The holiday shopping season has peaked and now the “return season” is in full swing, and that means it’s anything but business as usual for the retail industry and its contact centers.

The good news is that forecasted revenue is projected to be anywhere from $600 billion to $886 billion this holiday season. But with this shopping rush comes big challenges for your contact center.

Massive spikes in call volume and potential service interruptions can have a negative effect on your team’s morale, causing increased stress and absenteeism.

Rising Customer Expectations, Rising Challenges

Every year, consumer expectations change, and this year is no different. Some 60% of consumers say that they have higher expectations for customer service now than they did just one year ago.

These expectations are fueled by an aggressive growth in customers’ demand for consistent service in an omnichannel world. Customers expect outstanding service every time, in whatever channel they choose to communicate.

From the contact center’s perspective, this means more stress trying to balance and align resources to meet these expectations – which in most cases are not in sync with what was forecasted and planned. Unfortunately customers just don’t seem to follow our forecasts!

The Struggle is Real!

The truth is, no matter how much you prepare for the holiday season by recruiting, hiring and ramping up seasonal staff; modifying training materials to support that quick ramp-up; and establishing special escalation procedures for unhappy customers — things happen.

Maybe a surprise marketing promotion pops up (no matter how many times you met with them beforehand), or the seasonal agents you hired turn out to be weak links. Or, maybe inclement weather causes an unexpected outage or shipping issues cause an unexpected influx of calls.

When unexpected things happen, typically a bad customer experience follows. And when a bad experience happens, there can be a lot at stake in terms of your bottom line and your brand.

Each year, the cost to U.S. companies due to negative customer experiences is $41 billion – and some 95% of dissatisfied customers tell others about their bad experiences! (Studies show that Millennials – the next generation of power buyers – stay updated on their brands through social networks, where a bad review can spread quickly.)

On the one hand, you have highly dynamic customers who want self-service and the systems to support them. But on the other hand, most frontline operations are static and siloed, making it difficult for you to be truly responsive in real-time.

Willing with Intraday Automation

Intraday automation technology is a non-disruptive answer to how contact centers have traditionally operated, allowing you to create a real-time frontline workforce that can close the gap between customer expectations and the contact center’s ability to meet those expectations. That gap is expanding, and will continue to do so. This is because traditional approaches and technology on their own will not solve the problem. The customer has outgrown the business’ ability to keep up: they have moved on to leverage new technology and communicate at a much faster high-tech pace. The contact center industry is being left behind, and the result is the delivery of diminishingly bad customer experiences.

Intraday Automation works with your existing systems to trigger real-time workforce adjustments, while automating manual intraday workforce management processes. Business rules designed by the business run constantly in the background, and when conditions occur that you did not forecast or plan for, like spikes in call volumes or a specific call type, or spikes in a specific channel like chat; intraday automation uses these triggers to automatically realign the appropriate resources to immediately meet the new level of demand. Then intraday automation completes the process by making the necessary adjustments that are typically handled manually.

It is the contact center’s “high-tech” answer to your “high-tech” customers.

As a result, workforce management is put into a strategist role using pre-set business rules to drive real-time customer service and reduce costs at the same time.

So, is it time to rethink your operations?