Contact centres are some of the busiest work environments in the world. During peak demand periods – such as the seasonal sales period, for example – it’s often necessary to change strategy or increase staffing just to cope with the volume of calls, and other types of contacts, being received.
If you choose to handle peak demand in-house, as opposed to outsourcing, you’ll be facing a number of issues. Periods of high activity will need to be assimilated into everyday work without overburdening existing staff.
Planning ahead for peak times is an important part of workforce management. Even if circumstances change or unforeseen events cause spikes in demand, you should have systems in place to deal with the consequences.
For contact centres managing peak demand in-house, ramping up your operations – often temporarily – is an effective way to optimise your workforce management during busy periods.
Plan ahead to predict peaks and troughs
To optimise your workforce management in the best way possible, it’s vital you try and predict when your peak times will be. Could this be weekly, monthly, annually? Do certain events trigger a spike? Which seasons bring the most demand?
Research into previous company data will give you an idea of when your peaks and troughs are. With this data, a predictive model can be made to more accurately forecast the next three, six, or twelve months. This falls into the scope of your workforce management or resource planning team.
Once your predictions are made, further research into what actually drives peak demand is needed. This is vital to understand the phenomenon and allows you to better plan ahead and make adjustments to support ongoing flexibility in the workplace.
Providing your workforce management team with accurate data allows them to optimise your contact centre’s staffing schedules to manage peak demand. They will likely suggest a number of solutions, including internal recruiting or temporary overflow outsourcing.
Recruiting temporary staff
If you are unable to manage your peaks with your current staffing levels, outside hiring always remains an option. A temporary workforce can alleviate the stress on your full-time agents, allowing greater flexibility of work for all during seasonal peaks.
But in the modern job climate, recruiting for a temporary role can be extremely difficult. Skilled candidates likely already have other jobs, and aren’t going to give up a full-time position for a three-month one. That said, here are three things you can do to ensure your temporary recruitment process is as optimised as possible:
– Plan ahead with as much foresight as possible: It may sound obvious, but you need to provide your recruitment team with as much time as possible to start their hiring campaigns. The earlier they begin hiring, the better response rate they’ll see. The whole recruitment process can take up to 30 days with response times, shortlisting, interviews, and references, so it’s vital you get started as early as possible. Quicker hiring is possible, but you might not find the skilled staff you require.
– Provide clear targets before recruiting: When planning for peak demand, it’s crucial you understand exactly how many people you need, what you need them to do, and for what period you need them. Reaching those conclusions requires extensive coordination between all departments, from the workforce management team to the finance department to HR. Accurate staffing predictions are absolutely vital in ensuring you maintain performance and profits.
– Ensure efficiency throughout the hiring process: Speed and efficiency at all steps of the recruitment process are the keys to finding good quality staff willing to support your company for a limited period of time. To enable this, your outreach needs to be as extensive as possible and go beyond the standard online job boards. You should also have a candidate pool already built up and automation software that can perform actions like scanning CVs to save time. Candidate self-assessments are another popular way to increase efficiency, making the whole process should be as smooth and frictionless as possible.
Provide adequate training and onboarding
After the hiring process comes the onboarding phase. New staff require adequate training to ensure they do their job correctly and feel confident in their role. If you take shortcuts during this stage, expect poor employee engagement, inadequate results, and more frequent resignations.
Make sure you give your new staff enough time to learn your brand and company culture. Encouraging them to form bonds between colleagues, team leaders, and managers will improve their motivation, productivity, and engagement. This all leads to an optimal performance and gives leaders the reassurance they need to allow greater flexibility in the workplace, even during peak times.
Naturally, the speed to competency for new staff members depends on a number of metrics, including the complexity of the job role and your quality expectations. That said, you can reduce the time it takes for employees to work unsupervised by focusing intensely on the initial tasks that will be required of them, as a minimum to get them started with live calls quickly. After that you can build up to more complex tasks and interaction types gradually. This will produce more productive results than throwing them in at the deep end, will produce more productive results.
Top workforce management and productivity tips
Once your new staff are up to speed and handling live interactions, there are a number of measures you can put in place to make everyone’s work more efficient. During peak times any help you can give staff, by reducing AHT (average handling time) or helping them work more productively, is going to have a big impact on your ability to meet your service level targets and your customers’ expectations.
– Predictive modeling: Use predictive analytics to anticipate call volumes not just seasonally but daily and hourly so you can schedule staff accordingly.
– Real-time monitoring: Real-time monitoring tools can help you track call volumes minute-to-minute against staffing levels, allowing managers to make adjustments as needed.
– Cross-training: Train existing and new employees in multiple roles and responsibilities, so they can take on different tasks during peak demand. You can even pull in staff from other departments, or contact centre staff who moved on within the organisation, during peak times.
– Remote work options: Offer remote work options to employees, so they can handle calls from anywhere, reducing the need for on-site staff during peak times.
– Incentives for overtime: Provide incentives for employees who are willing to work overtime during peak demand.
– Queue management: Use queue management systems to ensure calls are efficiently distributed and wait times are kept to a minimum.
– Performance tracking: Regularly track and assess employee performance to identify areas for improvement and optimise staffing levels.
– Employee engagement: Foster a positive workplace culture and engage employees to improve job satisfaction, reduce turnover, and increase productivity.
– Prioritise tasks: Assign priority levels to tasks and allocate staff accordingly, so that the most critical issues are addressed first during peak demand.
– Time management: Provide time management training and tools to help employees work more efficiently during peak demand.
– Contract staffing: Consider hiring contract or temporary staff to support your team during peak times.
– Collaboration tools: Use collaboration tools, such as instant messaging and team chat apps, to increase communication and coordination among employees during peak demand.
Finally, leave on good terms
At the end of your peak period, it’s important to arrange for a dignified goodbye to your temporary workers, as you might need them again in the future. There will be another peak demand season, and previous temporary employees make perfect candidates when re-hiring for next year’s seasonal spike.
Or if you have vacancies within your company, hire the staff members that impressed you during their seasonal employment. You’ll further optimise your workforce as when the next peak time comes along, you’ll already have trained and experienced staff who know how to handle the situation.
Give your staff the flexibility to attend interviews during the later stages of their temporary employment, or recommend them to other companies you know are hiring. However you say farewell to your temporary staff members, it’s important you leave on good terms.
To Download Ventrica’s ‘The ultimate guide to managing peak demand in your contact centre’ Click Here
Ventrica is a leading European award-winning, outsourced customer management business that delivers omnichannel and multilingual customer service for blue-chip brands. Significant investment in people, automation and digital contact centre technologies allows Ventrica to enhance customer experiences designed to keep their clients ahead of the technology curve and their competition.
The company is headquartered in Southend, where it operates from spacious, hi-tech and modern offices, placing significant emphasis on its staff’s comfort and well-being. Ventrica shares the same passion for its customers’ business as it does for its own and continually strives for quality and service delivery consistency.
For additional information on Ventrica view their Company Profile