There are many ways that contact centers can optimize their workforce utilization during the summer months while providing the same exceptional customer service year-round. Here are some helpful contact center summer efficiency reminders to help you keep your cool during the vacation period:
1. Plan and schedule vacations in advance
Time is of the essence, as we discussed in our blog Six ways to ease the pain of scheduling and managing vacation planning for your agents with the need to plan vacations well in advance with clear policies in place. This will give contact center managers the time to make the necessary adjustments to the workforce schedule by ensuring that coverage is maintained throughout the summer months. No surprises here!
Another inventive idea is to get creative – offer incentives for highly trained and high-performing agents to take their vacations during off-peak periods. One way to help offset the impact of vacation time is by incentivizing agents to take their vacation during times when contact volume is typically lower. This could be done through a points system where agents can redeem their points for vacation time during off-peak periods.
2. Plan for change at all times
As a contact center manager, you’re always on your toes adapting to change, so it’s important to consider and forecast how your customer service needs will change over the summer months. Perhaps you’re considering onboarding additional permanent or temporary agents to manage the rise in customer interaction demand or shortage in agent staff. This means you’ll need adequate time to properly train your new agents before they’ll be ready to pilot solo interactions.
Communication, communication, communication. This can’t be stressed enough. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open between contact center leadership, managers and agents at all times. From providing regular updates on contact center performance goals to forecasting contact volume changes – make sure everyone is in the loop and knows what’s expected of them.
3. Outsourcing expertise during peak demand
When temporary agent support is too costly or not a viable option, it may be best to engage with a reputable contact center outsourcer that has the agent staff, capabilities, and experience to pick-up your extra customer service requirements. This can not only lighten the load of your remaining working agents, it also eliminates the need for lengthy (and costly) training, employment contracts and all the necessary HR related tasks that goes with hiring new staff – even seasonal staff. You can quickly and cost effectively get the contact center support you need without any additional headaches.
4. More customer self-service options
We’ve been talking about customer self-service options for a while now. When implemented correctly at the exact moment needed, providing customers with self-service options can be a welcomed option that not only improves the customer experience, but also reduces customer call volumes. Customers may be more likely to use contact center self-service options when they know that wait times may be longer than usual due to vacationing agents. Make sure your contact center’s self-service options are tested, up-to-date and easy to use. Then promote these options to your customers through your company’s website and social media channels.
5. Cross-functional training for all
Where contact center managers may typically have a team of agents that specialize in sales, customer service, billing, technical support, etc. – it may be beneficial to have these agents cross-train on various contact center functions. This way if an agent is out on vacation, there’s another agent who can quickly step in and provide coverage without any disruptions to the contact center or the customer service experience. Throughout the year, and well before the summer months start, find opportunities to cross-function train your agents to help support vacation coverage. This will provide “extra padding” and a renewed sense of comfort knowing that your contact center has a deep bench of talent to help manage contact center operations when your top-performing agents or agents with specific skill sets are out.
No matter how you choose to staff your contact center this summer, make sure you have a plan in place that will help to keep things running smoothly while some of your agents are out of the office and on a beach recharging their batteries. In the end, it all comes down to implementing innovative workforce management (WFM) practices applied throughout the year and not just during peak demand or peak vacation periods. By being proactive and taking a customer-centric approach to contact center operations, you’ll be in a much better position to deliver continuous customer service excellence – no matter what time of year it is.
Remember – there’s no need to dread the summer months. With some planning and effort, you can deliver continuous customer service excellence all season long.
What other contact center efficiencies are you implementing this summer to help manage vacationing agent staff and meet customer demand? Share your thoughts with us.
Here’s to the summer heat, margaritas and vacations!