In today’s customer-obsessed culture, consumers have come to expect excellence in all areas of service. This has been the driving force behind things such as 24-hour access to customer support and delivery of anything from groceries to cars on their doorstep. This has also created extremely high customer service standards for businesses that want to stay ahead of competitors. In this Age of the Customer, businesses suffer tremendously when they are not able to deliver rapid, quality customer support to consumers.

The automotive industry is no exception.

GM’s recent recall of over 1 million cars due to a faulty ignition switch created a customer service nightmare for the company as its call centres suddenly became overloaded with unhappy customers.

So what’s a company to do when faced with unexpected call overload?

Here are my top 5 recommendations for best handling heightened customer engagement volumes due to crises, promotions, holidays or other unforeseen events affecting your organization’s contact centres:

1. Utilize scripting for consistent global voice
The first step in readying a call centre for unexpected crisis is to enable all of your agents to speak with a unified global voice. This includes creating appropriate scripts for agents to use. If possible, it is most effective to automate scripting, ensuring that scripts are automatically recommended to agents based on crisis topic. Scripts should be stored in a central location and automatically deployed to all call centre agents, so that they can quickly and easily assist higher numbers of customers.

2. Leverage the power of data
A common problem that organizations experience is that customer data is siloed from other business data, making it difficult to access and analyze critical information to improve consumer experiences. Contact centres collect tons of data from their customers, but whether it’s the first time a customer picks up the phone, sends an email or interacts with a customer service representative online, this data is often stored in disparate systems. By consolidating information to form historical performance and real time context, Big Data allows contact centres to make intelligent, analytics based decisions on their customer relationships. These decisions are backed up with months and years worth of detailed data, and not just high-level summaries or snapshots of specific time periods.

By tapping into the power of Big Data, contact centres can make data based recommendations on which agents to pair with their top priority customers to get every interaction – including those during a crisis – off to the right start.

3. Identify agent strengths
In terms of specific agent strengths, some agents will naturally have superior skills in dealing with crisis. At each of your contact centres, identify what your agents’ core competencies are by using their historical performance over an extended period of time. This will make it easier to strategize during an unexpected crisis, so that non-crisis-experienced agents can carry on handling day-to-day customer issues.

Agents should also be armed with the necessary data and then trained in identifying customer intent as they call in with problems. For example, if a unique customer has a history of repeatedly calling in with problems, they may be more likely than a new customer to escalate during times of crisis. Agents should have the ability to survey intent so that they can handle this situation.

4. Utilize the cloud
In times of crisis, it is crucial to be able to ramp up quickly in dealing with a new customer problem, whether that is a product recall, holiday rush or a sales promotion. Having a cloud-based contact centre is not only a huge cost saver, it also ensures that you are not paying for unused equipment on site and can easily fire up agents around the globe on an as-needed basis.

5. Deploy global resources
In times of heightened call volumes, it is critical to utilize your global network to your full advantage. If a crisis occurs in one region, deploy global contact centre locations to address the crisis during closed hours of the region affected. This will ensure increased hours of access for customers, thereby decreasing the potential for customer rage. Additionally, identify agents within your global network that have dealt with similar crises, and utilize their strengths to handle the crisis at hand.

Arnab MishraArnab Mishra
With over a decade in senior product leadership roles, Arnab has responsibility for product management, product marketing, program management, and strategic alliances functions at Transera, cloud customer analytics provider for contact centres.

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