How to prepare your contact center for the holidays

How are you preparing for the holidays? If you’re like most people in the United States, you’ve been shopping for Christmas gifts, planning dishes for the family meal, and arranging your travel plans. Just one of those tasks can be daunting and stressful… not to mention trying to juggle all three at once. 

When you’re frustrated by the gifts you ordered not arriving on time, or by your flight getting delayed to due to weather, the first thing you might do is reach out to a customer service agent for help. Hopefully they can resolve your issue, or at least soothe your concerns, so that you can move on to actually enjoying the holiday that you’ve been planning.

This year, after you end your conversation with customer service, consider how that agent is spending their holiday. And on another level, their manager, whose job is to ensure that agents are available to help you the moment you pick up the phone, even on a national holiday. We spoke with the Director of our award-winning support team, Frank Roberts, to learn how he handles the busy holiday period each year.

Frank, what are your secret weapons for maintaining a strong team throughout the holidays? 

I find it’s really useful to generate Activity Reports for the same period over past years, to help me determine how much call, chat, and email volume we should anticipate for this year. Plotting out our expected volume is the most reliable way for me to ensure that I have sufficient staffing resources. For a little more certainty, I’ll pull up our Agent View for past holidays to verify the number of agents we had staffing our call center, and then check the Status View to see how the team actually performed on those days. To get even more granular with my information gathering, I can switch to the Hour View to map out our team’s performance on an hour-by-hour basis. 

After I’ve planned out our staffing, I can use a Smart Router to set up a specific call route for the day of our planned holiday. This is a result of a recent update to our platform, which enables us to build alternative holiday routing for a specific date without having to make changes to the everyday system. It’s pretty easy to build simple rules to ensure our callers are routed properly on holidays, and even better that we can get everything set up in advance.

We’ll usually also set up a special voice menu for the holiday, so that callers can hear the most up-to-date information, and quickly be directed to the best resource for their particular issue.

Have you ever made a mistake in the way you prepared staffing for the holidays? How did you learn from it?

Having managed contact centers for over two decades, I’ve had just about every possible staffing situation presented to me. Looking back, my biggest challenge happened when I had set the holiday schedule for minimum coverage levels, and some of the agents who were scheduled to work became ill. Knowing that the agents scheduled off had unbreakable plans, I had to engage members of other teams within our organization to answer live calls and chats. Unfortunately, some of those team members were not prepared to answer our customer’s questions.

Since then, I try to maintain a healthy amount of coverage over holidays, rather than settle for the minimum. Here at CallTrackingMetrics, we also ensure that our staff as a whole maintain a decent understanding of our live technical support process, just in case they are required to assist our support team in a crisis. All of our staff are trained to use our platform, but we also ensure they have access to the best knowledge base and technical resources. This way, no matter what situation we’re in, our staff can respond promptly to customer inquiries while providing sound technical solutions.

Any advice for a contact center manager who is preparing to run their office through the holidays?

Expect the unexpected! Life happens! It’s a contact center manager’s job to imagine all of the possible pitfalls and calamities that could be experienced during the holidays. Being prepared for the unexpected will keep customers satisfied during challenging times.

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