Heavy snow cancelled trains and shut airports, as Sky News reported, leaving holiday makers, commuters and business travellers uncertain about whether they would be impacted. Millions of home owners also suffered burst water pipes and damaged gas pipes, and retailers including eBay, Tesco and Sainsbury’s warned of disruption to deliveries.

Demand for customer services surged, as consumers put organisations under pressure to resolve heating issues, change or check up on travel arrangements or chase up deliveries.

Rising demand, falling agents

In such situations, it’s no surprise that contact centres have struggled with the rise in incoming enquiries, particularly as consumers look to contact them in real-time over the phone and on social media.

But the problems caused by a dramatic increase in enquiries have been significantly exacerbated by a similarly dramatic reduction in the number of contact centre staff that are available. At a time when customers need more agents, businesses are working with skeleton staff, as teams struggle to get into the office or contact centre.  

South Western Railway tweeted that ‘Due to a large volume of Tweets we may not be able to respond to all messages.” And Yale UK Support was not alone in its message on Twitter, highlighting that: “Due to weather conditions, we have a limited number of staff in the office.”

Some organisations have been proactive in flagging the issue — I received a text from my bank advising they had “fewer colleagues available to take calls” — while others have simply closed chat windows on their websites to channel customers to contact by email or phone.

Support from anywhere

It surprises me, in an age when businesses are focusing on cloud-first strategies, that customer services teams are so ill-prepared for the disruption that the snow has caused. Collaboration and communication tools are enabling flexible working and ‘work from anywhere’ approaches for workforces across the UK — and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t extend to the contact centre.

Agents shouldn’t need to be seated in the same room or even travel to a particular office or location to provide the front-line support that customers expect. Imagine if 50 agents could instantly grab their headset, turn on their laptop in their own home and automatically access all the tools and applications they need to answer tweets, hold live chat sessions, respond to emails and pick up calls.

The technologies are already available to empower businesses to create the ‘on-demand’ contact centre, enabling peaks can be managed effectively — whether they are anticipated or unexpected.

Many KCOM customers are already benefiting from the ability to extend the contact centre environment to the home. During peak times, customers can instantly access additional temporary teams through intelligent systems that integrate different pools of resource to deliver a consistent customer experience.

At KCOM, we understand how the right customer strategy can set your business apart from the competition, but we know that what’s right for one organisation isn’t necessary the best approach for another. Whatever the weather, you need a technology partner that understands your business and the preferences of your end users.

Find out more about how KCOM’s cloud contact centre offering can help your organisation manage the peaks and troughs of customer demand.


contact centre, Customer Service, Customer Experience, collaboration tools, cloud contact centre