Call volume spikes represent one of the most significant challenges in the contact center today. The potential problems are obvious, and severe: If a contact center's management underestimated an increase, customers would be forced to endure long waits before speaking with a representative, which would significantly hurt satisfaction rates. Conversely, a contact center may overcompensate, assigning an excessive number of agents who don't have enough calls to handle - a level of inefficiency that will hurt the company's bottom line.
Ideally, businesses will strive to accurately forecast call volume spikes so as to avoid these problems. Realistically, though, that level of precision isn't feasible. It's difficult enough for firms to anticipate day-to-day call traffic changes. When it comes to potential spikes, accurate predictions become nearly impossible.
This is more true in some industries than others. In certain sectors, spikes are easy to see coming and it's just a question of gauging the actual numbers. For example, a flower delivery service will certainly know to anticipate a huge spike around and on Valentine's Day, and can theoretically develop a fairly accurate prediction of its size based on historical performance, as ICMI contributor Ann Ruckstuhl noted.
The same is not true of, say, an electric company offering service throughout an entire region. For that organization, spikes will occur whenever there is a power outage, and there's certainly no way to know exactly when a massive storm will strike or how widespread its impact will be.
So how should these organizations' contact centers aim to handle call volume spikes when forecasting is so difficult? Rather than understaffing and hoping for the best or overstaffing and accepting the inherent inefficiency, contact center managers should embrace solutions that can optimize their reaction times, such as real-time visual alerting.
With real-time visual alerting, contact center managers can be made fully aware the moment that call volumes start to spike for any given reason. As soon as possible, the decision-maker can recognize that the incoming volume is too great and that corrective measures are needed. In the most extreme cases, the supervisor can even pull in non-agents to handle the calls. More importantly, the reaction time is such that the number of missed customer calls and the length of wait times will be far less than would be the case if the supervisor did not have that degree of visibility.
"Call volume spikes are inherently unpredictable."
At the same time, real-time alerting enables a contact center decision-maker to know when there are more agents assigned to incoming calls than necessary. On those occasions, the manager can assign some of the agents to training programs. That maximizes the value of everyone's time, reducing inefficiency. What's more, in the event of a sudden volume spike, the alerting system empowers the contact center leader to immediately react, shifting those agents from training to active duty.
Real-time alerting shouldn't be seen as a replacement for forecasting efforts. But when it comes to industries where call volume spikes are inherently unpredictable, real-time alerting - combined with highly visible wallboards and personalized dashboards - is the ideal means of maximizing reaction times and minimizing potential complications.