By Patricia Qvern
As consumers, we want every call center that provides us with service to operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We want to be able to call and order a “thingamabob” at 1:00 a.m. or reach a live person when it’s 90 degrees and the air conditioner isn’t working. As consumers, we love to have the convenience and reliability of picking up the phone and getting what we want or need on our schedule. The reality is, thought, we don’t always get what we want. We must compromise, and this often means calling during regular business hours. In some instances, this is okay—just a little inconvenient.
But what about the times when you need immediate customer service? And how does a business determine if offering 24/7 inbound call center services is necessary?
When I step away from being the consumer and look at it from a business perspective, there are several factors that companies should consider to determine if a 24/7 contact center vendor is necessary for handling their inbound customer contacts.
First, the bad news is that 24/7 staffing is more difficult and more expensive than normal business hours staffing.
- When a contact center vendor provides staffing for sixteen hours a day or twenty-four hours a day, the added cost isn’t just the additional staffing. The contact center vendor must also ensure that the team has support from management, quality assurance, and technical staff.
- With a 24/7 operation, your contact center vendor never closes, so making software adjustments or equipment repairs require careful scheduling. This minimizes any disruption to the service provided to your customers.
- With a 24/7 call center operation, you must determine how to handle holidays. Do your customers expect 24/7 coverage 365 days a year? If so, scheduling can become a significant challenge, and many state laws require paying employees double time on holidays.
- Forecasting call volume to staff the nonstandard hours is more delicate. It’s on a smaller scale than standard hours, and this means your accuracy could make the difference between being understaffed or overstaffed.
- Managing a 24/7 call center operation with different call types, including order taking, customer service, billing questions, technical support, and other types of calls may require you to cross-train more staff to work the nonpeak hours of operation. This will ensure that you have needed staff to cover all the different skills required for different incoming call queues.
- Another factor to consider when evaluating if your contact center vendor needs to be 24/7 is the availability of a good quality workforce during the graveyard shift. If your selected contact center vendor can’t recruit good, reliable people for the middle of the night, then your program may be better off playing a message letting callers know your hours of operation and asking them to call back—especially if the volume of calls is very low.
The following questions can help you determine if you require a 24/7 contact center vendor.
- Is the volume substantial enough to cost-justify staffing the contact center vendor operation during all hours of the day, seven days a week?
- Do your customers and prospects require 24/7 support? For healthcare organizations or home service contractors, the answer is often yes. Life happens at any hour and can require immediate attention or the outcome could be life altering. Some professional services, such as financial, insurance, and legal, may also benefit from around-the-clock phone coverage. Also, consider the retail industry, where accessibility, convenience, and being able to talk to a customer service representative at 1:00 a.m. makes them stand out from the competition.
While the decision isn’t always clear, these are some points to consider when analyzing if your contact center vendor needs to be 24/7. Many companies can benefit from providing an open line of communication with a live person at all hours. It promotes confidence, trust, and reliability. It’s up to you to determine if the cost is worth the benefit.
Patricia Qvern is an operations manager at Quality Contact Solutions, an outsourced contact center vendor. Patricia has twenty years of experience in the telemarketing and call center industry. As an operations manager, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day relationship with clients and front-line contact center teams.