5 Tried-and-True Tips for Staying on Top of Seasonal Surge Demands

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Lost revenue. Employee burnout. Customer frustration and attrition. These are the business impacts of being unprepared for seasonal surges in customer demand. Seasonal surges range from the expected to unexpected variety. And like a monsoon, people may know it’s coming, but if they’re not prepared for it, disaster is inevitable.
Not all preparations are equally effective. Savvy businesses tackle surges and seasonal peaks with a proactive staffing and training strategy. Think accelerated learning that produces associates with high quality decision-making skills and rapid staffing to support volume. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Here are five tips for staying on top of seasonal surge demands and delivering a winning customer experience.

1. Identify your blind spots

The first step to avoiding a CX meltdown is to assess the organization’s current state of preparedness. Conduct an operational assessment to identify people, process, training, and technology gaps to support surges. Retailers, for example, should determine which channels are likely to need more support during the surge, what type of support, and whether the company has the technology and tools for seasonal associates to provide additional support.  

2. Create a surge playbook

What is a surge execution playbook? It’s a step-by-step playbook on how to execute customer support prior to and during the surge. It aligns all necessary resources so that when the swell occurs, the organization can execute faster and reduce costs. The playbook should be customized for each company’s needs, but in general, it should include plans for activating contingent contact centers or labor forces as well as ensuring the associates have access to the right information and resources to provide consistent and reliable support.

3. Train for empathy

Product knowledge is not the only skillset that is critical in a surge-related event where associates must ramp up quickly and be prepared for customers who have been negatively impacted by what triggered the surge (product recalls, natural disasters etc.).
A smarter approach is to train seasonal associates on exactly what they need to do the job. And that includes empathy, an often-overlooked skill. Research shows that customers respond better to empathy, which leads to stronger financial performances. Empathy is a vital skill for being able to anticipate and understand customer needs, and if we can train associates on empathy, a strong knowledgebase can go a long way in empowering associates to deliver excellent support.

In fact, TTEC’s Smart Seasonal approach uses advanced knowledge management tools to help associates find the right information at the right moment. Call flows are modified to focus on conversions, scripts are regularly updated based on call history insights, and real-time sales coaching uses analytics and 360-degree associate understanding to enhance customer interactions.

4. Pair AI with humans for optimal results

In addition to powerful knowledge management tools, a mix of human touch and digital technology can create an optimal balance of positive member experience and streamlined operations. Real-time insight from voice analytics, for instance, helps associates home in on what matters to the customer. And AI-powered training scenarios enables associates to quickly practice and hone their skills at their convenience.

5. Think flexible scheduling

The more flexibility that an organization has in ramping up or down quickly with a variety of skilled associates increases its ability to meet service levels and deliver an excellent customer experience. For example, we worked with a company that encountered a call volume 240 percent above its forecast. We efficiently scaled up with highly skilled at-home associates, leading to a 22 percent lift in occupancy. Service levels were met three times as fast as with brick-and-mortar staff, and associates received eight of 12 annual product line CSAT awards.

Preparation: the key to success

With the right preparation, seasonal surges can be an opportunity, rather than a challenge, for driving customer growth and loyalty. And to be successful, surge preparation should be a holistic effort versus siloed teams working on their own goals. Ultimately, we find the companies that value communication, collaboration, and shared insights, attract the most valuable associates at any time of the year.

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