Peaks and troughs: how to manage changes in your contact centre’s activity levels


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Every business goes through peaks and troughs. Whether planned, seasonal, or unexpected – for example a rise in people making insurance claims after a flood or a surge in people signing up to pensions following legislation changes – you must be sure that you are prepared to cope with these fluctuations, and with the rise in customer contact that might ensue.

Gyms and fitness centres are a good example of a business experiencing seasonal changes, where they can be inundated with people signing up in January following New Year’s resolutions. Another is the rush of eager holiday-makers, booking their summer getaways in the early months of the year. Thanks to the development of cloud-based contact centres, businesses can be much better equipped to deal with this kind of ebb and flow. 

Be flexible!
The first aspect of this is the flexible licensing models offered by some cloud providers. Rather than requiring you to pay up front for the maximum number of seats you’re ever going to need as per the old standard on premise model, a cloud provider should allow you to ‘flex’ according to your needs – and, crucially, without needing to notify or contact your provider. This ‘pay as you go’ approach (rather than the old ‘pay-and-pray’) allows you to tackle surges and quieter times. 
The power of remote agents
With a cloud solution it is now much easier to connect home workers to the contact centre. If you choose a system that allows agents to work remotely, whilst being fully integrated into the company’s existing infrastructure, you are able to tap into a much larger workforce without requiring staff to be in the physical location of the office. This also means mobile workers are getting the same experience as agents working in the bricks and mortar of the contact centre.
Allowing agents to work from home also lets them work flexibly and maximise their time. A cloud-based system should make this easy to implement without affecting operations or how customers are managed, and you can still manage and track your agents as if they were in the office. Not being restricted by geographic location also means that you can more easily service customers outside of your usual contact centre opening hours as you can employ agents working within different time zones, and also on ‘piecework’. 

Will it blend?
Many contact centres don’t handle peaks and troughs in the most efficient way. Are your inbound agents busy and bustling during a peak, whilst your outbound agents are sat twiddling their thumbs? Use blending to smooth these peaks and troughs. For travel agents this could mean adding calling lists to follow up, during inbound ‘lulls’ with outbound calls to customers who’ve recently returned from their cruise, for example, to see if they’d like to give feedback or book again for next year. This represents a feel-good service to the customer, and big potential sales opportunity to the business.

Blending your inbound and outbound calls will reduce call queues and frustration for customers, whilst keeping agents busy as calls are shared across both teams – all within one concurrent license. Blending across channels will also allow you to manage surges across social/email/SMS/web chat etc. in addition to voice. Allowing agents to move seamlessly between channels will improve productivity and customer service alike.

Workforce Management
On top of this, implementing cloud-based workforce management functionality gives you the data you need to see where these peaks and troughs of activity are occurring, and helps you to plan how to scale your business up or down accordingly. March and September bring a noticeable rise in individuals signing up for car insurance, likely the result of bargains companies offer before the release of new car registration plates. Whether your contact centre needs 25 agents one week, and 50 the next, you can monitor resource and demand and scale your workforce up or down easily and efficiently.

By offering greater flexibility through licensing, agent resource and management tools, the ebbs and flows of contact centre activity are easier to handle when the technology is cloud-based.

David Ford
I am an experienced engineer, director and corporate adviser with focus on technology sector. I now work as the Managing Director of Magnetic North. Magnetic North is leading the contact centre in the cloud revolution by providing organisations of every size with a high-availability, secure, enterprise-class solution at a fraction of the cost of the cost of traditional systems, together with transparent pricing, out-of-the-box integration and continuous product innovation.


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