A counter-seasonal call center strategy is the key to cutting costs, rapid ramp-up and increased customer satisfaction.
If you’re in a highly seasonal business, consider your business cycle and look for an outsourced call center without a lot of accounts in your same industry. Look for one whose inbound call volume is low while yours is high. They’ll be in a great position to quickly and cost-effectively meet your needs with a staff of full-time, trained, tested and experienced agents. For example, a call center with many retail accounts is busiest during the holiday shopping rush. That peak of inbound call volume tapers off by the end of the fourth quarter, which means they’re a great fit for businesses whose peak season begins in the first quarter.
High cost of running a seasonal call center
It’s not cost-effective for a seasonal business to run an in-house call center because it means running a three or four month enterprise at the cost of a 12-month model. You’re budgeting for year-long costs of facilities, licenses and other infrastructure that’s fully utilized for only a few months. These expenditures come right off your bottom line. On top of that, you’re dealing with the recurring burden on the IT department of equipment setup and configuration at the beginning of season and takedown at the end. Instead of making a one-time investment, it’s almost like you’re building a call center from the ground up every year.
The pain of attrition
Then there’s the problem of agent attrition—year after year, you’ll have to find, assess, and train replacements. And don’t forget about the time and expense associated with job postings, advertising costs, panel interviews, computer skill assessment, and practical testing. According to Frost-Sullivan’s Reducing Agent Turnover in Contact Centers, “the direct cost to hire and train a new call center agent is about $6,000. But that’s just the beginning.
“The indirect costs associated with attrition,” say Frost-Sullivan, “include:
- Cost of lost productivity during the ramp-up period for a new agent
- Cost of increased re-work and overhead to accommodate performance gaps of new agents
- Cost of reduced performance prior to leaving
- Costs associated with compromised quality of customer service, resulting in reduced customer satisfaction, lost upsell/cross-sell opportunities, customer churn, etc.”
Considering all these factors, the Total or True Cost of hiring, training, and onboarding a new agent ranges from $15,000 to $20,000. For a call center that has to scale up by a hundred agents for season, that means a potential seven-figure impact to net income each year.
How a counter-seasonal call center strategy can help
Taking advantage of a counter-seasonal outsourced call center strategy means no more idle infrastructure and no more revolving door of human capital. When you don’t lose your agents at the end of every season, you can dramatically reduce the costs of recruiting, training, and on-boarding. A contact center with complementary seasonality to your business can provide a functioning, cost-effective operation already in place, with successful employees and infrastructure ready to go from the season that just ended. No more complicated budgeting—they can charge a simplified or “fully loaded” rate that isn’t complicated.
A foundation for rapid ramp-up
Not all call centers can scale up and down quickly. Only a counter-seasonal call center strategy will allow you to redeploy resources from one brand to the other as the seasons shift. They’re already familiar with soft skills, technology and culture—leaving you free to focus on brand training. In addition, a dedicated year-round staff makes it possible to use short refresher training courses to quickly deploy dependable agents year after year who are already up to speed on your brand.
Experienced agents boost customer satisfaction
Counter-seasonality allows you to create bench strength so you can deliver consistently excellent service and ensure a customer experience that fosters brand loyalty and repeat business. Moving long-tenured, successful agents from one brand to another inspires confidence, knowing that you are sending in veterans to hit the ground running in your seasonal peak.
With a counter-seasonal call center strategy, your business is always the priority. You’re not competing for attention during your busiest time of the year.
Preserving your intellectual capital
Utilizing career customer service agents takes the guesswork out of recruiting. Long-term employees remember the policies, lessons and best practices that make up the intellectual capital of an organization. A workforce of well-trained, long-term, full-time employees can build up intellectual capital from year to year, which gets documented in a formal knowledgebase, empowering agents to provide even better service.
The counterintuitive takeaway
For seasonal businesses like tax preparers, cruise lines, garden centers and home builders, the counterintuitive takeaway is this: a contact center with few clients in your industry might be the best choice for your business. If your busy season occurs when your contact center’s peak is over, they can focus on your business and deliver the benefits of an experienced and ready-to-go workforce. That means cutting the costs of infrastructure and attrition, accelerating ramp-up, preserving intellectual capital, and enhancing the customer experience. That’s how to use counter-seasonality to your advantage!