Gearing Up Your Contact Center for the Holiday Rush

From early October through December, the contact center reflects both the uptick in holiday shopping and the push to hit the year’s projected numbers.  When you’re standing in a line waiting for the doors to open on some retailer’s one-day only seasonal sale, just imagine the hold queues forming in contact centers that didn’t prepare for the onslaught! Due to the rise of mobile shopping, and the phenomenon that is Cyber Monday, the holidays now represent one of the busiest times of the year for contact centers.

Most contact centers bring on extra Communicators for peak holiday business. Here at InfoCision, we bring on about 500 new employees, which represents one-eighth of our normal Communicator workforce.

To be a prepared contact center that continues to satisfy customers during holiday shopping periods, here are a few additional suggestions:

Use data to forecast the rush: Review historical data, industry projections and other intelligence to estimate how many extra hands you’ll need to meet customer demand at this time of the year. Beyond hiring Communicators, consider adding staff to handle monitoring of social media channels and other contact center functions. Consider whether extending service to 24/7 availability or enlisting an outsourced contact center would enhance the customer experience over the holidays.

Acclimate existing and new staff: Even experienced Communicators hired for the season need some time to acclimate to new surroundings, so don’t wait until the last minute. It’s also a good idea to team new hires with expert Communicators to teach them the ropes.  Also, prepare all staff to handle seasonal promotions by giving them written materials detailing how to upsell and cross-sell products, and provide additional training and scripts to help Communicators maximize revenue.

Support Communicators: Some contact centers have gone to extremes to keep their Communicators happy during the holiday rush—offering chair massages, for example. Others provide free coffee and cookies delivered to workstations and bring in complementary lunches. Still, others hold drawings for merchandise and gifts. To build team support, try an ugly Christmas sweater contest or offer a prize for best decorated cubicles.

Make sure your holiday shoppers—who may contact your business only at this time of year—have a great experience with your brand. When you’re well-prepared for the rush, you can build stronger relationships that will last all year.

 

Share Holiday Cheer With Your Employees All Year Long

Over the holiday season, United Airlines distributed iPhones to all of its customer care agents as a way of saying “thank you” for a job well done. This was a grand gesture and shows just how much the company cares about showing its appreciation.

United Airlines isn’t the only company planning on giving their employees something extra this holiday season. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 80 percent of employers plan to offer some type of holiday bonus or gift in 2015.

While giving your customer care employees a present or bonus during the holidays is a great way to acknowledge their hard work, it’s important to show your appreciation for your employees all year long, not just during the holidays. After all, acknowledging hard work improves overall employee morale and instills loyalty.

Below are a few ways in which you can recognize your employees throughout the year besides gifts and bonuses during the holidays.

Help them further their career: Believe it or not, a lot of employees aren’t necessarily driven by money. Help them further their career by offering them free professional development opportunities. For example, give them the chance to travel to seminars or tradeshows where they can learn new skills, which will help them in the long run.

Provide fun activities: The last thing you want is a group of employees who bolt out the door the second the clock strikes 5 o’clock. To create an enjoyable workplace in which people like to work, provide some fun team building activities. For example, have a bake-off every quarter where employees bring in their favorite dessert or take your team to a sports game.

Public recognition: People like to be recognized for their hard work. Public recognition through awards and acknowledgement helps employees understand that they are valued. It can be as simple as sending out an email to the team recognizing an employee’s job well done.

Cheer might be associated with the holidays, but in the contact center, a jovial spirit goes a long way and leads to more positive team morale.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Top Holiday Customer Care Concerns to Keep in Mind

The holidays are without a doubt the most stressful time of year for customer care employees. Customers are making dozens of transactions online or via the telephone as well as contacting contact centers with questions. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned Communicator stressed.

To ensure that they are prepared, Communicators ought to keep customers’ top holiday complaints top of mind so that they can avoid making matters worse during this busy season. Below, we explore some of the most common holiday customer care concerns that Communicators are likely to face.

Service delivery: According to a survey from ASQ, which polled more than 400 quality and customer service experts worldwide, 55 percent of respondents say that timeliness in service delivery is the most common complaint. Brush up on your company’s service delivery policy to ensure that you’re prepared to correctly answer any questions regarding delivery.

Inaccuracies in billing: There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than when they come across an error in billing. According to the aforementioned survey, 26 percent say errors or inaccuracies in billing and payments are a major issue. Besides familiarizing yourself with your billing policies, make sure that you’re prepared to handle a disgruntled customer. Remember to remain calm and empathic to the customer.

Lack of clear communication: Lack of clear communication is another complaint that tops the list. When a customer contacts you, it’s important that you take the time to fully understand his or her problem and provide a clear solution. Oftentimes, it’s best to repeat the problem back to the customer to ensure that you understand it.What’s more, never make promises that you can’t keep.

The holidays are a wonderful, but hectic time for Communicators. Make sure that you’re prepared to handle everything that’s coming your way by reviewing your company’s policies and guidelines.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Don’t Let the Holiday Customer Care Surge Sneak Up On You

The recent surge of holiday-themed commercials and decorations are alarming reminders that the holidays are right around the corner. And in the contact center space this means it’s time to batten down the hatches, so to speak, to prepare for an influx of customer care inquiries.

This year is poised to be a busy year for shoppers, in particular online shoppers. According to research from the Rubicon Project, more than one in three consumers in the U.S. plans to do the majority of their holiday shopping online.

With an increasing number of people shopping online this holiday season, businesses can expect their customer care centers to be flooded with calls from inquisitive shoppers.

If you’re not quite prepared for the rush of inquiries that are bound to come your way, it’s time to have a quick powwow with your Communicators about etiquette and the best way for handling large call quantities.

Below are a few tips and tricks you can share with your Communicators before the blizzard of holiday calls come in:

  • Keep your cool: Chances are you’re going to come across one or two angry customers during the holidays. The holidays can be quite stressful at times! For this reason it’s important to remain cool, calm, and collected. Listen carefully to the customer and repeat the problem back to him or her to ensure that you fully understand his or her dilemma.
  • Use data to your advantage: In order to provide superior and efficient customer care, use the customer data you have to your advantage. Contextual information—such as a caller’s name, email, phone number—should be displayed right next to a the customer’s call and contact history so Communicators can gain a comprehensive overview, and thereby optimally prepare for the interaction.
  • Automate tasks: The last thing you want to do during the holiday rush is input information after every interaction with a customer. If you can, automate busy work so you can concentrate on fielding more calls.

The holidays will be here sooner than you think. Make sure that your Communicators are prepared for the rush of customers, so that exude nothing but the utmost cheer and quality of customer care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.