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Helping Travel & Retail Brands Scale Successfully During Seasonal Peaks 

June 27, 2024

When choosing a CX partner, you want the certainty that they can meet your needs, not only today, but also tomorrow. This is especially true with industries that are affected by seasonality and sudden fluctuations in contact volumes, like Travel and Retail, that have intense periods of peak demand for customer support. Find out how itel was able to successfully navigate peak seasons for two different clients, meeting staffing requirements and exceeding quality and KPI (key performance indicators) targets within 90 days of launch. Thus, demonstrating itel’s flexibility, resourcefulness, and reliability as the preferred CX partner for over 50 global brands. 

Challenge 

During peak times, a business’ ability to meet increased demand for customer support is not only expected, but also critical for the company’s bottom line. If service quality becomes inconsistent, or wait times too long, customer satisfaction could easily dip, and so could sales revenues, as well as loyalty. This is when a CX vendor proves its worth, helping you scale or “ramp” your CX operations quickly, easily, and cost-effectively, while also reaching quality targets and rapid speed to proficiency for new agents. 

Take for instance, Client 1, a globally recognized brand in the travel & hospitality industry. This client required a seasonal ramp of its Voice and Chat channels to support the expected surge in reservations over the winter travel peak. This would involve a more than 50% headcount increase to meet the forecasted volumes, with only 90 days from campaign launch to source and train seasonal hires. This also involved helping new agents master a resource platform with a large and complex database of information, as well as meeting the client’s stringent NPS (net promoter score) and quality targets.  

Client 2, a major U.S. retailer and long-term client, was also facing a significant ramp in the lead up to the winter holidays. As the main provider of their online order support, this client required an over 60% FTE headcount increase across their Voice, Chat, and Email channels, to support the seasonal surge around the holiday shopping season. With only a 3-month window to acquire new talent and complete their training, our Talent Acquisition teams were determined to source the right candidates that could quickly meet or even exceed the client’s high CSAT and quality targets. 

Solutions 

For Client 1, we successfully added 203 agents over 12 weeks to ensure adequate numbers. To manage a steep learning curve and short nesting phase of only 2 weeks, agents were supported through weekly coaching sessions and call reviews, where assigned support teams shared best practices and addressed performance concerns. Weekly side-by-side sessions assisted agents with more complex interactions and system navigation, in addition to the daily floor support, coaching, and real-time assistance agents are offered once they’re taking live calls.  

To boost an initial lag in NPS scores, we implemented a special “Fusion” process, focusing on agents that fell in the bottom two quartiles of their business unit. This intense, two-month process created glide paths for each agent, with new targets per quartile. Performance was assessed weekly using a series of audits and personalized coaching sessions with a supervisor or assigned coach. While our Customer Experience teams supported the quality assurance process using real-time performance data and AI-enhanced post-call analytics gathered through our itelligence platform. This allowed them to better identify areas of improvement and spot any performance challenges, which were then addressed through specialized workshops where we could hyper-target upskilling and provide more customized coaching. Additionally, we incentivized agents through recognition such as award certificates, a monthly NPS competition, a wall of honor, and daily “shoutouts” for those with excellent NPS surveys.  

For Client 2, we successfully added 258 new agents over 12 weeks, adding the required support to meet forecasted demand. Since this was a long-standing retail client, our Talent Acquisition teams knew the attributes and skills needed to serve this account and geared their talent sourcing towards only those candidates who matched our ideal personas. This strategy allowed our teams to achieve KPI targets even in the first few weeks of new hire training. While dedicated coaches followed agents throughout the entire training cycle, providing real-time coaching sessions to enhance agent performance. Group sessions allowed supervisors to exchange best practices and address performance concerns, while information gleaned from these sessions was distributed through daily “tip sharing” emails. 

CSAT expectations were defined from the beginning of training, creating the required mindset for service delivery excellence. Agents began with an 80% CSAT target in training, with a 2% incremental increase throughout the on-the-job training period, until they reached the actual client target of 85%. To self-identify improvement opportunities, agents were given DSAT reviews, which highlight any negative customer sentiment or feedback, so agents can learn how to improve customer engagement. Additionally, coaching tips were shared both pre- and post-shift to help agents build confidence, while special kudos were shared throughout the team to reinforce positive behaviors and give recognition to agents whose CSAT performance was exemplary.  

 Outcomes 

In the case of client 1, we increased the FTE headcount by 67% for the holiday travel peak, achieving a rapid speed to proficiency for new hires within 90 days. Any lag in quality scores was quickly negated by our thorough training, coaching and ongoing quality evaluation process. Some business units even saw a 14.34% improvement from training to live calls, reaching a peak quality score of 90.55%, surpassing the client’s 90% target. While NPS scores that began around 68% with new hires (matched against a client goal of 73%), saw almost a six-percentage point increase by the end of the Fusion coaching process, reaching a peak score of 73.9%.  

For client 2, FTE headcounts were increased by 68% to aid with the retail holiday shopping peak, while our extensive in-house training programs and nesting process gave us a quick speed to proficiency for new agents who were ready to take calls in as little as 90 days. CSAT scores, one of the client’s key metrics, averaged 86% pre-ramp, against a client target of 85%, and rose to almost 90% post-training and coaching, after the ramp. Average quality scores rose to almost 94%, hitting 104% to client target, with one business unit seeing an impressive 2.7% percentage point improvement within those 3 months. 

Conclusion 

Strategic recruitment allowed us to source not only the right number of candidates for each ramp, but also those most suited to the requirements of each client’s business and industry, which reduces overall attrition and ensures the right culture and brand fit.  

To make sure we could meet erratic call volumes that can sometimes fluctuate during seasonal peaks, we also staffed at higher than required levels to account for any shrinkage in staffing numbers. While our comprehensive training programs and years of industry expertise helped shape the best practices and processes that allow us to quickly and efficiently scale, while maintaining high KPI scores and customer satisfaction. 

With itel’s proven ramp approach, our clients can flexibly scale according to seasonal and industry demands. Which has given them the peace of mind and the confidence to focus on other areas of their business, knowing that their chosen CX vendor can meet their requirements for both staffing capacity and quality, even during hectic seasonal peaks.  

Need help with your seasonal ramp or a general scale up of your CX services? Contact Us!

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