By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
As we move into a warmer season, many telephone answering services experience increased call traffic during the summer months. But this bump in incoming calls is dwarfed by what many services experience at year’s end with the build-up to Christmas.
Although we know these seasonal fluctuations in traffic will happen, it’s still challenging to make the appropriate staffing adjustments at the right time. Even knowing what will occur, many answering services struggle to hire and train enough new staff to be ready to take calls when these traffic increases materialize.
The result is being understaffed, which has two notable side effects. One is that staff is extra busy, and the quality of service suffers, resulting in more complaints and unnecessary cancellations. The other outcome is increased revenue that isn’t fully offset by increased labor costs, which results in increased profits. The effect of ramping up too slowly is both good and bad news: a welcome boost to income coupled with an unfortunate hit to customer service.
The opposite occurs as these seasons of high traffic wind down. If we fail to properly anticipate call traffic downturns, the result is being overstaffed. This serves to boost the quality of service provided to clients, which disproportionately keeps expenses high at a time when revenue decreases. Here the outcome is the opposite of the ramp-up period. This time service improves while revenue and income falter.
While these seasonal fluctuations catch new scheduling managers off guard, despite warnings to prepare, even seasoned professionals often fail to react fast enough. Of course, there’s always the concern of ramping up staff and not needing them as we move into times of anticipated traffic increases, as well as scaling back staff but still needing them when we expect to exit the season of higher call volume.
What’s the solution?
When headed into expected times of high traffic, the best recommendation is to start hiring and training sooner than we think we need to. Conversely, begin scaling back staffing schedules when the anticipated season of higher traffic is expected to end, not when the first signs of a decrease occur. If we wait for tangible evidence that call traffic is trending down, it’s already too late to react in time.
As we say, there’s never a dull moment in the TAS industry. Adjusting to seasonal traffic fluctuations is one reason.
I hope you have a great summer.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.