With the build-up to the winter holidays in full swing, it is true to say that we are in the middle of the busiest time of the year for many businesses. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving and Christmas – companies experience a heightened dose of stress over the holiday period. The winter months definitely put a strain on organisations of all shapes and sizes to work way outside of their means. One department, in particular, that can burst at the seams; the customer support department.
We’ve reached full capacity. This is the exact thought that goes through a contact centre manager’s mind every year at this exact same time. Customers seem to be getting more demanding every year and want to be understood more than ever before. The time of treating the customer support function as a cost-centre is over; customers want to feel special and so when they are having issues, they want help to be easy and quick and personalised. Most importantly, they want to feel like they are valued every time they interact with a business.
Julia Martin with Customer Think believes that the “X” in CX stands for eXceptional and she is completely right. Customers definitely expect to be treated with the same level of experience they do during the off-season – if not better. Exceptional customer experience should be integral to a company’s strategy moving forward into the new year.
Contact centres across the world experience the most stressful time around the holidays. November alone last year accounted for 20% of 2018’s retail sales. Additionally, the winter period sees the largest migration of people throughout the year with the vast majority of these travelling home for the holidays, and busy travellers account for huge spikes in contact with travel companies. Every industry is affected by the surge in customer service at this time of year – it cannot be avoided.
All of these effects lead to increased volumes of customers trying to get through to support staff. This leads to unhappy experiences and low-quality customer care. Let’s have a look at the issues that can arise in the customer service industry at this time of the year.
Are your customers abandoning customer support?
According to call centre helper 80% of chats are answered within 40 seconds – any more than this and a company is risking the customer abandoning the conversation. Maintaining a good response time is crucial when wanting to keep customer satisfaction scores high. During the busy peak period, it is inevitable that the high volume of communication between customers and agents will leave space for complacency to manifest itself daily. If you keep your customers waiting with a lack of engagement the fact is that this will impact on their overall experience with your brand and will influence their future relationship with your company.
Staff absenteeism over the peak period
In one report by Contact Centre Solutions, one Australian contact centre suffered a loss of AUD2.5m due to absenteeism. Employee absence is one of the things you can’t plan for as a manager. With a higher risk of sickness coupled with the busy holiday season, there is a rise in staff absences compared to previous months. Last-minute changes in the number of agents on duty can really put a team under pressure due to the volumes of incoming support queries. Not having a strategy in place for when this happens will, in turn, increase the customer’s waiting time and have an adverse effect on customer experience.
Unsustainable hiring over the holidays
The winter months open up many opportunities for part-time work with the National Retail Federation stating that there will be over half a million part-time workers hired over the season. Hiring temporary staff in order to fight the battle for time against inbound customer queries seems like a good option, but without proper training and experience how will these new hires be able to represent your company? The busy lead up to the peak season means that new recruits have to be trained in quickly. They may not be aligned with the companies culture and will be too inexperienced to deal with all queries thrown at them. Thus, impacting heavily on the customer’s satisfaction levels, creating an unsustainable role and wasting time and resources on a short-term solution.
Customer care teams can’t get away from hiring temporary staff during peak seasons. This doesn’t mean that the quality of support at this time has to be poor. Artificial Intelligence can help new joiners learn quickly on the job and help them to make fewer mistakes. AI-enabled routing can ensure that new staff only get queries that they can handle and leave the tricky ones to the more seasoned staff.
Automation can work on behalf of new staff by retrieving information for them and notifying them of potential issues or unusual customer information. Multilingual staff are hard to come by, so use translation tools to ease the burden. These work particularly well in text-channels.
Why not implement a system that can scale in parallel with the peak seasons and leave your contact centre prepared?
The use of advanced AI and automation technology in customer support is rising and many companies are joining the movement, slowly integrating AI into their company’s strategy.