What is burst resource in customer service and how can it help?
Burst resource is simply an additional allocation of resources, such as staff or technology, that a brand implements to handle a sudden and significant increase in customer enquiries. Most commonly, burst resource for customer service is used during busy times of the year and is often a planned uptick in resource to avoid your current team falling behind or becoming overworked.
But, more importantly, it can also be used during emergencies or times of crisis. For utilities companies specifically, FM’s clients have burst resource on hand in case something goes wrong. Powerlines can break, water pipes may burst, and gas pipes can spring a leak. Or, as we saw recently, one company may acquire a large number of new customers as other brands go out of business. And all those customers will turn to the utilities company with their questions. This sudden and uncontrollable increase in contact volumes can be difficult to navigate for any business.
This is where a planned burst resource can help by having fully trained advisors kept in reserve for just such events. This means they can be responsive and flexible when emergencies crop up and handle the sudden increase without upsetting customers.
Effectively handling rises in contact volumes is essential for all businesses. And this is especially true for utilities companies who are now under scrutiny from Ofgem to improve their customer care. We spoke to consumers and 82% said a positive customer experience can change their opinion of a brand or business for the better, even following a poor buying experience. With so few utilities companies left on the market – and some small companies rivalling larger ones for the top spots – improving customer care can make a huge difference in who consumers may choose as their supplier.
How to implement burst resource for your customer service team effectively
So burst resource customer service teams are essential for effectively handling emergencies. But it can be a tricky balancing act to keep fully trained advisors in the wings without overspending. And hiring temporary workers isn’t always the best solution – or even the cheapest! So how do you do it?
1: Predict Demand
If you can accurately forecast when your busiest times of the year will be, you can hire and train with plenty of time to spare, allowing you to focus on introducing the best possible staff to your team. But you can’t do this if you’re not monitoring your team’s accuracy across the year. That’s why having the right tools in place to predict upticks in contact volumes is vital.
But what about unpredictable surges? You won’t always know when problems will occur in the utilities industry; your current staff must have all the skills they need to handle any emergencies. Conduct regular cross-training courses and practice emergency scenarios so no one is caught off-guard when the real thing happens.
Cross-training is great, but it doesn’t help if you just don’t have enough staff to handle all of the incoming customer queries efficiently. Whilst forecasting should avoid this scenario, emergencies can’t always be predicted. So, incentivise your internal team to take on extra shifts. But the incentive has to be worth it. When we spoke to businesses that struggle to handle a sudden increase in customer service contacts, 82% cited unhappy staff as being one of the biggest impacts. Double pay, company rewards, and extra holiday allowance work great. A pizza party isn’t going to cut it!
4: Automation & Technology
So, you have the right amount of staff at the right time. But you need the right technology to pull it all together. Implementing self-serve technology such as online dashboards, FAQs, and simple chatbots is useful for reducing the number of incoming contacts.
But you need to go a step further to help your team excel. The best customer care technology will allow you to categorise and route customer queries, streamline duplicate queries from the same customers, collect important data, and even suggest appropriate responses, all before the interaction even gets to the advisor. This saves precious minutes and gives your advisors a massive boost to efficiency whilst still delighting the customer.
5: Analyse and Adapt
Even with all these measures in place, you can’t stop there. The world of customer care is always changing and businesses must evolve alongside new technology and new real-world problems that customers are facing.
To do this effectively, you need a comprehensive analytics suite. Real-time analytics of contact volumes, team performance, and customer satisfaction allows you to make adjustments quickly, responding to problems before they occur. You can also feed this data into your forecasting tool, giving you daily recommendations for staffing levels, rather than simply predicting by season.
Armed with your data, you can determine how well your team handled any emergency and adapt your processes for future scenarios.
All of that sounds like a lot of hard work. And that’s because it is. Being able to maintain a flexible and effective customer care team can be difficult, especially when it comes to cost. It’s often a case of overspending for the sake of having fantastic teams that aren’t always working at 100% capacity, or risking brand reputation and customer happiness by quickly hiring agency staff when a problem occurs.
That’s why it’s often a smarter choice to partner with a customer service outsourcer.
Consider Customer Service Outsourcing for Burst Resource
Outsourcers provide specialised, highly-skilled teams across every channel to companies that need a boost. They’re usually just a small part of your overall customer service offering, useful for aiding your internal team, not replacing it. And they have an advantage over in-house teams: they already have all the resources they need to help.
Because outsourcers maintain such large teams year-round, they have the staff they need to agilely move from one campaign to another when and if disaster strikes. And those teams are already customer care experts, armed with the best technology and tried-and-tested processes that work seamlessly.
Are Customer Service Outsourcers More Expensive?
When we spoke to companies across the UK and asked why they were unable to scale up their teams effectively, 44% believed that this type of cover would be too expensive. But it’s important to note that burst resources are temporary solutions meant to address short-term spikes in customer service requirements. Once the surge in demand subsides, companies can scale down their burst resources and revert to their regular customer service operations.
At FM, we provide an Emergency Cover package that gives our utilities clients peace of mind throughout the year. Our service is insurance; we only charge a small retainer fee to keep advisors fully trained and ready to answer calls, 24/7, no matter the reason. So, when something does go wrong, that team can start answering calls and messages instantly. And with no commitments and the ability to switch on and off the service whenever you need, there’s no reason that burst resource has to be expensive.
Effectively managing burst resources is crucial for maintaining customer loyalty and brand reputation, as customers often judge a company’s service quality based on their experiences during these high-demand periods. By deploying burst resources strategically, companies can ensure that they are well-equipped to handle sudden influxes of customer enquiries while upholding their commitment to delivering excellent customer service.
By combining strategic outsourcing, effective internal processes, and data-driven decision-making, you can manage burst resources for customer service without incurring excessive costs, all whilst maintaining a high level of service quality.