Manage Holiday Season Ramp Up: Call Center Best Practice
July 26, 2022 | 4 min read
The holiday shopping season is an important time for retailers across the U.S. In 2021, despite supply chain disruption and the continued impact of COVID-19, holiday sales increased by 8.5 percent over the same period in 2020. In certain sectors, holiday sales have even more impact on a brand’s success. For toys and games and jewelry stores holiday sales make up as much as 34 percent of annual sales.
While November 1 marks the official start of the holiday season, the Thanksgiving weekend traditionally marks the start of a significant ramp in holiday shopping. Black Friday is the single biggest shopping day of the year for many retailers, with as many as half of U.S. shoppers intending to buy a gift on this day.
To support seasonal sales, retailers ramp up staffing by as much as 7 percent of base employment. And, with the holiday season such an important time for retailers, ensuring a positive customer experience (CX) is maintained, despite the exponential uptick in sales, is essential.
But, when brands are already challenged by the Great Resignation and a competitive employment market, how can retailers ensure their call center is ready and able to handle an increased volume of customer contacts?
6 Priorities For a Successful Call Center Holiday Ramp Up
- Super Charge Hiring With Automation
Finding the right candidates for vacant positions, especially when you have many roles to fill, can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. And, in an entirely manual hiring process, brands are limited by the capacity of their HR teams.
Automating elements of the hiring process enables you to hire skilled candidates at scale while also improving the candidate experience, a consideration that is more important than ever in a competitive job market.
By using AI to screen resumes, match candidates to roles and test candidates’ skillsets, automated hiring tools can identify those candidates most likely to succeed and route suitable job seekers to hiring managers, fast-tracking the interview process and maximizing the resource of your HR team.
- Leverage Work From Home to Access New Talent Pools
As employees seek out positions that offer more flexibility and a greater work-life balance, much has been written about the challenges employers face in filling vacant roles.
While contact center work has traditionally required teams to be based in a brick-and-mortar environment, the COVID-19 pandemic drove a radical reimagining of how call centers could operate. Agents were, for the first time, asked to work from home en masse and brands and agents alike realized that this new model delivers benefits for all. Agents appreciated the flexibility and happy agents created better experiences, driving up customer satisfaction. Brands, meanwhile, recognized that technology could create the secure spaces necessary to safeguard customer data outside of traditional brick-and-mortar environments.
With the case for home working call center agents proven, work-at-home teams enable brands to access new talent pools for seasonal work.
Without the need to be close to your office, work-at-home enables your recruitment search to expand into previously untapped locations. Home-based opportunities also appeal to a workforce that may not have felt well served by a brick-and-mortar environment, such as working parents, caregivers and those embarking on a second career.
- Address Customer Journey Pain Points Before the Holiday Season Begins
Customer analytics can help you to understand your customer journey. Identifying and addressing pain points will streamline the customer experience and improve customer satisfaction.
Understanding and addressing the drivers behind repeat contacts or identifying where information in other channels, such as your website, needs to be updated or refreshed will minimize the need for customers to reach out to customer service. Reducing the volume of simple queries coming into your contact center team frees up resources to focus on managing peak seasonal demand.
- Empower Customers With Self-Service
62% of consumers would prefer to use a chatbot than wait for a customer service agent. Advances in technology mean fast, scalable 24/7 service is within reach for every brand and, today, customers expect your business to offer self-service solutions.
High volume, low emotional effort interactions lend themselves to automation. If you don’t already have self-service solutions in place, analytics will help you to identify use cases. Whereas, if you have already deployed automation, analytics will help you to keep iterating and ensure your self-service solutions are as effective as possible.
Diverting simple, repeatable tasks to automation, including chatbots, frees up live agents to focus on more complex customer queries while ensuring customers always have an instant answer to everyday questions, such as order status inquiries, product availability or opening hours.
- Leverage Technology for Faster Agent Speed to Proficiency
Onboarding new agents takes time, but seasonal staff may only be in role for a matter of weeks, meaning lengthy training periods aren’t a viable option.
Technology holds the key to maximizing agent speed to proficiency. From virtual chat and voice conversations that allow agents to practice their skills in real-to-life scenarios to agent-assist technology that prompts next-best action in real-time and gamification that rewards agents for displaying desired behaviors, technology can take agents from the training room to the live environment in a matter of days.
- Have a Ramp Down Plan
For retailers, hiring and training staff is the priority when it comes to peak seasonal sales periods, but it is equally important to have a clear ramp-down plan.
Monitor contact volumes to understand and effectively forecast demand, enabling you to plan a staggered ramp down that balances resource with the need to maintain a positive CX. Ensure your contact center team, whether in-house or outsourced, is part of building that plan so they can help you to ramp down efficiently.
Clear, timely communication with seasonal agents about the duration of their assignment will also help to build your brand as a seasonal employer of choice.
Seasonal sales are vital for many brands’ success. Ensuring your customers continue to receive the high-quality customer service they enjoy at other times of the year is essential to drive customer loyalty and retain your customers for the long term.
Working with an experienced CX solutions provider with access to the technology and insights necessary to effectively staff your call center for the peak season will ensure your CX is consistent, despite increased demand.
Startek® has more than 30 years’ experience creating world-class experiences for leading retail brands. To learn more about how we can support your team as you ramp for the 2022 holiday season, contact us.