How to achieve better customer service during seasonal spikes

How to achieve better customer service during seasonal spikes 1120 840 Ben McCulloch

We’ve written about novel uses of personas, how AI improves a human’s work, and how holistic AI is the future of customer service. There’s countless ways those concepts can be applied to organisations. Let’s consider seasonal spikes.

Everyone has experienced seasonal spikes in some form or other; whether that’s as an employee or as a customer. You go to an ice cream shop in summer and wait in an enormous queue, or you use an online store on Cyber Monday and discover that their payments system is down, or you call a brand’s contact centre during the festive season and find that their queues have become frozen like NY roads.

No brand wants their phoneline to have giant queues! They may lose those customers. They need that business as much as any, and some brands make a sizable chunk of their income during these spikes.

So what can you do about it?

According to Shannon Flanagan, VP Global Industry Strategy: Retail & Consumer Goods at Talkdesk, you can onboard your contact centre agents during seasonal spikes as rapidly as waistbands expand on December 25th.

And you can do it well. It doesn’t have to feel like an emergency. It can even make your brand stronger.

“There is no reason in today’s day in age that it should take weeks to train. Your technology should be as easy to learn and use as your phone! It doesn’t matter the time of year. We, as customers, want friendly and fast service. The last thing you want to do is leave a sour taste in the mouth of your customers because an agent has to learn and access 7 different systems to answer an inquiry. At a time when new customers will shop your brand, don’t forget you have one chance to make a first great impression and it’s likely one of your seasonal hires will be the person responsible for doing so. Have you set them up to be successful?”

You can prepare in advance

Consider this. You were probably worrying about the next spike the moment the previous year’s queues had faded into the distance. It’s always a trying time.

But you can prepare for it in advance.

What you’re aiming to do is train new recruits so that they understand the business, products and customers as rapidly as possible. Sadly nobody can learn everything in an instant. This used to be a nightmare scenario for contact centres – how can you ensure those live agents know everything they need to know in record time?

Luckily, they don’t have to learn everything anymore.

So long as they’re able to access the right data they can speak to customers knowledgeably about anything. That is – anything that’s been made available to them. That’s why you need a holistic approach to AI. You want to ensure people can access the most up to date information if they need to – absolutely anything they may need while talking to a customer.

You can start to prepare for that now by installing Agent Assist in your contact centres. You’re giving every live agent a bot sidekick, and the two work as a team. The agent courteously speaks to the customer while Agent Assist pulls up relevant data, at the speed that only machines can search. Suddenly your live agent does have the answers, and they didn’t have to spend days studying.

“It doesn’t matter if we are an employee or customer, we want our questions answered quickly and correctly. No one wants to be blindsided either so we want to be proactively notified when there are issues. AI tools, like Agent Assist and CX sensors, make meeting these needs real-time– a no-brainer which in turn allows for better experiences for everyone all around.”

You can also utilise CX Sensors so that any event during the customer experience can trigger a certain action to happen. For example, you may want managers to deal with long-term customers who want to cancel their service. When those types of customers call in and make that request, the manager would instantly receive a notification that they should take the call.

Of course, there’s no perfect solution for learning tools and systems. You still need to ensure those newly hired live agents know how to operate the tools they’ll use in their job, but you can rapidly decrease the amount of time it takes to onboard them when you embrace AI tools in your organisation. During a spike every moment wasted is lost revenue. AI tools can lessen that.

Massively improved customer service

So that’s the new hires onboarded in record time then! Job done. Mince pies and high fives all round.

Not quite. That’s like going to your work festive party and not having any of the canapés. You’re leaving a lot of value on the table if you stop there.

If you’ve begun the process of implementing AI holistically, then you have opened the doors to a dining table of goodies. Just don’t grab everything at once – you need a strategy, and it takes a little time.

What you’re aiming towards is using AI as the service. It should be pulling data from everywhere, using multiple channels and modalities, and ensuring that each use case where you apply it is getting continuously better for the customer.

“When thinking about AI, start your strategy by asking how you can create better experiences for not only your customers but also your employees. Your goal should be to put a smile on all of their faces by making all internal and external interactions easy with automation and analytics.”

After the spike

If you’ve done this well, that spike won’t feel as overwhelming as it used to. It will feel more manageable.

And you’ll have another benefit if you’ve done this well. You should have amassed a pool of data that tells you what customers wanted, when they wanted it and how they asked for it. You’ll also know what went wrong, what mistakes live agents made, and what the organisation could have done better to help those live agents in those crucial moments when a new hire had to represent the brand to a new customer.

Have you ever considered that your contact centre is a goldmine of data? The majority of brands have yet to tap into the insights they can glean from the interaction analytics available to them now. Everyone wants to understand the voice of the customer, well look no further.

You’ll have that data, and you can use that to plan for the next spike. You can ensure that every busy period is less of a problem and more of an opportunity to learn what customers need and how best to provide it. You may even start to look forward to those seasonal spikes for the goodies they contain.

It’s no small task

We’ve written about the importance of live agents, and how they may actually become a model employee for every member of an organisation. They’re skilled, they know the business and they aim to delight customers.

What if you need to rapidly gain more of them? That happens during seasonal spikes, and it’s become a lot easier. When the right AI tools are implemented with a holistic approach, you will do it!

If you want to know more, you should read this Talkdesk playbook.

Thanks to Shannon Flanagan for her help, and to Talkdesk for partnering with us on this article.

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