It’s the time of the year when contact centers are increasing their efforts to boost agent commitment, engagement and motivation in order to stay ahead of the holiday rush – where interaction volumes often peak. In 2021, it is of even greater importance to be mindful of pre-emptively managing contact center agent stress and motivation as we experience large numbers of employees willingly leaving their jobs. In fact, 4 million workers quit their jobs in July 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Don’t let your contact center be this statistic, especially when you need your resources the most.
Let’s explore 3 ways contact center managers and organizations can better support their agents through the holiday rush.
1. Focus on what really matters and reduce metrics collected merely for the sake of data collection
We all know that data-driven decisions produce optimal outcomes. For example, it is good practice to analyze your historical data before the start of the upcoming holiday season to pre-determine interaction volumes to optimally manage and prepare your workforce. With so many rich insights to be collected, many contact centers lose sight of what is important and collect data just for the sake of collecting data. Instead, they should be focusing on high-priority actionable data that add value to their operations.
To better support your agents over the holiday rush, you need to measure and analyze data that really matters and that has a real impact on how each agent works. With the rise in use of AI-enabled self-service tools, contact centers can push these tools as a primary means of communication, automating mundane or simple customer tasks freeing agent time for higher-value opportunities – and minimizing stress.
2. Encourage agent work/life balance to avoid burnout or attrition
We all talk about work/life balance, but very few companies actually enforce it in their daily operations. With the impending rise of interaction volumes, it is understandable that some contact centers would think it counterintuitive to preach work/life balance at this time. And yet, it is the exact ideal time to ensure that your agents find the right balance so that they can handle the stress and pressure coming their way.
Flextime is a good way to provide agents with flexibility in their work schedules. When faced with high customer demand, contact centers may require that their agents work extended hours. Instead of enforcing mandatory hours, with flextime, agents are given a set of specific days or times within the day where they can elect to add to their work regular schedule. This provides agents with greater flexibility and satisfaction while ensuring that the contact center meets the expected interaction volumes.
Under the right circumstances, contact centers can also allow their agents to pre-book their holidays in advance so they can better organize their personal lives.
It is also becoming more important to provide agents (and their managers) with wellness programs throughout the year that help them better manage stressful situations in and out of the cubicle. These employee health and employee assistance programs can play a critical role in improving the agent’s work/life balance, reducing sick days and attrition.
3. Encourage agent collaboration for happier, healthier and more productive employees
It’s a fact. Employees that work and collaborate together are happier people. They feel more connected to the company and its mission. And, they’re less likely to experience burnout.
With everyone still working remotely (well, almost everyone…) it can be difficult to feel part of a team and part of a larger organization working to support common goals. With collaboration tools embedded in many unified communications and contact center solutions, contact center agents have the means to connect with their manager and team instantly throughout the day. These virtual communication tools lessen the feeling of isolation and serve to strengthen team spirit.
Contact centers can also take an active role in encouraging employee collaboration by sharing best practices, promoting lunch and learn events, peer mentoring and agent-to-agent employee improvement training. These touchpoints provide a sense of community while connecting, learning and growing together.
By cultivating a more collaborative work environment, contact centers can minimize agent isolation and burnout during high-volume periods.
It’s not too late to set in place a plan to counter the holiday rush
Managers can take proactive steps to support their agents as we head into the holiday craze. Make it the year where your agents feel recognized, supported and motivated. It’s even more critical for agents working at home or across remote locations where the solitude can eat away at their confidence and resolve. With a solid plan in place, you can counter any stress or anxiety they may face at the growing number of calls and customer interactions headed their way.
It’s also good to remember, that it is a festive season. Encourage your agents to connect with one another in person if possible or through Zoom holiday parties. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enjoyable. Schedule regular virtual coffee breaks or a virtual holiday lunch with your team where the emphasis is on motivational fun and well-being.
Lastly, take the time to recognize specific agents for their work, especially those who excel during peak volumes or who work over the holiday period instead of being with the families. Small rewards and acknowledgements for customer service excellence or completing the highest number of interactions during this time not only boost agent morale but also boosts the entire organization.
Here’s to an eventful and memorable holiday season!