As a parent, this is a time of mixed emotions for me. Summer is ending, the kids head back to school and the quickened pace of our family routine returns. Yet, driven by the schedules of two pre-teens, preparation for the unexpected is a must. For most contact centers, back-to-school signals the starting line for ensuring you’re prepared to flexibly scale for seasonal business demands, including the expected—and unexpected—spikes in traffic that start now and continue through year-end.

In healthcare, it’s enrollment periods. For retail, it’s holiday shopping. For B2B sales organizations, it’s quarterly quotas.

And while now is a busy time for many contact centers, fluctuations in seasonal business volume can come throughout the year. Maintaining consistently high levels of customer experience through the ebb and flow of volume is critical for businesses to thrive in any season.

Traditionally, when seasonal business ramped up, contact centers that could afford to would manage the spikes by engineering for demand. That meant increasing technology bandwidth and hiring on-site seasonal employees who may—but often don’t—bring the experience and skill to seamlessly navigate through the high volume. Modern contact centers now also have an increasingly powerful arsenal of technology to help deliver digitally transformed customer care in any season. But striking the balance between maintaining high service levels while controlling costs is tricky.

In our recent webinar, Designing Customer Experience for Scalability and Flexibility, with leading contact center industry analyst and No Jitter blogger Sheila McGee-Smith, we share insights on how contact centers can leverage the cloud to achieve the scalability and flexibility required for seasonal business demands.

Here’s a summary of the webinar highlights. You can also listen on demand here.

 New Rules for Scaling to Capacity for Seasonal Business Activity

The ramp-up required for seasonal business peaks (additional software licenses and staff, for example) can be costly for any size contact center. For some, it is entirely cost-prohibitive. The result is blocked calls, unavailable service, poor overall customer experience and, ultimately, lost business. Even organizations that can spend the money to ramp up for seasonal business are faced with decreased service levels because of lack of time to adequately train seasonal staff.

Fortunately, though, there is a new way to handle scalability for seasonal business activity needs. With cloud-based contact center solutions, businesses pay only for the licenses they need, when they need them. Cloud solutions also eliminate the need for major capital budget outlays for the most current technology. That’s because cloud vendors handle the upgrades.

The availability of multiple communication channels—from email to text to social—can also alleviate the burden of seasonal activity spikes because, unlike telephone, they don’t have to be answered in real time.

Managing and Training Work-from-Home Agents

The new, more cost-effective answer to the need for additional staff is work-from-home agents. In the webinar, Shelia shares that when she speaks to businesses that have moved from on-premises contact centers to the cloud, the ability to support at-home agents is often cited among the most important benefits.

Cloud-based contact centers not only provide flexibility to the agents and businesses, but also allow contact center supervisors greater efficiencies. With the cloud, supervisors can give feedback to agents regardless of their location. It enables them to hire and mange agents completely remotely.

Sheila points out that while the technology for work-from-home agents has existed since the late 90s, the early solutions were expensive and cumbersome. The cloud has dramatically changed that.

“The reason to have work-from-home agents has existed for a very long time, but it’s really the cloud that’s made it practical,” she explains.

 The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Designing for Flexibility

With the proliferation of multi-channel interactions, listening to calls is no longer enough for quality assurance. Speech analytics powered by AI goes far beyond what a single supervisor can learn listening to individual phone calls. Speech analytics, across channels, can quickly illuminate customer experience issues, especially during seasonal traffic peaks. The insights can then be shared across the organization.

Leveraging AI to meet the needs of contact centers is not a matter of replacing agents. Instead, AI can provide the tools to enhance the value of agents. Sheila puts it this way in the webinar, “AI is going to enhance customer experience by delivering the kind of experience customers expect.”

She points out that today’s customers expect modern, effective and empathetic interactions with agents. AI allows the agent to be more agile and deliver the service customers want.

 Are you Ready for a Smarter Cloud Solution?

Flexibility and scalability are critical to maintaining an A+ customer experience in any season, and a cloud-based contact center solution is the fastest and smartest way to get there.  If you’d like to see a demo of Serenova’s CxEngage cloud-based contact center solution and learn more about our pay-only-for-what-you-use pricing model, request a demo.