The holidays are here, and for many contact centers this means ‘tis the season’ for unpredictable spikes in call volumes.
In retail and e-commerce, the holidays mean an increase in order management, return, and delivery inquiries. For insurance and healthcare companies, inclement weather and unpredictable events always lead to claim spikes. And for everyone, continued pandemic and workforce challenges will compound holiday-related contact center traffic like we’ve never seen before.
But, fortunately, there are many approaches to ringing in the busy season efficiently, and digitization and automation should be at the core of contact center leaders’ strategy. This year, keep your customers happy, hold times to a minimum, and your customer service agents empowered with a well thought-out strategy that minimizes rather than exacerbates the impacts of seasonality.
Here are 5 ways to navigate this year’s seasonality for your contact center.
1. Make self-service clear
Self-service options like apps, FAQ pages and chatbots are only as good as your customers’ ability to find – and navigate – these resource. Make your self-service options clear wherever a customer may start, and don’t limit them to just online or app-based resources. Customers still prefer the phone as a service option and a strong omnichannel self-service strategy makes this option easy to find for all customers – not just those who navigated to the Help Center on your website.
Tip: Conversational AI solutions allow customers to resolve 100% of their tier-1 issues naturally over the phone, without having to navigate rigid IVR menus just to be rerouted to your website to find answers. Conversational AI improves CSAT and ensures hold times don’t lead to customer attrition by answering every call. And when escalations do occur, it can initially authenticate customers, schedule an outbound call or collect call summary notes before handing off to an agent and more to make the most out of your customers’ and agents’ time.
2. Reserve agents for the most important calls
Harvard Business Review’s “10 New Call Center Trends & Predictions for 2021/2022” found the pandemic has created 68% more call escalations, 50% more difficult calls and 34% longer hold times. The frustration felt by customers is just as impactful on agents. Not only are they required to resolve complex customer concerns, they often must do so while balancing their routine, day-to-day tasks.
Tip: In order to maximize your agents’ ability to provide empathy and understanding to customers, take the burden of tier-1 calls off their plates. An investment in conversational AI automates all tier-1 requests with faster resolution times and higher CSAT scores than any other solution, and allows live agents to focus completely on issues only humans can properly understand. The result? Higher retention rates and satisfaction among both customers and agents.
3. Outsource wisely
Even with a BPO in your back pocket for “predictable” high call volumes, forecasting challenges will persist. Unless a BPO is your full-time contact center operation, seasonal usage often includes cost overruns due to large training demands and idle agent capacities when overstaffed. While BPOs can greatly reduce hold times and add more available support hours, today’s modern technologies can do the same without any guesswork or cost unknowns.
Tip: Conversational AI is like having thousands of your best agents on call 24/7 for your customers – and you only need to train it once. Its flexible capacity means you can leverage it when you need it and only pay for what you use. Conversational AI also adds out-of-the-box PCI compliance, HIPAA compliance, and security and redundancies at every step so you don’t have to worry about outages or limitations around what types of requests you’re allowed to use it for.
4. Make the most of your conversation data
While seasonality presents a complex contact center challenge, there is also opportunity in the rich data conversations that your customers provide. During periods of high call volumes, do everything you can to capture fully transcribed customer conversations and be prepared with a modern dashboard that allows you to discover key trends among your customers. Capturing conversations not only increases your insights into rich data, it allows you to take action immediately to improve call flows. Replicant’s dashboard provides the ability to edit scripts in real-time with point and click functionality so your automation never falls behind.
5. Plan for 2022
Busy seasons take months to plan for. Whether or not you’re able to accomplish all the optimization you’d like this season, one thing you can always do is learn so you can prepare for 2022. This year has presented challenges unlike anything contact centers have seen before. The conversation data you capture this year can produce insights that will improve your seasonal strategy into next year. Keep track of what tactics work well, what common requests were unsupported by your current automation flows, and think big when it comes to modernizing your contact center. Solutions like conversational AI are more powerful and easier to implement than ever before, and its ROI can quickly grow to completely transform the way you serve your customers.