Preparing for a 50% increase in call centre calls during peak periods

call centre staffing
call centre staffing

Company Overview

This well-established leading British retailer is recognised for its high quality, own-brand products, bringing great value food, clothing and homeware to millions of customers in the UK and worldwide. With a unique heritage, communicating the company’s core values appropriately and maintaining quality customer service is at the heart of the company’s brand.

Blue Arrow has worked with the retailer over a number of years, managing the company’s call centre services on an outsourced basis on behalf of a global consulting, digital services and software business. Connecting with customers is a key factor in the retailer’s reputation, built over many years.

“We expected to work hard, but the constantly changing environment was a massive test and I was thrilled that Blue Arrow rose to the challenge and delivered such a successful Christmas peak.”

- Blue Arrow Account Manager

The Challenge

A significant percentage of the retailer’s business is online, with just over 50% of the clothing and home sales completed digitally. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of online ordering, especially for groceries, leading to a 34% surge in digital sales in early 2020, a trend which was forecast to continue up to and including the Christmas 2020 peak period.

As part of its forward planning, the retailer approached the resident Blue Arrow Account Management team during August 2020 to assist in the recruitment of 241 temporary call centre staff to support the additional service demand expected during the Christmas season.

A switch from call-centre based staff to remote working from home posed extra challenges for recruitment, with the need to attract staff not only with relevant customer experience but with the confidence to work remotely without in-office support. Equally vital was to find workers able to serve as brand ambassadors, capable of connecting with retail customers to maintain the company’s service ethos.

call centre staffing

The Journey

Staffing requirements fluctuated weekly, with a sharp increase as the supply chain adapted to the move to online shopping. Through daily and weekly reporting, with intelligence-led recommendations, the Account Team was able to proactively deliver a fast response that gave the client a clear competitive advantage in securing the best available talent, while meeting target employee numbers.

The unexpected nature of demand meant recruiters had to extend the candidate search outside those with retail experience to fulfil staffing requirements. With a local network of catering and hospitality employees unable to work due to the pandemic, recruiters were able to identify suitable candidates in its database through auto-matching. Building on existing customer service experience, the new employees were retrained as call centre operatives.

call centre staffing

The Solution

As an established recruitment partner with over eight years’ experience across a range of call centre requirements, our staffing specialists were able to call upon a local pool of candidates and jobseekers.

The existing Account Manager put together a dedicated team of recruitment consultants to identify suitable candidates and to handle the selection, interviewing and onboarding process.

The team constructed a multi-channel campaign to attract potential employees. As well as database marketing, the recruitment team reached out to their network of Jobcentre Plus contacts and promoted the vacancies through social media and local retail outlets. Interviewers used a range of question techniques to assess candidate resilience to remote working conditions including the ability to be proactive and represent the brand.

Blue Arrow’s technology platform including its automated talent-matching capability, enabled swift targeting of likely prospects and remote processing of candidate applications and contract completion. This ensured staff were in place and ready to go in time for the peak trading period.

Intelligence recorded via the applicant tracking system, highlighted the attraction of remote working for applicants, compared to an office-based role. Based on these findings, Blue Arrow undertook further consultation with the retailer to develop a potential hybrid-working solution to satisfy candidates’ expectancy for increased flexibility in the future.

call centre staffing

The Results

The 2020 Christmas peak demand significantly exceeded original expectations. General Merchandise and Food related queries and calls to the call centre increased by 50% compared to the previous Christmas and orders placed online were up 42% on the 2019 peak period. The shift in customers from in-store to online ordering generated a greater need for additional call centre staff with a total of 335 employees placed, an increase of 40% on the initial requirement. The successful scheduling and management of the candidate attraction campaign ensured all recruitment and onboarding was completed in time for this traditionally busy period.

Nearly 2,000 call centre shifts were filled weekly, helping over one and half million customers prepare for their ‘Lockdown Christmas’.

“Being able to draw on an established network of candidates, using database matching plus intelligent interview techniques was crucial in meeting recruitment targets and ensuring the best possible match for the client.”

- Blue Arrow Account Manager

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