Call management in the festive seasons – Lee Mansell is Product Manager at TeleWare looks at the challenges facing businesses to keep up with seasonal increases in call volume while also keeping on top of costs and not creating unnecessary year-round infrastructure.
Every year it seems that retailers are competing even more fervently and the deals that are offered to consumers become even better. Black Friday and Cyber Monday start the season abruptly and then the pressure never lets off until well after the January sales. For retail businesses, from giants like Amazon, through to small, online boutiques, the Christmas and pre-Christmas spending sprees are a great opportunity and can provide a large percentage of yearly revenue. However, dealing with the increased call volumes, from customers placing orders, checking delivery dates and potentially returning goods, can place a massive strain on resources—especially for those companies operating at the lower end of the spectrum.
The major players – Amazon, John Lewis, ASOS, and others – will likely have large call centres and departments that are specialised and well-staffed around the year. The size of their business and the number of calls they receive demands this. However, when an independent retailer goes from a few calls a month to several hundred, it can mean that staff are overwhelmed and taken away from their core job role. For these companies, it’s simply too expensive and unnecessary to have a large-scale, 365 day a year call centre, poised and ready to go. These call centres would likely be very quiet during the rest of the year and simply be a drain on revenue and decrease profit margins.
But it’s not just retailers at the end of the year that can be faced with seasonal demand that places strain on vital resources and call management capability. There are a range of other businesses, in a wide variety of sectors that can see sudden increases in approaches due to temporary factors. An obvious example of this is doctor surgeries. While sickness is a year-round issue, everyone is aware of ‘flu season’ and the various winter bugs and viruses that can spread like wildfire through offices and schools. It’s not always easy to get an appointment at these times due to the sheer number of people wanting one and the resulting long waits for receptionists to pick up the phone. February can also see heavy demand at travel agents. In fact, around 60% of holidays in the UK are booked at this time as travellers weary of the winter blues call to get the best deals. Universities will see the same demand and difficulties during the clearing process at the end of the summer.
The problem facing these smaller businesses is clear. They need a call management solution that can be scaled up to meet seasonal demand and growth in the business, and that can also be scaled down when demand slackens. At the same time, there needs to be a clear overview of incoming and outgoing calls. This means that supervisors can add people into the network during particularly high volume times, and then remove them as needed. For companies where space may be an issue, being able to create a network that spans a number of locations adds extra flexibility and allows staff to work from home and log on as needed. For these businesses, a full contact centre, staffed with permanent or temporary call staff will be too much. A software, cloud-based solution that can work seamlessly with existing telecoms systems is a perfect middle ground between being overwhelmed and paying through the nose for unnecessary and ultimately unused seats and equipment.
Seasonal surges should be welcomed. They’re an opportunity to make hay while the sun shines and can prop up businesses, especially when the season is over and there’s a return to normal demand and call volumes. However, there’s a tendency to fear the frantic nature of peak times and there are often concerns over losing out due to staff becoming overwhelmed and orders being lost. By making sure the proper systems are in place, businesses can be well-prepared for the busy periods and Black Friday needn’t seem so bleak.
Lee Mansell is Product Manager at TeleWare
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