Why making your contact centre more flexible will help you navigate 2021’s ups and downs

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Doing some new year contact centre planning and wondering how to accommodate a higher than usual number of “what ifs”? You’re not alone. Around the country, SMEs are looking for ways to make their operations more flexible and, as a consequence, better able to accommodate whatever surprises 2021 has in store.

For some businesses such as those in the tourism and hospitality operators, the ability to scale will be imperative. Currently, in hiatus, they’re likely to experience a boom in business when the Federal Government re-opens the international borders and allows foreign travellers in and itchy-footed Aussies out. Having enough agents available to handle enquiries and take bookings in a timely fashion will be essential – but having those individuals sitting idle, waiting for the announcement that the sector is back in business, is an option operators simply can’t afford.

Other organisations whose business continuity was compromised by COVID shutdowns at home and abroad are keen to ensure history doesn’t repeat and they’re motivated to invest in systems and processes to ensure that it can’t.

Here are four ways to make your contact centre more flexible in 2021.

Improve your agent training program

Scaling up means hiring additional agents but having extra bodies on board is only helpful if they’re familiar with your products, services and procedures. That’s where a good training program comes into its own. It’s worth taking the time to examine yours, to see how effectively and efficiently it covers the basics. Augmenting your sessions with some real-life scenarios – good and not-so-good calls and interactions captured by your contact centre platform’s quality management system – can help new starters understand what they’re in for and provide guidance and tips to help them get up to speed faster.

Invest in workforce management software

When it comes to planning for future demand, the past is often a good guide. Start mapping all activity levels across all channels, at every hour of the working day and week. Down the track, you’ll be able to use this intelligence to predict, for example, whether you’ll need four agents or 40 on Friday afternoons in May and optimise your roster accordingly.

Enable remote working

The year of the pandemic proved to Australian business owners that remote working can work and work well, across multiple sectors and roles. It adds enormous flexibility on two fronts. Firstly, it allows businesses to broaden the pool of talent available to them, courtesy of the fact that agents no longer have to be located within travelling distance of the office. Secondly, it makes it easier for them to fill short shifts, or shifts at unsociable hours, with willing individuals whose circumstances make it impossible to commit to working nine to five away from home.

Migrate to the cloud

Meanwhile, scaling up quickly, or indeed at all, can be challenging if you’re still relying on legacy software to power your operations. Migrating to a cloud-based contact centre platform will allow your business to easily add agents to the team, irrespective of where they’re located, and ensure sudden surges in activity don’t overload the system. Choose a solution that’s locally hosted, well supported and has solid failover provisions in place and you’ll be well situated to keep powering on, in the face of whatever dramas and disruptions lie ahead.

Fortune favours the flexible

If there’s one lesson 2020 hammered home to SME business owners it’s arguably this: there are no certainties in business. Ensuring key elements of your operations, including your contact centre, are as flexible as possible makes it easier to respond, restructure and recover when circumstances change suddenly.

Daniel Harding, Director of Australian Operations, MaxContact