Whether you outsource your contact centre services or manage them in-house, it is vital to plan ahead. Take some time to clarify your strategy for the busy Christmas period, learn from past experiences and conduct a full resource audit.
Your customers are in a spending mood, but may well be under pressure to get their shopping done in between getting the house ready for an onslaught of guests. They want to buy in confidence and receive purchases in a timely fashion. Ensuring your customers can rely on an efficient, professional and personable service goes a long way to fostering the long-term loyalty that will keep you in business for many Christmases to come. Here’s how to do it:
- Be accessible. Are your customers able to contact you when they need to? Nigel Swabey, Chairman of multi-title cataloguer Scott’s and Co. told us, “we take 30% of our order calls outside office hours, so we simply couldn’t afford to run anything but a 24/7 service”.
- Your contact centre is your partner and like any worthy partner, deserves communication. Oftentimes outsourced call centres are the last to hear about any changes or news relating to your campaigns. This puts a great deal of pressure on them to provide the excellent customer service they would like and to be able to plan staff levels and organise training and skillset allocation. Keep them informed about delays in product supplies, late deliveries, special offers or if there has been extra marketing activity that might affect call volumes. Knowledge and communication are crucial. Remember that larger call centres with varying shift patterns and longer operational hours may need more time to re-train staff on any campaign changes.
- Have you thought of the value of keeping a core set of knowledge/skills within that contact centre by not only using them for holidays but by becoming their permanent overflow or out of hours partner? This ensures knowledge of your product is consistent and could save you money on retraining. Outsourcing can also teach you a great deal about understanding your customer demograpahic.
- Equally, you must expect and insist on excellent reporting services from your contact centre. They can advise on products that have been selling well or not, call volumes, customer feedback etc. This can help you adapt your campaigns and supplies at relatively short notice and maximise those profits.
- Have you considered every possibility for upsell? It goes without saying that your best offers will include seasonal purchases, but are there more obscure items that customers utilise around this time that could be introduced as an extra purchase opportunity? Something that they will be using more of from having so many visitors in the house or extra time off work? Try bundling products: think appliances, batteries, chargers etc…
- Have you contemplated all eventualities when it comes to the UK’s famously balmy winter weather? If your staff are unable to get to work, have you made contingency for overflow calls? Regarding fulfilment; are your products able to make it from a-to-b in time? Make sure your website and communications specify last guaranteed days for delivery.
- Ensure you communicate any changes to your opening hours over the festive bank holiday – you’d be surprised how many people want to order/return gifts on those days.
- Even if you have various numbers for customer contact – separate customer service, order lines etc. – the chances are those boundaries will blur in the event of repeat contact from the customer. Your call centre, therefore, should be versed in managing customer service enquiries. They can supply you with information on what types of calls they have been receiving so you can plan for future campaigns and expenditure (customer service calls rarely result in a further sale). Driving down your customer service calls increases profits; perhaps more information could be included on email order confirmation forms, in your marketing collateral or on your website that could better guide your customer and avoid these calls?
- Modern businesses know that single channel sales and marketing is over. Mutli-channel provision is key to your success and customer loyalty. It may be not only telephone calls to outsource, what about email and social media response?
- Ensure all relevant parties have a thorough debrief after – what went well or not so well? How could resources be better allocated? Were marketing efforts timely and strategically sound? Make sure you keep figures and plans for the next year.