How to manage customer support spikes

Most of the CX industry knows 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. But, on the other, the volume is so high you have difficulty handling it successfully. So, where do you start?

How to manage customer support spikes without getting overwhelmed

How to manage customer support spikes

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Words by 5CA
Reading time 6 min

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

Letting spikes get on top of you isn’t good for anyone, and handling them can be stressful for your agents to the point of dissatisfaction. As a result, it can impact customers’ views of your business.

The good news is there are some practical ways to curb those challenges before they become serious.

What are customer service spikes?

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

However long they last, the excitement of such an upsoar can be quickly dampened by failing to keep on top of them. So while spikes are a key indicator that things are going well, you want the assurance you’ll be able to handle them as well as you always do.

For 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 see customer service spikes?

Perhaps you just released a new product, a patch for a game, or we’re hurtling toward Christmas again. A global pandemic may force people to stay at home, increasing how much time they spend with your product.

Let’s take a glance at the most likely reasons for a surge.

Holidays

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

New Releases

Most people want the next big thing, from fashion and beauty to tech. While that’s especially true in entertainment, you can see spikes during 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 and generate substantial viewer numbers, sometimes leading to increased product interest. For example, if a Twitch streamer uses 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. However, we’ve also worked hard to ensure the operations we have in place make for a much easier time. 

Customers don’t care about the pressure you’re facing; they shouldn’t have to. They’re entitled to the best quality support if they’ve bought your product or service. Great customer experience comes when customers feel listened to and appreciated, but great CX is much easier to provide when spikes occur if 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. So ensuring support is well-equipped with structured timelines and clear deliverables means less need for compromise. 

With preparation, you’re privy to extra time those less prepared might not have. And 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, you should plan your staffing solutions while keeping them flexible. Operations directors Nuno da Costa and Gerardo Bono have some solid staffing advice to share.

For Nuno, staffing is all about support. 5CA focuses on simplifying processes while 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. Because higher volumes mean relying more on manual work than you would have previously, 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 vast when it comes to spikes in calls and queries. But, if you’re not careful, it 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. Therefore, 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 to handle a sudden volume increase. Gerardo Bono says that, in typical situations, you have the time to rely on peer-to-peer knowledge, but it’s much more challenging with spikes.

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 need help handling a spike in calls, why not outsource? While there’s nothing wrong with doing everything yourself, stress destroys productivity. By outsourcing your customer support, you have more time to grow your business. Those extra hours give you more energy to 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 and 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—expected and unexpected—are part of the game. If you see 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 user base.

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

At 5CA, we’ve jumped in to help many brands handle unexpected spikes. So why not see our work 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

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