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Tips for Staying Sane During Peak Seasonal Volume

Every contact center has a peak season.  Basically, a few weeks before the sky is about to fall, everyone runs around, gathers all of the data they can, and tries to scrap together a plan to get through the next few months until the volume is all gone and everyone can breathe again.

Getting ready for the peak season doesn’t have to be that difficult or strenuous.  Here are a few tips below that will help you get through it.

1. Get A Hold Of Yourself

This may be the most important because it will drive your mindset for the entire season.  For organizations that have a lot of seasonal variability, going into peak season can be scary. Some centers look at that rush of calls like the light of an oncoming train, but it should be something that you are used to because you’ve been there before.  It’s nothing you can’t work through successfully as long as you keep your wits about you.  Stick to what has made you successful and you’ll be fine.

2. Predict The Future And Plan Accordingly

Tightening your forecast is critical because it can drastically impact how you are measured against your yearend goals.  You should be looking at your upcoming peak volume period a few months ahead and ask yourself the following questions:  Are we trending in the same pattern as we were last year? Have there been any significant changes in our business that will change our peak patterns? Are we performing the same as we have been or have we increased/decreased in our productivity? 

These questions will drive how you think you will handle the increased volume and determine your required staffing levels and shifts.  Look at the call forecast as the core of the tree your staffing needs and projected performance grow from. If your forecast tells you that you will need staff,  start with when you will need your supplemental workforce on the phone and work backwards.  Make sure to account for things like training class preparation and interview scheduling from human resources.   I find it best to give yourself a buffer of about a week or two from when you think you think you will need staff on the phone and work backwards from that, just in case anything comes up.

3. Communicate

Let the organization know what’s about to happen in the upcoming weeks and what the expectations are, both within the contact center and outside it.  Internally, you want to make sure that you have capacity (if you’re hiring) and the resources available to train and monitor the additional headcount.  Externally, reach out to every department that touches the contact center (marketing, IT, human resources), let them know that you are moving into peak season, and that you need to align operations so you don’t get any surprises that will negatively impact you when you are getting peak volume.

4. Use Call/Quality Monitoring To Re-Evaluate Training

Most organizations use training to go over about 90% of the calls a representative will experience and cross off the rest as “one offs” that don’t happen that often.  Make sure your “one offs” haven’t become the “norm”.  The calls you got last season may be completely different from the ones you’re getting now due to changes in your business, be they internal (marketing plans, billing cycle changes, product price changes) or external (economic turns, governmental influences).  Make sure that you have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on with your customer base so you can reflect that in your training.

To sum it all up, the way you should handle peak periods is the way you should handle any other time of the year (sorry to spoil it for you).  All the things I’ve mentioned are things that highly organized and productive centers do all the time.   To use an old sports cliché, “you play the way you practice.” If you are ready throughout the year, you will be ready for peak season.  No one is reinventing the wheel; these are all things that have been done before.

Just stick to what has made you successful and plan ahead.  That way, you can spend your summer peak relaxing on the beach instead of hunched over your desk wondering what you’re going to do next. 

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