Be Prepared

Planning for Call Volume Spikes and Municipal Emergencies

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How to prevent your residents from being stuck waiting in line.

For any organization, meeting the needs of your customers can be a challenge. This can be especially true for municipalities, where customer complaints can vary widely and outrageously in both scope and complexity. Throw in a local emergency, which guarantees a boom in your call volume, and you have a recipe for disaster.

During times of emergency, you may find that your residents bombard your office with requests that leave your team stressed and scraping for solutions. It’s during these times that proper planning is essential in making sure your resident’s needs are being met quickly and effectively.

While heavy call volume and unique problems can often lead to long waits and overstressed agents, it doesn’t have to be this way if you plan ahead. There are several steps you can take to ensure that no matter the call volume, your agents stay effective and your residents remain satisfied.

Harnessing the Power of Technology

Utilizing technology can be an easy way to boost the efficiency of your staff. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can be used to gather information about resident analytics and provide you with the data you need to address your weak points.

In addition, state-of-the-art call management systems are available that allow your residents to request call backs when agents are unavailable, preventing them from being stuck on the phone in a long queue.

Outsourcing for Success

In times of peak call volume, you may find that despite your best efforts, you can’t address all of your customer’s needs in a timely manner. Rather than leaving them hanging on the line, you may want to consider a contact center outsourcing service.

Not only will this take some pressure off of your team, but working with a reputable third-party provider can have many additional advantages:

  • Professional agents who have experience and training dealing with customer complaints
  • Technology capable of handling peak volume call times and call overflow
  • Consolidation of labor to reduce costs and overhead
  • 24-hour support in multiple languages

Multichannel Support for Overflow and Emergencies

In these modern times, there are a plethora of options available for residents to reach out and be heard. Contact centres and organizations are becoming more acquainted with the benefits of meeting their customers on their own preferred channels, including SMS, social media, email and live chat. A study by Econsultancy found that 33 percent of customers prefer using social media to contact organizations rather than phone. Your customers will thank you for providing them with the option of getting their problems solved without having to be put on hold indefinitely.

When it comes to handling outages and emergencies, social media and SMS make for great options to still get in contact with your residents even if your website and contact centre are down. Remember that no news is not good news: When it comes to municipal emergencies, it’s better to keep your residents in the loop in whatever way you can. Often times this includes a 24/7 live answering service.

Upfront Messaging

If a situation or emergency is identified that will greatly limit your contact centres ability to answer calls for an extended period of time, consider changing your upfront messaging on the fly. Re-recording or inserting situational messaging can alert callers that you are handling an emergency and/or you will experience long than normal wait times. If possible, give them a timeframe of when it will be best to call back, so they can hang up and not unnecessarily wait or fill up your queue. Remember no news is not good news.

Practice Soft Skills

During spikes in call volume, as well as in municipal emergencies and outages, tensions in the contact centre can run higher than ever. This isn’t the moment to forget about all that soft skills training your contact centre has undergone. During call volume spikes and emergencies, ensure that your agents practice the following:

  • Be honest: Lying about the situation won’t make you or your customer feel better in the long run. Plus, if you get caught in a lie or exaggeration, you might risk tarnishing your contact centre’s reputation indefinitely.
  • Stay calm: If you indicate that there is reason to panic or worry, your residents will pick up on it and react in kind. Practice calm and responsive leadership skills by keeping your cool under stress.
  • Communicate: Communicate the situation clearly to residents to maintain transparency and responsible municipal support. Apologize for the hold up, but explain that you are doing all that you can to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Handling peak call volume is a tricky problem to solve, and requires a good balance of skilled support and inventive problem solving. Utilizing technology, taking advantage of third party options and communicating through multiple channels can ensure that residents get what they want without having to wait.

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