The 2022 Holiday Season Customer Service Staffing: Keep the Agents You Have

Image of holiday season customer service staffing overwhelm with Santa under a pile of packages

The 2022 Holiday Season Customer Service Staffing: Keep the Agents You Have

You just got through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. How did your customer service team do?  Entering the momentum of the holiday season 2022, customer service is still facing labor shortages. Research released in November found 45% of businesses are having trouble staffing contact center and back office roles. For 2022 holiday season customer service staffing it’s critical to keep the agents you have during your most profitable season.  

Holiday Season Customer Service Staffing #1: Keep The Agents You Have

The holidays are one of the worst times to be understaffed. First off, value the agents you do have so they want to stay. Happy employees benefit your customers and are a key component to onboarding new hires. 

Treat agents with empathy as you wish them to treat your customers. If this past holiday weekend buying frenzy has stressed your people out, at least acknowledge it. Let them know that you are aware of the challenges they face and compliment them when they handle them well. 

In turn, support them both in dealing with the challenges and even when they don’t handle them well. Allow calls to be escalated to a manager when they exceed your agents’ ability to solve the issue or manage the customer. Also give the agents who are struggling solid ways they can improve without shaming them.

For more ideas on how to show your agents appreciation this holiday, check out our article from last week, “Thanksgiving: 10 Ways to Say Thanks to Your Customer Service Agents”. This includes low cost and no cost ways to show your appreciation to keep your agents.

Use Tools to Support Agents During High Volumes of Interactions

If you haven’t assessed your agent tools or workflows in a while, this holiday season is a good time to make note of what needs improvement. Your agents can help you with this as they are the ones using them every day. Give your agents a way to provide feedback. Example: a simple in-house survey that allows agents to indicate the tools or processes that cause them the most frustration or time drain, and suggestions they have to improve them. Like with customer feedback, you can spot the most frequent issues and aim to address them first. 

Changes that involve extensive work are better saved for after the holiday season, like installing new hardware systems or integrating and updating legacy software. However, other suggestions and technologies can be implemented quickly and easily making the rest of the season smoother. 

Integrated tools that streamline workflows and provide your agents support can ease pressures. Real-time solutions like CSAT.AI assist agents during interactions. Agents can see how they are performing, receive encouraging prompts when they are doing well, reminder prompts to keep them on track and alerts to notify them when they’ve missed something. Agents who double as part of your QA team benefit from such a solution that automates QA analysis too.

Use Automation but Don’t Lose the Human Touch

If you haven’t yet put automation tools in place, consider it. Automation can bridge the gap of staffing shortages when used wisely. Apple has used this well with their automated phone assistant. The assistant sounds like a real person (complete with keyboard typing sounds), but doesn’t pretend to be one. It asks the caller to say what they are calling about. Then it tells the customer in its own words what it thinks the customer is calling about, and asks if it’s correct. If it can’t address the problem itself it transfers the caller to an agent, all with polite affability. The agent is then provided with the customer issue and customer details, which reduces the time they need to get that data.

Not all automated options involve adopting new technology. Your website and FAQ can go a long way to providing your customers self-service ultimately reducing your agent load. Make sure these are up to date, easy for customers to find and offer solutions to the most common, simple issues your customers have. 

Schedule Smart

Know who your top performers are and as much as possible schedule them with mid and lower performers. Their knowledge is valuable and they can inspire other agents to perform better, especially when you publicly acknowledge their achievements.  Remember to praise improvements from mid and low performers also. Recognition is a powerful motivator.

Your agents have lives too. Schedule with respect for their needs whether family, medical, religious or otherwise wherever you can. Showing your people you value them makes them more invested and improves performance.

If you’ve been collecting data on your business, you have access to insight into your agents’ strengths. When you look at metrics, notice performance patterns.  What time of day are your agents at peak performance? Which agents have stellar first contact resolution scores? Which agents are adept at complex solutions? Use this information to schedule smartly.

If you can’t hire more staff to cover your holiday season customer service staffing, ask your agents if they want additional hours. Some may be happy to have the extra income and you will both benefit.

Asking your agents for their preferences, and honoring those preferences as you are able, gives your people agency.  As Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit : Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”  writes:  “Simply giving employees a sense of agency- a feeling that they are in control, that they have genuine decision-making authority – can radically increase how much energy and focus they bring to their jobs.” …and help you keep the agents you have.