Book Extract: The Future Of Managing Seasonal Spikes In Customer Service
By Mark Hillary
Earlier this year I published a new book titled ‘Gig CX: Customer Service In The Twenty-First Century.’ I wrote this book with Brian Pritchard and Terry Rybolt, both leaders at the Gig CX platform LiveXchange. Gig CX, or #GigCX as it is known on social networks, is a very interesting area of the gig economy. It’s not comparable to Uber rides or bikers delivering food from restaurants, although it’s true that workers are usually paid per customer served rather than an hourly rate.
Gig CX focuses more on allowing people to occasionally earn from undertaking some customer service activities – working from home, choosing their own hours and even the brands they work for. Gig CX agents are much more likely to have deep knowledge about the subject area they support, rather than just being a customer service generalist.
In this extract from the book, I explore how Gig CX can help companies manage seasonal spikes, such as Black Friday, using a gig approach.
Every business has times in the year when transactions spike. Retailers always approach Black Friday, and the end of year holidays, with caution because they know that once they get close to those dates, contact center volumes will go through the roof.
It’s the same in other industries. When a game publisher launches a new game on the app store, or for a console, then customer interactions will spike. When a consumer electronics company launches a new device or runs a big marketing campaign for an existing device, interactions will spike.
How do you handle those volumes? If you don’t do anything then the customer experience is going to be so awful they might never buy from you ever again, but how can you afford to have people sitting around doing nothing when call volumes are normal – just waiting for another spike to happen?
Take a look at some of the traditional advice to customer service managers. We looked around at a few business journals and these three tips are typical of the normal advice on managing short-term high volumes of customer interactions:
- Prepare your team: hire temporary staff and prepare the team to be busier than usual by reducing any unnecessary stress.
- Use call-backs: avoid hold times by offering the customer an option to get an automatic call-back when an agent is available.
- Offer multiple channels: offer additional channels, such as chat and social networks
Maybe it’s just us, but we don’t think that these tips actually help very much. Your team should have the support they need to avoid stress every day they are on the job, not just during busy periods. Call-backs should always be an option for customers who prefer to call and this is 2021 – customer service has been using multiple channels for a long time now.
No business can avoid these spikes. New products, marketing campaigns, and retail sales are always going to create them, so how do you really prepare your customer service team to handle them effectively? We mean REALLY prepare?
Start thinking differently about how you manage the entire customer service process. You need to think out of the box and stop imagining that customer service is the same thing as your contact center. Break out of this mindset that more people in the contact center is the only solution to spikes in business.
Most contact centers are staffed with agents that have fixed shifts – they are at the center 8 hours a day ready to take calls whether your customers are calling or not. If you could dramatically increase control over how many agents you have answering calls then you could plan for a busy period. But how do you increase the customer service team by 300% overnight when there is no more space in the contact center?
The answer is simple. You embrace the future. Gig CX allows you to take complete control of a virtual contact center. Use a cloud-based software platform that agents connect to – not a physical contact center with all the restrictions and costs of managing an office. You can schedule shifts right down to the nearest half-hour that you need covered and you can offer 500% more shifts to agents on a day when you know that your new marketing campaign is about to drop. You have complete control.
The agents are all working from home. The information is all completely secure. These agents are people who love the flexibility of working from home and signing up for the shifts they want to work – they are not contact center agents, think of them more as domain experts. They were not sent home from a contact center because of a stay-at-home order, they love working from home. They have great experience and are skilled at supporting customers.
Traditional contact centers have never managed seasonality very well. Events such as Black Friday can be planned for to a certain extent. You can think ahead and get some temporary agents into the contact center (if there is space) or augment them with some work-from-home agents. But what happens when your marketing department drops a new campaign that triples customer interactions overnight and they didn’t think to let the customer service team know?
The future of managing customer service seasonality is to move beyond the contact center. Start thinking how you could build a fantastic customer experience if you could take direct control over the number of agents you have on the team at any time of the day or night. Start building a future where seasonality is no longer a problem.
“Gig CX: Customer Service In The Twenty-First Century” is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. To order a copy from your local independent bookstore just ask them to use ISBN: 9798550351123.