A spike in call volumes is one of the top challenges that businesses face regularly. The peaks could be considerable or small, planned or unplanned, but managers are often confronted by this Goliath challenge time and again. Managing spikes in call volumes is a critical task, because by its nature, the increase may not be a mere 10% or 20%, but often over three times the normal call rates.
While businesses usually prepare for a spike in call volumes, most of the time, such preparation (constant training, working overtime, etc) falls way short of the mark, resulting in frustrated customers and hapless workers at office.
How does a business handle spikes of 300% more calls per hour that could run into days and weeks or more? There are no easy answers, but there are certain best practices that will provide the necessary guidance to businesses that are determined to deliver uncompromised customer service.
Reasons for Spikes in Call Volumes
Table of Contents
- 1 Reasons for Spikes in Call Volumes
- 2 How to Tackle Spike in Call Volumes
New product launches, gifting, and sales pitches usually peak during festival seasons such as Christmas and New Year. Additionally, retail businesses, in particular, offer planned seasonal promotional activities. Consequently, there is usually a spike in customer queries, complaints and service requests during these times.
These kind of spikes are experienced during a product launch, a thrust in ad spend during special events such as a baseball final or a movie launch, or due to some unforeseen contingency situation.
Some of the proven ways to successfully tackle spike in call volumes are described below.
How to Tackle Spike in Call Volumes
Forecasting is an important tool that businesses should use to anticipate a spike. Though a basic requirement, some managers do not use it and blame external factors for spikes. Even though there are strict patterns to some spikes, this important tool is missing in several businesses. For example, some spikes occur in the morning, some in the evening, some during vacations, some on Sundays, and some during rains. Careful observation and the help of professional tools and methods could help managers hire and train people for the optimization of customer service.
Optimal staffing is key to providing good customer service, and a good traffic management team will often suggest hiring temporary or seasonal staff to handle spikes. Such temporary staff – that could be as high as twice the permanent strength – is provided abbreviated training, which includes basic training on the most common call types and processes. This significantly reduces the pressure on your permanent staff, and minimizes the cost of the extended training.
Collaboration with other companies is another option to manage spikes in calls. It is possible that the overflows do not occur at the same time for two or more companies. Such companies could have an association of sharing manpower during spikes and provide the required training, rotation shifts, and process updates.
Other staffing-related solutions to managing spikes in calls include training staff in other departments and moving activities such as training and feedback to weekends or to the low-activity days.
Prompt Handling of Calls:
A spike in calls and a long queue reflect not only heightened interest in the company’s products or services but are also a pointer to the need to evaluate team processes. Make sure that the team is aware of any fresh product, policy, or process updates. Monitor the time spent by team members in resolving customer problems and if they are actually resolving them. Managers have to study the feedback that customers are usually requested to provide at the end of the call and act immediately on any deficiency.
Integration with Sales Team:
The importance of teamwork within the organization is often understated, and more so with respect to customer service. Close coordination between marketing and customer care could resolve issues in call handling during spikes and lead to better strategies.
It is vital to involve the customer service team in all planned marketing activities. This will help the team to understand possible queries that may be coming in, and address them in an optimal manner.
Using call-back technology could be a boon for tackling customer queries. It is usually done by utilizing ticketing technology to enable a customer to get a call-back. During spikes, call centers could urge callers to send an SMS or email with simple instructions, a code that will register the type of query and the deadline for receiving a call-back.
If used efficiently, call-back technology curbs the frustration of waiting in a queue for the customer and also provides the much-needed time and effort required to handle complaints. At times, analysis of calls could point to similarities in issues and result in a standardized solution that could be sent to customers through emails or SMS.
Provide Important Information to Queue Messages:
This works well when the reason for the spike is anticipated or known. It could be a new process, a product update, or a temporary glitch or defect in the product that has surfaced. Providing the solution as a message in the queue recording can help to drastically reduce such spikes.
Flexible Deployment Plan:
An action plan to handle spikes is necessary and must be implemented. For example, the plan could fix deployment based on the number of calls in the queue. 5 calls mean close monitoring of call handling, 10 means cancellation of meetings while 20 calls mean cancellation of training programs, short breaks, and a full team.
Employment of Self-Service Channels:
Technology provides various options to prevent spikes. Self-service options, such as IVR, updates on social media, SMS, emails, online chats and detailed FAQs on the company’s home page, could be a good strategy to reduce spikes in call volumes.
Outsourcing to a Professional Call Center:
Apart from the considerable cost escalation attached to such measures, it is almost impossible to handle unplanned spikes, which could be due to a product roll back, the unexpected popularity of a viral social campaign, fluctuations in stock exchanges, adverse publicity, and changes in government policies related to the company products or services. Outsourcing customer service to a capable customer service provider remains the best option for companies to hedge against the dangers associated with spikes in call volumes. A professional outsourced call center not only has a continuous training and development program, but also can galvanize resources in a short time to manage overflows.
Apart from providing strong support for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), outsourcing call handling could also go a long way in customer retention and boost the marketing arm of the company by providing scalable services for both good and bad times.
In conclusion, in spite of the challenges, managers acknowledge that call spikes are usually a good thing and reflect the company’s efforts in marketing and a wider customer reach. Effective management of this challenge will transform it into an opportunity to increase sales and move a notch up against the competition.