By Fauzia Mulla, Head of Customer Experience at ArrowXL
When logistics companies and home delivery partners are preparing for the busy Christmas period, the headlines tend to focus on major investments made across hubs and depots, increasing the size of their fleets of vehicles and supplementing their workforces with extra manpower.
However, this activity can often overshadow the huge amount of preparation that takes place back within a typical head office environment.
For example, as Head of Customer Experience, I have the responsibility of organising my own department, which includes a 100-strong customer contact centre, for the busy peak period. Whilst our delivery crews are making sure customers successfully receive those important items before Christmas or are busy fulfilling those big-ticket purchases made in the Boxing Day sales, it is my role to ensure the customer experience team is fully prepared, engaged and motivated to efficiently handle an uplift in enquiries.
When we begin our preparations for the festive season, which can be as early as the previous summer, we primarily concentrate on two separate areas – the first reaffirms our “customer first approach”, whilst the second focuses on the “hearts and minds of our people”.
Customer First Approach
This element of the plan revolves around what we need to do within the contact centre in order to deliver a very high standard of service to our retail clients and their customers. Similar to how the operations team would calculate volumes they are expected to deliver, we will also use a specific algorithm to forecast the number of anticipated enquiries across social media, live chat and through inbound calls. As a result, we will be able to identify how many people I will need directly liaising with customers at any given hour, day or week over the peak season. We carry out this important analysis three months in advance, so we have sufficient time to recruit and train the candidates best suited to the available roles.
Secondly, we will proactively examine the data from historic enquiries to understand how we can eliminate any reoccurring issues throughout the customer journey. This will often involve working very closely alongside the operations team and the client services team, identify any weak points across the entire supply chain and collaborate over improvements. This could be down to unclear wording on the website during a purchase, an issue during the delivery itself, or the content we share with the customer when they contact us. As the department that directly communicates with the end customer, we play a vital role in this process.
Moving forward, more companies may choose to invest in automation and deploy self-service technology to improve the overall customer experience. For instance, we utilise an online platform, accessible via an SMS link, which allows consumers to alter or re-book their scheduled deliveries automatically without the need to speak to an agent. This provides an enhanced experience for the end customer, who will be able to complete an action within just 30 seconds rather than having to speak to someone, whilst we benefit from a reduced number of inbound calls. In addition, we are now encouraging consumers to fill our Customer Satisfaction Survey following a delivery or interaction – and we can use this feedback to shape our service offering, as well as rewarding agents who have done a fantastic job. We will also phone customers who have left negative comments to discuss how we can make any improvements.
Hearts and Minds of People
Our contact centre will be handling an increased number of calls during the peak season – typically 40% – and therefore we understand it is imperative that our agents are fully motivated and have the energy levels to deliver exceptional levels of service at the very busiest of times.
We are prioritising employee engagement by launching a range of initiatives that will help us to better deal with the peak season. For instance, from November to January we are rewarding those colleagues who register the highest Customer Satisfaction scores with extra break times, cash prizes and vouchers. Meanwhile, we are making sure they stay refuelled with free breakfasts, fruits, drinks and of course (as it is Christmas!) some festive sweet treats.
I believe a positive work/life balance is very important, but we also promote a number of activities in the workplace that help our agents to relax and unwind throughout the peak season. Answering customers’ enquiries is tough work and our themed games and quizzes promote a sense of togetherness and team spirit.
Most importantly, we recently welcomed our senior management team into the contact centre. Our CEO Charlie Shiels, Operations Director Peter Scraton, Commercial Director Paul Tyson and others, spent time sitting with our agents, listening in on calls and understanding the nature of their daily tasks. It became clear that the senior executives are here to support their colleagues, which provided a welcome morale boost.
As we reach December, many industries begin to slow down activity as the countdown to the Christmas break begins, but retailers and their home delivery partners must ensure they are operating as effectively as possible to navigate their peak season in the most efficient and profitable way. A proficient contact centre will play a crucial role in fulfilling that objective – and companies must not hesitate when it comes to advanced preparation, investment in technology and employee engagement.