June 24, 2014 - A critical requirement of the outsourced customer service program is to rapidly scale staff resources for projected call volumes. Program scaling is both a science and an art, and done right, it ensures the team of customer service representatives is utilized at peak efficiency for optimized ROI while also delivering the bandwidth needed for quality customer service.
Most companies, such as retailers and ecommerce vendors, have seasonal spikes and dips in call volume. It is critical that customer service KPIs be maintained when call volume goes up. By the same token, companies do not want to pay for idle resources when volume goes down. The well-run outsourced call center has the experience, skills and tools needed to smoothly handle these changes during the course of the year.
One of the keys to proper scaling is an open and effective working partnership between the call center and client. Regular attention should be paid to the resource planning calendar, comparing previous years’ fluctuations in call volume against current-year numbers to project and plan the resources needed.
A good approach is to look ahead six to eight weeks when conducting staffing planning. This builds in enough time to prepare for training classes and identify (or hire, as need be) representatives with the skill-set to deliver high quality service.
Most good call center outsourcers have extra staffing capacity of their own – usually between 20 and 25 percent – that they can quickly assign to client programs that have an unexpected increase in customer activity.
The outsourced call center also should have a flexible staffing model. A retailer or ecommerce company enjoying a call volume spike in the fourth quarter may need a dedicated agent team that only handles calls for that company. But when volume declines after the holidays, call center ROI may be optimized by using a shared agent team. Most outsourced call centers can switch between dedicated and shared agent teams as needed.
Another advantage of utilizing an outsourced call center is that it eliminates the need of company’s to hire and then lay off employees. Outsourcers have a diversified clientele that has varying staffing needs throughout the year. Usually, when customer service representatives are removed from one client program they are simply reassigned to another.
Two of the more widely used call center resource planning tools are cc Modeler software and the Erlang C Calculator, which is available free of charge on the internet. After the operations team has made its best estimate on upcoming staffing needs, it’s a good idea to plug those numbers into the two tools. Then compare the results of these three sources to provide a high degree of confidence that you’ve developed a good staffing model.
Mark Fichera, CEO