Black Friday and other in-store promotions bring crowds of people to physical storefronts and websites alike, creating visible proof of a holiday rush that seems to increase year after year. The National Retail Foundation notes that holiday sales increased 5.5 percent for the period from November through December year over year in 2017. Expectations are that 2018’s holiday sales will match or surpass last year’s numbers, with online and retail contact centers playing a critical role. While physical stores begin staffing for seasonal rushes in early fall, what are you doing to prepare your call center?
Growing Reliance on Online Sales
Online holiday shopping shattered records in 2017, with $108.2 billion of the holiday rush attributed to internet purchases. And when those purchases involve questions or concerns — or packages don’t arrive on time — it’s the call center that gets hit with queries. Some people still prefer to place orders via phone, particularly for specialty items they can’t get locally, and that’s going to drive up your inbound call volume too.
While call center volume related to holiday shopping is likely to peak in November and December, calls can start as early as September or October. Plan to begin scaling up for peak volumes starting in the early fall so you can have enough trained staff to handle things come December.
Remember: you don’t have to do all the staffing work yourself. Outsourcing call center services is often a way to scale up to peak needs without burdening your company with unnecessary resources in the future.
Handling High Call Volumes After Christmas
Retail peak season doesn’t end with Christmas. People shopping with gift cards, hitting post-holiday sales and returning merchandise tends to fill retail stores. Retail call centers may also experience high volumes in the weeks just after Christmas as agents deal with returns or new orders.
Even if your call center doesn’t handle orders and simply answers customer service or informational hotlines, phones may become busy suddenly starting Christmas morning if products are complex or have a problem.
A few years ago, for example, parents across the nation scrambled to place Hatchimals under the tree only to have the eggs not hatch as planned. Many parents called customer service hotlines looking for help with the toys in the few days after Santa’s delivery date.
If you expect any type of post-holiday call rush, make sure to plan for it. Just as you scale up slowly as December approaches, consider scaling down slowly throughout January. And always keep your products and target audience in mind. If your retail call center handles home goods, for example, you might experience a renewed spike just after the new year during annual white sale events.
Planning now to get your call center ready for the holiday ensures you don’t find yourself inappropriately staffed. Whether you’re looking to cover multi-channel needs or simply man the phone lines this fall and winter, request a quote from Ameridial to find out more about our holiday retail call center services or give us a call at 866.775.4755.