By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I’ve never seen an answering service that didn’t have seasonal traffic fluctuations. Most experience an increase in the summer months. This is likely a result of vacations at their clients’ offices and those clients using the answering service more. Or maybe they are on summer hours or more of their customers call after hours – such as for A/C problems. Whatever the reason, the result is more calls into the TAS and increased billing during the dog days of summer: July and August.
This also means a corresponding jump in payroll to handle the extra calls. (If traffic increases and you don’t need to add hours to your schedule, then you were overstaffed to begin with.) The key to appropriately adjusting the schedule is anticipating the need to add hours or staff in advance, not reacting to the changed traffic afterwards. When reacting, the ideal schedule typically lags the actual need by a week or two – or even more. This happens both when ramping up to meet increased demand and scaling back in response to decreased traffic. On the frontend this causes understaffing and results in a drop in service quality. On the backend this causes overstaffing and a drop in profitability. That’s another reason why we might dread the dog days of summer.
Seasoned managers and schedulers can tap into their experience of past summers and intuitively make the right adjustments at the right time. This is an art. Short of having this ability, or to be even more precise, workforce management (WFM) tools can supplement the art of scheduling with the science of scheduling.
Either way, the schedule moves with traffic changes and the billing tracks with labor costs. Service levels remain consistent and clients have no added reason to complain. Then the dog days of summer aren’t so bad after all.
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.