Driving from the driver's perspective in bad weather in the rain.

Being Prepared: Handling Poor Weather Situations

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One of the challenging things about living in Canada is the variation in weather we see season-to-season, let alone day-to-day.

A storm that would potentially halt a city in the past is now cleaned up in a mere number of hours, all the while it’s business as usual for everyone else. However this can create issues within the workplace. Working in a call centre can be particularly nerve racking though as poor weather can produce extremes in workload with a depleted workforce. However, one can never be too prepared and having a backup plan for when the weather turns nasty can help you get out of a tight jam.

Involve Everyone

If the weather is poor, it most likely will mean your entire staff won’t be able to make it into work. An alternative to alleviate the pressure on your remaining contact centre agents is to involve other members of the staff, such as sales or retail staff. Providing the staff with agent desktops, you can tweak the software to ensure your regular agents receive more complex calls, whereas the temporary staff from elsewhere in the building can work on the simpler ones.

Provide Updates

Using social media at work is usually a big no-no, but in this particular instance it is highly recommended. Providing updates through social media can provide an understanding as to why service has slowed and potentially deflect incoming spikes. Posting information online can cut down on the number of incoming calls as most people just want to know basic information, such as when their service will return. You can also provide recommendations on where customers can find more in-depth information on their problems, such as your website. With the advent of smartphones, social media isn’t just for computers.

Working Remotely

Providing your agents with tools to work remotely can be extremely helpful. Working remotely works in other potential situations such as traffic stoppages or even waiting for a repairman. Things like laptops and unified communications devices can allow agents to work over the phone from the comfort of their homes, avoiding the poor weather conditions. This ensures callers continue to receive the support they need, regardless of weather conditions. Planning for this is as simple as looking at the weather forecast. If things look like they’re going to be a taking a turn for the worse, have your employees take home their equipment the day before.

Use Past Experience

We have long memories when it comes to poor weather and sadly it’s not going away any time soon. However we can learn from those previous occurrences. Looking back, you should have an idea of what works, and what doesn’t work for your contact centre when the weather is poor, as well as how those conditions can affect your workload. Leveraging these experiences, you can be prepared for a potential influx in calls and have an idea of how flexible you and your agents need to be in the short term.

Using WFM Software

No one can see into the future, however you can prepare yourself and your team by creating some forecasting models of worst-case scenarios. Doing so will allow you to prepare yourself and your agents for what potentially may happen. Having plans in place beforehand ensures the best outcomes. You can also look back to data from previous poor weather days as reference material when creating your forecasting model.

Call Overflow Strategy

An effective method of dealing with an influx of calls due to bad weather is to have a call overflow strategy in place. This is particularly pertinent for companies using in-house customer support as well as utility providers. Utilizing third party providers in instances of call overflow can greatly aid in supporting your staff. When poor weather strikes, having third party support working in tandem with your in-house agents can ensure that an increased spike in customer calls are being heard. Using a third party provider in a different geographic location is also beneficial. This way calls can continue to be answered should the weather cause technical difficulties for the primary location. The more agents that can answer calls in times of crisis means a quicker response to customer issues, while at the same time relieving the stress of call wait times.

Part of the human condition is that we want to be in control. Sadly we (still) can’t control the weather, but having a plan in place of what to do when bad weather strikes allows us to control what variables we can. “Be Prepared” is the Scouts motto and it is most evident of how prepared your contact centre is when the weather turns nasty. Having and sharing a plan with your team will ensure that everyone is prepared and safe when poor weather occurs.

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