If the holiday season is the most financially significant time of year for your company, then it’s also the busiest time for customer interactions in your contact center. Whether customers come to you for the first or tenth time, those interactions greatly affect their overall customer experience.
We all know the best way to create a positive experience for customers is to make sure you have the right agent, on the right call, handling the right questions. But how do you accomplish this feat consistently and systematically during your busiest time of year?
Advance planning is key. While it might seem crazy to the rest of the world to start thinking about the winter holidays in August, for example, planning early for the seasonal staffing process is a critical starting point for a successful holiday season.
In fact, contact centers—especially those in retail, travel and logistics—start planning the hiring and training of seasonal agents for the next holiday season as soon as the current one passes. For retailers who need to be ready for Black Friday in November, that could mean starting their planning as early as May; for insurance companies with end-of-year open enrollment deadlines, it could mean beginning to plan for seasonal staffing in August.
Regardless of the exact timing, it’s critical to allow sufficient time to hire and train seasonal agents before they go live in your contact center. Even though they’ll only be with you for a season, those agents still need to be ready to provide the superior customer service levels your customers expect.
But what if your focus has been on other priorities, and you just now are starting to think about staffing up for the upcoming busy season? It might take a little bit of creativity to find and hire top talent since competition for the best agents will be fierce, and many may already have been hired by other companies.
But it’s not impossible. There are ways to recruit enough high caliber agents to handle your seasonal call volume if you’re just starting now.
Here are three key strategies you can use to expand your seasonal staffing talent pool while maintaining your high standards for customer satisfaction.
A lot of talented people pick up part-time work during summers or as the end of the year approaches, so many companies tap into this talent source to help fill seasonal staffing needs.
For instance, you could contract retirees and stay-at-home moms who have school-aged kids—those interested in making extra money via temporary jobs—to assist your busy call center during holiday seasons throughout the year. Or hire college kids home for the summer or holiday season.
Also consider reaching out to great, former agents who may have moved on to new opportunities. They have the advantage of already knowing how your contact center works and likely will require less onboarding than completely new agents.
Like most people, agents value time with their family and friends around the holiday season. Expanding your flexible scheduling options—even if only temporarily—may attract candidates who previously thought their schedule was simply too hectic for such an opportunity.
Plus, if you can give your existing agents more flexibility, you might find you don’t need to recruit and train as many seasonal agents to begin with. That’s because giving your existing agents the power to choose additional flexibility perks—whether it be additional time off or extra hours during the holiday season—can positively impact and increase their engagement level, and in turn lower absenteeism and increase adherence levels. They’ll work more hours, decreasing the number of hours you need filled by temporary, seasonal workers.
I know what you’re thinking at this point: trying to satisfy everyone’s requirements and preferences can make contact center shift scheduling and planning a nightmare for workforce management (WFM) professionals—complicating these already complex tasks with additional seasonal support staff and the pressures that come with the busiest time of year don’t make those tasks any easier.
The good news is that having the right set of WFM scheduling tools can help alleviate these pain points for you while maintaining the power of choice for agents. For example:
Working from home is growing in popularity, emerging as a competitive option modern contact centers must explore. Permitting employees to work where they want—instead of at a central location that limits options for part-time employment and often doesn’t consider those with physical limitations, child care issues, poor commuting options or pre-existing commitments—dramatically expands your talent pool beyond your physical location and increases your hiring flexibility. For instance, you seamlessly can staff up for high seasonal call volumes and dial back during slower periods, all without space concerns.
As an added bonus, if you have a cloud-based contact center, it’s easy to start offering work-from-home options for both permanent and seasonal agents. Your current top performers could even help you trial the initial set up, which would lessen the challenge of training new agents on your process while also working through any initial set up kinks. Plus, offering the new work-from-home flexibility as a reward or incentive could help raise the morale of your existing agents.
And if your contact center software is hosted on-premises, you still can offer agents the option to work from home without having to switch over your entire contact center to a cloud-based environment. Calabrio ONE, for example, can run as a hybrid deployment that lets you enjoy the benefits of both environments, such as on-premises control of your servers and systems plus weekly application updates and infinite scalability.
In conclusion, it’s no secret today’s agents want flexibility and freedom in their jobs. The more options you can give them for working in your contact center, the wider the talent pool you’ll be able to tap for recruiting purposes, and the more attractive your jobs will appear compared to the competition. All of these elements can ease the stress and pressures of staffing your contact center for a busy holiday season, and let you instead focus on delivering a superior customer experience at all times of the year.
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