Published: March 14, 2014 | Comments
This year’s brutal winter weather has caught many contact centers off guard. Areas of the country that rarely, if ever, get snow have had numerous storms roll through. That leaves contact center leaders scratching their heads and reconfiguring resource and contingency plans.
“Let it snow on the contact center!” declares Matthew Storm, NICE’s director of innovation and solutions. “Weather not only impacts customers who suddenly need more service, (flight and delivery delays, cancellations, accidents, or outages), but you also have contact centers that now have to deal with employees going through the same problems as their customers!”
Even if you do have all the right customer preparations in place – failovers to other contact centers, messaging in the IVR, or seamless transitions to other channels – what do you do to alert employees in order to keep those adversely impacted safely at home, and notify other agents to unexpectedly come into work?
Phone trees and email used to be the norm, but more and more contact centers are now utilizing SMS in order to mobilize their workforce. “Everyone has their phone on them at all times!” says Sean Hawkins, call center manager and co-editor of Call Center Weekly. “With the power outages like we’ve had here in the South, it’s much more likely that agents will be able to access text messages over email. And we can send out SMS blasts and cover all agents in a single message. It’s both efficient and effective!”
Storm echoes this sentiment, adding that workforce optimization software can assist with the automation of these important messages. Capacity levels and scenario-based decisions can be preset so that text messages go out in advance of impending weather. “24-48 hours is an acceptable time to begin alerting agents that weather may impact their schedules,” he says. “For unpredictable situations, even 30-90 minutes’ notice can make a huge difference in staffing and safety.”
It’s important to point out, that these preemptive SMS notifications benefit both agents and customers. Agents know what to expect in advance, and customers can still receive the assistance they need, albeit perhaps through a different format than usual. Any contact center can appropriately staff up channels that agents can support from home or remote locations, even without expensive technology integration.
The airline industry has done well with this. They’ve extensively analyzed interactions during and after weather-related events, notes Storm. In many cases they’ve been able to divert situations from a live agent into a self-service interaction or a non-voice channel with lower wait times.
Spring officially begins on March 20th. Chances are good though, that this winter still has a few things left to prove. So, it’s as good a time as any to start utilizing SMS notifications to mobilize your contact center workforce. “Let it snow,” said Storm. Let it snow, indeed.