How to manage customer service spikes

October 21, 2017 | Flexible Workforce | Blog
finger dialing keypad on phone

The key to avoiding long customer hold times and wasted agent idle time

Imagine no wait time, no lost sales, no unhappy customers. That sounds like business nirvana to me. In fact, it’s something every business strives for. Your customer’s experience with your business can have a big impact on your bottom line.

And it’s certainly challenging in an environment of “I want it now” and “make me happy, no matter what.” If you fail to meet expectations and deliver a good experience, people will hear about it. In fact, a recent study from Harvard Business Review shows that nearly 50 percent of customers who have a negative service experience tell more than 10 people about it. Doing the math—that really adds up.

Improving customer service should be a top priority

Still, while 81 percent of executives say customer experience is essential to their competitiveness, only 20 percent truly follow a defined process. This process should include being prepared for an influx in call spikes.

We need to face the reality that it’s nearly impossible to predict the level of activity you’ll experience. Very few businesses have a steady flow of activity. It doesn’t matter what industry, all businesses experience spikes in activity, whether they are seasonal, time of day, or spikes based on a promotion or unforseen event.

Sometimes the causes are understood—even anticipated—however, in many cases these peak periods come as a shock to the system. It could be inquiries around a promotion, seasonal retail sales volume such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day, or more insurance claims activity due to a storm. No company is immune to spikes.

Having trouble staffing for call fluctuations?

I’ve had some really interesting conversations with customers about managing call spikes. One of the most common comments I hear is that they’re generally staffed well enough to handle call volume, but they regularly have spikes they can’t handle. Those spikes lead to excessive wait times and a poor experience for callers.

What happens when call volume gets out of control? What strategy do you have in place to ensure that the customer experience doesn’t suffer?

The good news is that there are some key strategies you can implement to manage staffing during those peak times.

Identify bursting trends

  • Research historical trends
  • Know your busy periods
  • Optimize, optimize, optimize
Learn where to optimize

  • What resources are available internally?
  • What other channels are available?
  • Are you open to distributing your workload off site?
Evaluate outsourcing partners

  • Understand the different types of outsourcing options
  • Learn how to hedge against the dangers associated with spikes
 Introduce gamification

  • Promote healthy competition to achieve business goals
  • Keeps agents engaged during stressful call spikes

I’ve provided a few examples of areas you should consider when planning for heavy call volume. Check out an on-demand webinar, which goes into more detail, including some examples of how Liveops helps our customers manage spikes.

No matter how well or how far in advance you prepare, spikes are going to happen. Try to embrace them by being prepared, and remember, these spikes mean your company is doing well. The only thing worse than spikes of activity is no spikes of activity! With that, I’ll leave you with happy spike-planning.

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Stephanie Stouck

Stephanie is director of solutions marketing at Liveops. She specializes in developing deep insights in the call center industry to create innovative solutions that maximize business agility and quality.