change, features reports and alerts, and is easy for agents to understand. Consider having “standby” agents who could be home-based or located in back offices, to bring “online” during busy periods.
Unify (News - Alert) the agent desktop. If agents have to move through too many desktops to find answers, they will become confused and make mistakes. Find a solution that merges all the necessary applications into a single desktop with universal log-in.
Ensure collaboration is easy. Can your agents easily ask one another questions and for help and advice? One agent may struggle to find the answer to a problem that another agent knows. If it’s easy for contact center staff to share knowledge, it will be easier for them to serve customers.
At the end of the holiday season, be sure to reward agents and managers for a job well done. After all, it’s not just your customers you’re trying to keep.