The holidays are an exciting time for everyone, especially for consumers. It’s the time when people tend to spend more than the rest of the year, and with that spending means more business for companies. A lot more. And that means a lot more work for contact centers.
The unfortunate reality is that you can’t take customer concerns if your employees are not around. Without being present and in the seats handling concerns, you’re not going to have lighting-fast AHT (Average Handling Time), impeccable quality or any sort of customer satisfaction.
That is why absenteeism is the single most important metric for contact centers. When compounded by the fact that most contact centers are staffed to capacity to handle the large influx of incoming calls, emails and other concerns, absenteeism just becomes the number one priority for any leader in the business.
Ensure Adequate Staffing
This is why a good workforce department is crucial in any contact center. Good absenteeism rate always begins with proper staffing. There should be enough agents to field the amount of work the center receives. It’s the job of the workforce to accurately forecast volume and give staffing requirements to HR and Operations. Failure to do so can cause a center to be understaffed, resulting in the high-pressure environments that nobody wants to work in.
The holidays are the busiest time of the year, and workforce should take into consideration that the holidays have higher staffing needs, so more hiring should be going on to bulk up the agent body moving into the holidays.
Give Them Vacation Time
Even though the holidays are usually the height of business for most service industries, it is more important than ever to actually allot time for your people to be on leave. People want to be home for the holidays. They want to spend time with their families. If you give them time off, it makes it less likely for them to force skip work.
Create a rotating schedule where everyone will have a chance to be on leave during the holidays.
Since New Year’s and Christmas are close together, you always need people available at all times. One good strategy is to give a compromise. Some people get to be off on New Year’s, the others on Christmas. They cover each other while the other is on vacation.
You can have rules in place for this throughout the year, let agents who have the best performance have the first pick of which days they will be on vacation. This also serves as an incentive to do well throughout the year.
Brace Your Agents for the Holiday Rush
Your marketing department probably sent out lots of vouchers, coupons, discounts and other promos for the holiday season. People during this time are extremely frantic and busy, getting their shopping lists done and preparing the Christmas dinner.
It’s not your agent’s fault that the holidays are like this, but it is your responsibility to make sure they have the knowledge and resources on-hand to deal with the rush. Make sure that agents are armed with documents for reference on your promotions and train them in advance so they know how to deal with new questions as quickly as possible.
Have Business Continuity Plans in Place
Finally, operations need contingency plans in case problems happen. Business continuity means that your center is agile enough to keep normal operations even in the event of major disasters like an earthquake or a typhoon shutting off your operations. Not all contact center and businesses need to go all the way, but everyone needs a plan in case half your agents suddenly don’t show up or if the amount of volume that comes in exceeds forecast expectations.
These plans can include cross-training agents in different departments to pick up the slack or having several sites available in case one office site has any problems. During the holidays, volume is expected to increase dramatically, so staffing requirements and contingency plans should take all of this into consideration.
The holidays are supposed to be the most enjoyable time of the year, but they can also be the most stressful. As contact center professionals, it’s your duty and responsibility to make the customer experience as seamless as possible for customers.