By Richard Lawrence-Allen
As the year progresses and we inch ever nearer to Spring, Christmas may well be the last thing on your mind at the moment. However, if you run a business, perhaps it should be. While memories of last Christmas have melted away, and while next Christmas may seem like an all too distant thought for the future, now is in fact the opportune time to start planning for what is historically the busiest time of the year.
Christmas and chaos often seem to go hand in hand. Floods of people desperately shopping for gifts all at once put a great deal of pressure on the private sector. Demand soars higher than at any other time of year and meeting this demand without proper forethought and planning becomes an impossible task. The Christmas peak period puts a burden on all retail sectors and in turn the customer service teams that support them. Moreover, worldwide sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean that peak volumes are starting to spike much earlier in the year. With all this in mind, an old adage certainly seems to ring true for this occasion: failing to plan, is planning to fail.
By this time, figures from your last peak have come through, so now it’s time to start analysing them, determining a peak-time budget for resources and create an action plan for this year.
The first thing that you will need to look at is whether or not, in your last peak, you reached your consumers’ requirements to the standard and speed at which they were expected to be fulfilled. This will give you an idea on your necessary staffing needs and team sizes for this year’s holiday period. If customers were left without, or left with unacceptably long waiting times, adjustments must be made. By determining your percentage success/satisfaction rate yielded by your previous year’s team, you can extrapolate a suitable team size for your forthcoming peak season.
Diarising expected spikes that occur over peak will also be invaluable in planning for your next Christmas period. These tend to occur around the introduction of time sensitive discounts and offers, including Black Friday and similar events, as well as at a particular (if slightly less specific) point just before Christmas Day that will vary depending on the nature of your business. Looking back over your call and email volumes in relation to specific dates and offers from last year will allow you to anticipate when these spikes will reoccur this year.
Make sure to plan out when you will hold any time sensitive offers now. It is likely that you will need to take steps in order to compensate for these anticipated spikes in demand within an already busy period, and the more time that you have to plan this, the smoother you will find these events will run. Doing this allows you to tackle any problems before they have the chance to arise. Ways to counterbalance an increased workload at time sensitive intervals include, for example, extending your operating hours for the duration of any sale/discount offers, or introducing an overflow team to field queries when your core team are already engaged with other customers.
Time management is key over peak periods. Customer demands must be dealt with speedily, but with care and efficiency. One increasingly effective way of making better use of employees’ time, is to actively encourage customers to interact with the company through email, and a multitude of different social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. While phone calls are an oftentimes necessity, this is not true of all enquiries, especially with more straight forward questions. An agent can only deal with a single phone call at a time; however, especially with the use of pre-made response Macros, an agent will be able to deal with several customers at once over email and online. Online and email enquiries also have the benefit of not being so time sensitive. Obviously, online/email queries should be dealt with within a reasonable timescale, however, customers using these platforms do not typically expect an immediate response, allowing even more customers to be dealt with, within the same space of time that it would take to resolve a single phone call. Webchat services also aid in this way, although do demand a generally quicker response time.
Looking at all of these things, make sure that you are building your peak plan right away. If this feels like a lot to handle, RSVP is expert at handling the needs of our clients, and have helped them through many successful peak periods over our years of operation. Applying our expertise to clients’ peak needs, we are able to supply both full teams and overflow teams, for calls, emails and online services. We are also able to help to establish and implement peak-time plans as needed. If RSVP can be of any help to you, either in peak, or out, please make sure to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you are doing everything that you can do to make your next peak your most successful year to date!