How to manage customer support spikes without getting overwhelmed

by 5CA | May 26, 2021

 

If you’re seeing customer support spikes, you’re doing something right. But how do you handle them without losing your mind?

Most of us in the CX industry know about customer service spikes and the mixed blessing they can be. On the one hand, a product is so popular that thousands are inquiring about it. On the other, the volume is so high, you have difficulty handling it successfully.

With customer experience leading the charge these days, long response times no longer cut it—if they ever did.

In general, letting spikes get on top of you isn’t good for anyone. Looking at it from your agents’ point of view, it can be stressful to the point of dissatisfaction. As a result, it can also greatly impact customers’ views of your business.

The good news is, there are some effective ways to nip those challenges in the bud before they become a more serious issue.

Firstly, what do we mean by spikes?

In customer service, spikes are when you see a rapid increase of user queries or requests in a short period of time. Usually, a spike is when they come in at around ten times their usual volume.

Whether they last for days or months, the excitement of such an upsoar can be quickly dampened by failing to keep on top of them. While they’re a key indicator that things are going well in your business, you want the assurance you’ll be able to handle them as well as you have been.

For most successful companies, spikes are an inevitability of doing business, and they’re also a good thing—if you know how to handle them.

Why might you be seeing spikes?

There are plenty of reasons you might see spikes. Perhaps you just released a new product, patch for a game, or we’re hurtling toward Christmas at warp speed. Maybe there’s even a global pandemic that’s forced people to stay at home, increasing how much time they’re spending with your product.

Let’s take a brief glance at the most likely reasons to see a surge.

Holidays

Holidays have always been a busy time for customer support. Holidays mean gifts, which mean assistance, advice, and refunds. Essentially, any time people buy things, you’ll see an increase in support tickets. Be that Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, or any school holidays.

New Releases

From fashion and beauty to tech, most people want the next big thing, and while especially true in entertainment, you might see spikes on the launch of any product. As a result, customer support will have to answer more queries than they would for existing products.

Events

Game streams and eSports events are commonplace these days and generate huge viewer numbers. This sometimes also leads to an increase in product interest. For example, if a Twitch streamer is using a specific headset, their viewers may want to use it too.

How to effectively handle spikes as they come

We’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to handle spikes, and we’ve worked hard to ensure that the operations we had in place made for a much easier time. The thing is: customers don’t care about the pressure you’re facing, and they shouldn’t have to. If they’ve bought your product or service, they’re entitled to the best quality support.

Great customer experience comes when customers feel listened to and appreciated. When spikes occur, this is much harder to provide, unless you’re ready in advance.

We picked the brains of some of our ops leads, asking them to share some of 5CA’s secrets to spike handling.

Preparation

As with everything in life, you must be prepared. Ops director Miguel Afoichini recommends always having a solid blueprint in place.

Ensuring support is well-equipped with structured timelines and clear deliverables means less need for compromises. With preparation, you’re privy to extra time those less prepared might not have.

Since you won’t be scrambling around for ways to handle unprecedented spikes, you’ll have more time to create a more pleasant CX.

Staffing

Like preparation, your staffing solutions should be planned yet flexible. On this, operations directors Nuno da Costa and Gerardo Bono have some solid advice.

For Nuno, staffing is all about support. 5CA’s focus is on simplifying processes while also ensuring expertise is available as needed.

He suggests providing new team members with information and coaching. So, in times of chaos, they’re automatically equipped to deal with whatever comes their way.

Gerardo also suggests preparing the next level of managers.

Heavy demand requires fast team mobility. Promotion happens in times of stress, but without coaching, people might not feel ready to take on those responsibilities.

To prepare, he posits creating a succession plan: An internal habit wherein managers mentor those under them, so if you’re looking to promote quickly, your agents are already qualified.

Scalable Processes

Without scalable processes, you’re likely to run into bottlenecks. Gerardo Bono says that, along with higher volumes, you’ll see a higher number of escalations and approvals. This means relying more on manual work than you would have previously.

As with ramping up at speed, you need to ensure procedures can be utilized as easily at 10x the volume as with one.

Flexible Plans

You need a strong structure that has room to be flexible. Ops director Joep de Jong calls this compromise operations’ main challenge: how do you do both?

Flexibility is huge when it comes to spikes in calls and queries. If not careful, can shake the foundations of what it means to be in customer support.

Joep asserts this flexibility is needed due to the rapid changes within the CX industry. You need to be steadfast yet adaptable to every situation: pandemic or Christmas.

Omnichannel Support

Spikes don’t just happen via phone, you should cover all bases. Omnichannel support is one of the best ways you can handle a sudden increase in volume. Gerardo Bono says that, in normal situations, you have the time to rely on peer-to-peer knowledge.

But with spikes, that’s much harder to do.

Providing support via multiple channels gives you more room to cater to CX. And a good customer experience is the key to solid customer-brand relationships.

Outsourcing

If you’re having trouble handling a spike in calls, why not outsource? While there’s nothing wrong with doing everything yourself, stress quashes inspiration like an ant.

In outsourcing customer support, you have more time to grow your business. With those extra hours, you have more energy to actually focus on your business.

When the pandemic hit, a renowned video game developer leaned on 5CA for burst capacity support. Our challenge was to ensure the client kept a business-as-usual approach to player support.

During our short time together, our agents were on par with their in-house CX team within two weeks. We also developed a best practice database for them to use moving forward, helped foster engagement, and exceeded all expectations.

In the right hands, spikes are easy as A-B-C

Spikes—both expected and unexpected—are all part of the game. If you’re seeing success, you’ll have more people who need customer support. It’s all part of it, but not always taken as an opportunity to grow your business and form a loyal userbase.

In most spike situations, outsourcing your customer support can remove any pressure you might feel. In knowing your customers are being taken care of, the stress automatically fades. That leaves you more time to creatively explore everything else.

At 5CA, we’ve jumped in to help plenty of brands handle unexpected spikes. Why not see the work we’ve done with Psyonix and Recharge, to see how we can take the stress out of your success.

Reach out to outsource your customer support with no stress.

5CA