Options for Extending the Contact Center's Hours
In today’s contact center, scheduling is one of the most important skills to get right. Customers are demanding access to live agent support for longer hours, and offering it from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday is often useless to busy working people. At the same time, extending the hours of operations earlier in the morning or later in the evening comes with high costs that may or may not make up for the extra expenses.
There are a variety of ways that companies can achieve extended hours for the contact center.
Do it in-house and on-premises. Contact centers can add shifts or hours, opening earlier or later, by adding more employees. Extending the contact center’s hours may help even the call volume out (by avoiding the lunchtime or 5:00 p.m. rush when working consumers have time to pick up the phone). This means that extending your contact center’s hours may not require a very large expansion of the workforce, but only your workforce management and call center scheduling tool can determine this.
Do it in-house but off premises. Thanks to cloud-based telephony and contact center applications, companies can extend hours but still close the doors at the same time by making use of home-based agents. This is a particularly compelling option for companies that wish to service customers in other time zones. With a cloud-based workforce management and call center scheduling solution, workers can be logged in and “on the clock” from their homes, making and taking calls and other contacts as required, early in the morning or late into the night.
Consider outsourcing. While you may wish to keep a majority of your customer support in-house, third party outsourcing is a good choice for overflow or before- or after-hours calls, according to a recent article by Curt Berry of F. Curtis Barry & Company writing for Multichannel Merchant.
“Much like seasonal support, call centers companies can help you service customers in ways that you’re not able to do with flexibility and acceptable costs,” he wrote. “If you have higher-than-planned call volumes, customers will not wait. They abandon calls and shopping carts if they can’t get immediate assistance.”
Outsourcing can lower the cost-per-call and eliminate the need to take (and train) new employees. Another benefit is that you can choose an outsourced teleservices provider that is in the best time zone for your before- or after-hours business. Be sure you vet the organization thoroughly, however, as poor quality service, call latency or heavy accents can damage your brand and drive away your customers.
Edited by Alicia Young