Depending on the industry, contact centers experience peak loads during certain key times of the year. For instance, in the U.S. we have an open enrollment period associated with insurance changes, typically the latter months of the year into January. During this time, insurance industry contact centers handle 10 to 20 times their average traffic on a given day.
Look at an interesting case study of one company's journey through Black Friday.
In retail industries, the peak is typically associated with Black Friday. Valentine's Day & Mother's Day represent peaks for purveyors of flowers and chocolate. Peak load for the utilities occurs during hurricane season for the southeast and northeast and during tornado season for the heartland. The potential for catastrophic weather means that people in these areas will likely have to deal with their utility and insurance companies. Prior to these events, a load test against the environment should be performed to ensure that the increased traffic will not cause any issues.
Harmless-Looking Changes Aren't Always Harmless
In a complex technology environment, there are regular updates to applications and occasional tweaks to underlying infrastructure over the course of a year. Changes to routers, components, and service data might not appear to adversely impact contact center capacity for traffic at 20% or 10% of peak. However, once traffic reaches peak and the peak load extends over a longer period of time instead of only a few minutes, the underlying network infrastructure and contact center technology can become seriously and significantly stressed.
Stress Testing Improves the Customer Experience
It's important to find those issues buried deep in the environment that will adversely impact the customer experience delivered by the contact center during peak traffic. Contact center stress testing as part of the peak-load planning process will help to identify and deal with any of those situations. The service data can be corrected if additional network capacity is required to handle the added load. Perhaps the updates that were applied to the system didn't make it to all copies of functionality that are distributed throughout the network and data processing environment. All those potential issues can be uncovered and corrected ahead of time through using a tool like StressTest™.
Changes Require Functional Testing
Ideally, you would want to perform a complete load test and functional test whenever a change is made within the environment. Self-service IVR systems and websites are very complicated and the 80/20 rule applies. It's common for 20% of the code to be exercised 80% of the time, but the other 20% also has to function as intended rather than just dropping the call or transferring out when a user performs an unexpected action. For instance, let's say the main menu asks users to press 1, 2, or 3, but the user presses another button or doesn't input anything at all. Most likely a reprompt is specified instead of a drop or transfer. Functional testing against the entire suite of possibilities is extremely important for this reason, especially whenever any element of the self-service IVR functionality changes.
For more about peak-load planning, read one company's case study describing 72 hours of Black Friday.