Heading out of the office this holiday to grab some eggnog and enjoy the lights? While so many of us are off celebrating the festive season for days at a time, there are scores of people on the frontlines working to keep everything running smoothly in industries ranging from health care, to transportation, to broadcasting to, yes, customer care.
Before we sign off for the holiday break, we want to give shouts to all the frontline agents and coaches holding it down for clients and customers in contact centers everywhere. And we want to specifically give a special shout out to our agents, including the amazing Phil M. at Blue Ocean. (Phil still holds the record for the longest perfect attendance streak at Blue Ocean and he’s on board to provide emergency roadside assistance to our client’s customers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He may not have a glowing red Rudolph nose, but he is a light in our offices this time of year.)
For our last post of the year, we are resharing this one from our archives. A reminder that the struggle to sustain morale when it’s holiday season in the contact center is real. Hopefully, you and your teams are already prepared and executing on spirit-boosting tactics. If not, this read might help set you up for a merry holiday peak in 2020.
See you back here in 2020 – ready to tackle a bright, shiny new decade!
If you’re offering unique holiday products, services, or sales, communication is key – and it should flow through every corner of your organization. Your contact center should be collaborating closely with your marketing, sales, and distribution teams, with real-time communication so your team can adjust accordingly. That may mean adding more muscle to your frontlines as they respond to problems originating in the warehouse, or perhaps doing on-demand training to help agents cope with holiday-specific issues. Any other changes – such as adjusted priorities or extended hours of operation – should likewise be communicated early and thoroughly.
The holidays can be stressful – and not just because of the retail madness, traveling frenzy, and family feuds. Life for your frontline agents will inevitably get stressful unless you’re frank and honest with them about how hard the seasonal spike will be. At Blue Ocean, we learned this one the hard way when we downplayed a forecasted spike for a large client, assuring concerned agents that they shouldn’t worry. Subsequently, they were unprepared for how tough it would be, and absenteeism went way up. The following year, we were honest, preparing the team appropriately. We helped them pull through, so absenteeism went down and we hit our grade of service despite the hardest six weeks of the year.
How will the holiday spike impact your SLA and KPIs? It may be that a reduced incident rate will be more important than a reduced average length of a phone call, so adjust your metrics as necessary. Likewise, tweaks to your outbound process might be helpful, with regular customers needing reminders or preparation regarding standing orders, delivering timing, and more.
Giving your teams a creative mission to embrace may help combat a low morale. For instance, crafting themes for your spikes like “Holiday Hell” or “Operation Save Christmas” can help rally your troops and create a culture of resilience. Furthermore, extra perks and little bonuses can do wonders in boosting enthusiasm this time of year. We live by the motto, “When something seriously sucks, put a t-shirt on it.” Several years ago, during the relentless Polar Vortex, we made t-shirts for our team saying “Winter Suffer Fest 2014. Bring it.” It empowered agents to see themselves as tough and capable, even on Code Red days when volume spiked higher than expected. And, of course, keeping your team fed with treats, holiday-themed meals, and pizza will always help keep morale high. Finally, gamification and creative incentive programs can motivate your agents when holiday demand reaches its peak. Keep them excited about the work they’re doing, and their positive attitude will reflect directly on your customer experience.