For many companies, the holiday season drives a lot of business, often leading to a fantastic increase in product sales, installs and payments. Yet, the holiday season can also present a huge challenge when it comes to balancing your agent workloads. To handle the seasonal spike in holiday business, you’ve probably hired seasonal agents to add to your regular contact center teams. Whether your business goes up or your contact center goes down, below are five tips to optimize your investment in seasonal agents this holiday season:
1. Train Seasonal Agents to Handle a Narrow Set of Customer Interactions
Because you’re hiring staff for only 3-4 months, you need to quickly and efficiently get them trained and on the floor. Choose channels and interactions where the customer intent can often be determined with automation like “What’s the status of my order?” or “Has my order shipped?” Then, automatically route those interactions to seasonal agents trained for that narrow set of interactions if help is needed. This takes the load off your regular agents to offset any spikes in business demand, while allowing them to focus on more complex or even revenue-generating interactions. Two channels well suited to train your seasonal agents on are inbound voice fronted by an IVR and inbound emails that can be automatically text-analyzed.
2. Use Agent Scripting to Provide Guidance and Brand Consistency
Seasonal agents benefit from automated scripting on their desktop to guide their voice or email interactions. Scripting systems not only increase the process quality of interactions of your seasonal workers, but they also help drive a consistent communication, which is vital to your brand and a positive customer experience. In addition, training costs can often be reduced if the “safety net” of scripting is available for your less experienced seasonal agents.
3. Use Knowledge Nudges to Keep Agents Sharp
Inexperienced seasonal agents can benefit from automated “knowledge nudges.” Consider using automated training and testing tools to push targeted training to your seasonal agents. The training can either target strengthening existing knowledge, or focus on new capabilities. Ideally, leverage the power of your workforce management system to coordinate with your interaction routing to automatically schedule and then route training knowledge nudges to targeted agents across your contact center. Each knowledge nudge both trains and then tests each agent’s knowledge. Your routing strategy can then be automatically made aware of the newly trained agent’s upgraded skills, routing new contacts accordingly from the IVR.
4. Snow Happens – Make Business Continuity Automatic
Natural events or technical events can unexpectedly disrupt contact centers. To minimize disruptions, many companies have multiple contact centers or large numbers of work-at-home agents. Move your contact center infrastructure to a single, SIP-based platform and consider running it in the Cloud. Any SIP endpoint, whether connected to a remote seasonal agent at home or an outsourced site, is a fully functioning seat in your contact center. If you route interactions to agents rather than to queues, your business continuity is automatic. Now, when the snow hits, outage occurs, delays happen, or an unexpected influx in sales arrives (one can hope), your router automatically knows which agents are available via real-time presence, and will route interactions only to available agents, but those that are located anywhere and are properly skilled.
5. Automate More in the IVR, Re-Purpose Your Seasonal Agents
Finally, look at your call types. Does your reporting show you percentages of different call types your agents handle? This is valuable information as it determines what additional automation to consider building into your IVR. Consider using speech analytics to automatically “listen” to 100% of your agent-caller conversations and report on the call types with percentages. Based on this insight, upgrade your IVR for more automation next year to enable your team to re-purpose those seasonal agents to generate more revenue. For example, train your re-purposed seasonal agents to proactively help harvest abandoned shopping carts. That’s great for business!
For more ideas on agent training this holiday season, see the new eBook, 7 Key Capabilities for a Powerful Workforce Management Solution. And for further information on automated business continuity, agent-based routing and SIP, you can download IP/SIP Contact Center Best Practices.