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Black Friday is a little over eight weeks away, which means retail plans are already underway to scale hiring to meet the increased demand. While these scaling efforts mean more sales associates and fulfillment staff, it also requires large increases in contact center agents to handle questions, issues and other customer concerns. Many retailers increase their call center agent count by thousands during the holiday season.
A lot of planning goes into this dramatic and business-critical employment increase to ensure companies can meet consumer demand and expectations. The question now is, how accurate and effective are these scaling efforts? As retailers go through another holiday scaling season, keeping these questions in mind will help them evaluate effectiveness and plan more accurately for the 2019 holiday season.
Black Friday is a convenient mental marker for the “start” of the holiday shopping season, but in reality retailers begin prepping and scaling much earlier than that. Interviewing, hiring and training seasonal contact center agents takes time and many seasonal positions are already being advertised. While starting early helps retailers get the top talent, the business question is: when do these seasonal workers need to actually start working?
Put seasonal agents on shift too early and retailers might be paying for more agents than actual demand. Ramp up scaling too late and customers will be unhappy about extended wait times or disappointing contact center interactions.
Instead of making uninformed guesses, companies can make data-driven decisions on when to scale by looking at past demand and staffing trends to identify actual peaks within their business. This data might confirm the business’ existing timeline or suggest beginning earlier or later. The same data can also help retailers plan their scale backs by pinpointing when increased demand historically begins normalizing.
After retailers decide when to start scaling, they need to determine how much to grow the workforce by. Analyzing contact center trends during the holidays and consumer expectations (64% of consumers expect real-time interaction) can help organizations arrive at an initial number. But how effective was the increased workforce last year?
Contact center software provides critical data points like wait time and resolution time, but that doesn’t give you the complete picture. Retailers should also know what their agents are doing when on shift. Are they actively helping customers or watching a streaming video? Do they spend the majority of their shift active or do they log in for a shift and then sit idle. Having access to this data helps organizations feel confident that their workforce is the right size and that they’re not paying for more agents than needed.
Monitoring real-time activity trends can also help retailers ensure their anticipated downsizing timeline is correct. If the majority of agents are still highly active as the down scaling date approaches, organizations may want to consider postponing that move or risk negatively affecting consumer experience. On the flip side, if a large number of agents are consistently idle, it might be time to reduce the seasonal workforce, even if it’s traditionally “too early.”
Brick and mortar contact centers aren’t very cost effective, especially if the extra space is only need for a few months. Physical centers also limit your access to talent and the hours retailers can offer customer support (or they must staff difficult and potentially expensive off-hour shifts).
Many contact centers and business process outsourcers (BPOs) in general are embracing remote agent models for the cost and staffing benefits. This model is particularly appealing for seasonal needs. With the right monitoring solutions, managers can interact with remote agents and monitor their work just as easily as if they were in a centralized location.
Allowing agents to use their own personal computers or providing an affordable thin client endpoint (rather than supplying company-owned laptops) is another way to further reduce cost and make remote agents a more viable option. This also means that the laptops or desktop computers required to support seasonal spikes aren’t sitting unused for the majority of the year.
Seasonal scaling has been a regular part of retail for a very long time, but with new technology and techniques retailers can ensure they get the most out of their efforts without spending unnecessary budget.
Jan 08, 2019
Did your organization experience a seasonal demand and scaling mishap? Here’s some helpful tips to consider for your industry’s next big busy season. READ MORE