All businesses experience peaks and troughs in customer activity throughout the year. What makes the difference is how you handle these occasions.
Here are seven great peak habits that can set you up to deliver sales, growth and customer satisfaction, no matter how much the interest may spike.
1. Start planning early and gather insights while they’re fresh
Once a hectic peak is over, it’s easy to be consumed by the return of business as usual and resurface months later when the memory has faded. As a partner, we launch a feedback and analysis process for our clients immediately after each peak – literally within days – to sift out the lessons with the biggest impact on business outcomes, before they’re forgotten.
2. Prepare for peaks that occur throughout the year, not just at its end
Major product releases can require rapid ramp-ups for, say, telecoms businesses, especially when new phones hit the market. Retailers might focus on Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, whereas betting companies will notice increased demand during the Grand National. But it’s not just about anticipated increase in demand.
For example, UK energy providers were inundated with calls from worried customers in 2022 when a number of suppliers collapsed, while the increase in calls following the price cap announcement clearly reflects consumers’ anxiety around price hikes. Regardless of circumstance, how well an organisation responds during peak periods can have a huge impact on its reputation, and therefore preparation is essential before busy seasons.
3. Plan the peak you want
Good peak planning is more than preparing for eventualities – it’s about driving growth by improving on previous performances, operationally and strategically. For example, when we partner with retail clients, by spring most will have established the peak they want to have at Christmas.
Consequently, discussions around seats, full time equivalent (FTE) staffing, training, offshoring, and so on will all be focused around sales targets and ambitions. It’s not just the number of bodies needed, but the entire blueprint for a peak that delivers against those targets.
4. Recruit early – better still, have candidates waiting in the pipeline
So much of a successful peak period rests on securing the best talent to support contact centres as volumes rise. Locating that talent requires a thorough knowledge of local markets: how many candidates can different areas produce, what’s their potential quality, the likely attrition rates? What percentage will make it through training, and what are the appropriate recruitment costs and pay rates? It also involves starting early, as pools can be limited. Our own recruiting partners stay alert to the needs of peak ramps throughout the year and nurture a constant pipeline of candidates.
5. Take time to train and do so fast enough
Be careful that the focus doesn’t fall too much on the recruitment of agents and not enough on finding people to teach them. Stepping up existing staff to pass on what they know is essential, but a strong ‘train-to-train’ strategy needs to be in place well in advance. Even the best agents don’t become trainers overnight.
6. Achieve operational excellence by having a detailed day-to-day process
Every peak is different for each organisation. Typically, though, there’s a daily review of the numbers with operators from all sites attending, along with quality and service performance. They’ll identify challenges from the day before (and celebrate successes), then decide on a course of action for the day, which will take into consideration the run rate for the week, the outlook and any updates from the client on their activity. Internal weekly headcount meetings take place to stay up to date with our numbers, and weekly forecasting meetings keep everyone aligned on forecast and any variances or changes.
7. Focus on engagement to deliver the best results
Even in a ‘snap’ peak operation, you cannot dismiss the importance of engaging those temporary employees – immersing them in the brand and making sure they understand and appreciate the values of the client that they are supporting. Constant motivation, support, encouragement and celebration of successes is critical to keeping advisors at the top of their game during this demanding time.
Make it a great experience for them, and they’ll make it a great experience for your customers – and your bottom line.