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Navigating customer contact surges: why having a plan is essential

24/11/2023
contact centre outsourcing Customer Outcomes Surge Support
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contact centre outsourcing Customer Outcomes Surge Support

From weather events to data breaches, seasonal rushes to network outages, unpredictability is a constant in life and business. In the field of customer service, often characterised by its inherent dynamism, these unexpected occurrences often manifest into surges in customers seeking assistance. Therefore, it’s imperative for organisations to not just hope for the best but to proactively prepare with a well-thought-out surge plan.

Remember, it’s never a matter of if… but when.  

For customer-facing brands, a surge support plan should be viewed as both a duty and an opportunity. It is a vital obligation to customers to ensure operational stability while also presenting an opportunity to stand out and excel when unexpected challenges arise.

In the face of heightened demand, a surge plan is how an organisation can turn stressful situations into a genuine and empathetic experience for customers. Ultimately, these are the moments when a customer potentially choses one brand over another, and with that comes ongoing loyalty. 

On the other hand, long delays or a lack of proactive engagement can lead to angry stakeholders, diminished corporate reputation, a loss of customers and market share. 

 

“For us to be able to trust TSA with our customers in these situations is everything; if it goes wrong, it’s our brand on the line.”  – Client’s Operational Growth Manager 

 

In this article we’ll talk about the importance of having a surge plan, and TSA’s unique role in supporting brands through unexpected and challenging surges. 

Skilled customer service representatives

As a company dedicated solely to customer experience, TSA has a streamlined process for hiring, training, and deploying contact centre teams. It means TSA can mobilise skilled staff significantly faster than organisations can manage internally; and in the kinds of numbers that companies need to make a difference. 

TSA Group Chief Executive Officer Luke Kenny says: “If I’m looking at timelines, it probably takes a corporate business somewhere between 10 and 12 weeks to take an operator from street to seat, whereas we’re doing that in five to seven weeks, sometimes faster.” Currently TSA has more than 4000 staff members – enough to give organisations the flexibility to ramp up quickly to meet any level of demand. 

To offer a practical example of what that might look like: After an extreme weather event, the insurance industry tends to have a peak in customer contact about six weeks later, once people have assessed the damage and are looking for support to recover. Knowing that information, the insurer with a surge plan can use TSA’s services to manage the influx of demand; or, alternatively, to maintain business-as-usual activity while their in-house team takes on the work of triaging claims. Then, when no longer needed, TSA’s support can be withdrawn until needed again. 

 

An empathy-first approach

Providing quality customer experience is important at the best of times, but even more so in the worst of times. During these uncertain and stressful moments, care is absolutely crucial to customers. TSA representatives undergo thorough training to handle sensitive situations with the appropriate level of emotional intelligence. Equipping team members with the tools to navigate potentially stressful and emotional encounters provides the empathetic and supportive response that customers in such situations truly need. 

In times of surges, empathy is not only essential for customers but also for the customer care representatives who may be profoundly impacted by the increased demand and potentially heightened emotional distress of customers. Implementing a surge plan that involves the support of a third-party provider boosts internal morale and staff retention. This approach reassures employees that a surge in demand will not unfairly burden them, fostering a supportive and resilient work environment.

Cutting-edge CX technology

The role of technology is critical in managing a sudden influx in demand. Organisations whose core business is not customer care don’t often have the tech infrastructure to be as efficient and effective as a CX specialist. For example, through TSA’s cloud-based knowledge management systems, customer service representatives can access a central knowledge base that ensures they’re able to offer customers the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

Customers today also expect more versatile interactions with companies, utilising a variety of channels that extend beyond phone-only communication. Companies benefit when their surge strategies employ an omnichannel approach through messaging, email, live chat, and chatbot applications. Beyond giving customers choice, an omnichannel approach enables the distribution of this load, preventing any single channel from becoming overwhelmed. This ensures a more balanced and efficient handling of customer inquiries. 

 

Round the clock support

In many organisations, providing round-the-clock customer support internally may be deemed impractical. However, during surges, the ability to deliver support across extended hours becomes possible with a surge plan. It’s not only a pragmatic response to heightened demand but also a demonstration to customers that the organisation stands with them.

Offering temporary support beyond regular hours underscores a commitment to addressing customer needs promptly and emphasises a customer-centric approach. This extension of support hours serves as a tangible reassurance, reinforcing trust between the brand and its customers.

 

In conclusion

As customer care plays a more critical role in shaping a business’s reputation, preparing for surges in customer demand becomes imperative to protect it. Rather than viewing a surge plan solely as a duty, brands should reframe it as an opportunity to really shine in the eyes of their customers. By developing a robust plan to handle surges in customer contacts during major events, contact centres can not only weather the storm but emerge stronger on the other side. 

 

TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.

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