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Customer Service Must Flex to Meet Customer Demand

Contact centers serve as a lifeline for connecting customers with their Communications Services Providers (CSPs). When customer service is disrupted, corporate brand and reputation suffers. While you might be tempted to envision natural disasters or power outages due to weather, it need not be that dramatic. Unexpected call volumes due to product launches, product recalls, seasonality or spiky intra-day demand can also be the culprits causing disruption.

Any event that causes unacceptable wait times or failed resolution can put customers at risk of defection, as well as lost opportunity. Customer expectations continue to increase, forcing CSPs to become more responsive. While operational managers for bricks and mortar contact centers do their best to schedule agents based on forecast call volumes, flexibility is limited.

Creating Flexible Capacity

Your customers don’t care that an unexpected event has dramatically increased call volume, resulting in slow service. They expect customer service to be available on demand. A contact center vendor that can provide service delivery options that include At-Home agents can help handle surprises by increasing capacity with little notice to help minimize the impact on your customers and business. Make sure your agreement covers both planned needs and unplanned volume and events—before you need the capacity.

Cost vs. Service

You may view scaling capacity as increased cost, but you must also look at opportunity cost. What will it cost you if customers defect or your company misses out on sales through service due to an inability to handle a spike in volume effectively?

Where you may incur much more cost by keeping agents who work in the physical contact center overtime, you will incur much less with the incremental scheduling made possible with At-Home agents. At-Home agents can put themselves in a waiting room to pick up overflow calls if needed, or provide coverage should someone call in sick. This is one way they can earn extra while also providing readiness in case demand spikes. At-Home agents can also be scheduled in 15-minute increments, making it easier to handle short-term spikes during peak times that don’t warrant the expense of bringing agents in-center for full shifts.

The tradeoff for flexible capacity in costs is minimal when compared with the value of excellence in customer service that is responsive to customer demand exactly when it’s needed.

Use Vendor Expertise for Capacity Planning

A contact center vendor with a portfolio of service delivery options also has a wealth of experience from providing them—whether in-center or At-Home. Ask them to help you create a strategic response plan for unexpected events. With advance planning and trained agents at the ready, you should find that incorporating At-Home as part of the everyday function of your contact center brings higher performance and lower costs, based on how volume trends day-to-day.

Further considerations for use of At-Home agents include the realization that geography is no longer a limitation, and agents tend to be older with a greater proportion having college and higher education, and they have greater work experience.. There is also a lower staff turnover because this is a lifestyle choice. And it also presents an opportunity to find agents who already have knowledge of, and are passionate about, your brand and products.

A contact center vendor with experience that spans both in-center and At-Home competencies can help CSPs to create a blended approach designed to help maximize operational goals, including customer satisfaction and loyalty. Rather than taking a cost-first approach to negotiating with your vendor, take a strategic partnership approach to find the flexibility needed to handle the challenges facing your contact center without any need for your customers to know.