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Top Three Ways to Prepare your Call Center Staff for Peak Season

By Special Guest
Carle Henry, Vice President of Contact Centers at Speed Commerce
November 17, 2016

The key to maintaining (and enhancing) customer satisfaction during the holidays is by prepping call centers, and entire customer care organizations, as far in advance as possible to deal with the many challenges of peak season. Carle Henry, the Vice President of Contact Centers at Speed Commerce and customer care expert, outlines the top challenges call centers should prepare for during peak season, how to combat those challenges and why call centers are arguably the most important aspect of maintaining customer care during the holidays:

What are the biggest challenges that call centers face during peak season?

Carle Henry: The top challenges that call centers face during peak season are staffing, maintaining quality and providing a fun work environment.

Call center staff increase significantly in size during peak season to deal with the holiday demand. Finding seasonal staff who are both a cultural fit and equipped with the proper skills can be a huge undertaking for any organization.

With so many new associates, it’s a challenge to maintain a high level of quality on accounts. In some instances, seasonal associates may only be needed for three to four weeks, but should still master their work to ensure a great level of engagement with the customer. Plus, the higher quantity of calls received during a peak period can leave workers feeling rushed – it is imperative they maintain quality customer-care with each request.

Creating a fun work environment can also be a huge challenge that call centers face and is something they can’t afford to overlook. Many workers fall victim to the stress of holiday demands –  maintaining a fun atmosphere for call center staff, while they tackle the busiest days of the year and work with new faces, is key to pulling off a successful peak season.

What are the most effective ways to tackle those challenges?

Carle Henry: In order to effectively combat the challenges of peak season, there are several factors to be considered: preparing HR processes early, building a database of great seasonal associates, injecting fun into training whenever possible and potentially outsourcing to a third-party fulfillment provider.

Prepping HR well-in advance for sourcing, recruiting and onboarding is a must. If you wait too long, your local marketplace may not have the quality or even the quantity of talent available and you may be understaffed for your busiest season. HR can balance fiscal obligations by onboarding teammates quickly in order to expose associates to as much experience in the “seat” as possible before the busy season kicks into high gear.

Throughout peak season, a database should be built of great seasonal associates in order to invite them back each and every year. A database of great staff will decrease the cost of recruiting and increase the quality of performance. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Fun is one of the best ways to tackle the challenges of peak. After all the work that occurs in HR, it’s key to facilitate fun training to retain as many associates as possible. Peak season is short. If you lose your teammates due to a boring training process, you may find yourself short-staffed during the most important time of the year.

Last but not least, outsourcing to a third party can be an effective way to streamline hiring and prepare call center staff. A partner can handle the hiring, training and managing of temporary staff well in advance of peak season. With an outsourced fulfillment provider, a significant amount of time can be freed up for you to focus on other resources and means for growing the business.

How do you sync marketing and customer care teams during peak season? Why does that matter?

Carle Henry: CMOs today are tasked with customer acquisition and retention. In the past, CMOs were largely tasked with inventing great, creative programs. Now, on top of those programs, they are held responsible for customer retention rates. Thus, CMOs and marketing departments are invested in the success and quality of customer care delivered by call centers.

In regards to peak season, because a company’s business is conducted in the five weeks before Christmas, the importance of being in lock step with your marketing team is critical for sustained and enhanced success. Outsourcing to a third party can be a great solution for marketing and customer care teams to remain in sync during peak. Onboarding and equipping seasonal staff with the tools to deliver quality customer care is a core competency for fulfillment providers. A fulfillment expert is better situated to prepare seasonal staff for the customer demands of peak season – allowing you to focus on other aspects of the business and not worry about aligning marketing and customer care during the busiest time of the year. 

Why are call centers one of the most valuable aspects of maintaining customer care during peak season?

Carle Henry: Call centers are incredibly valuable for maintaining customer care because most companies make the majority of their sales during peak season. Customers have more choices today than ever before. Not only can customers choose between companies and their competition based on product, customers also assess based on service and the options afforded them. For example, today’s customers are now in charge of how they want to connect with where they shop. Video, SMS, Chat, Social, etc., interactions are all necessary in today’s marketplace depending upon the industry and specific company.

Second, customer care is just one slice of what a great contact center can provide. Think of contact center staff as your brand advocates. Each interaction supported in a contact center is a reflection upon the brand being represented. The impact an associate can have on a customer and his/her perception of a brand stretches well beyond just customer care.

About the Author

Carle Henry is the Vice President of Contact Centers at Speed Commerce, a leading provider of eCommerce technology, fulfillment, logistics and customer care solutions. Henry is an expert in customer care and has worked in a variety of customer engagement leadership roles for companies such as Best Buy, AT&T, Harrods, Bridgestone/Firestone, etc.

Edited by Alicia Young

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