One hundred and seventy-six. Do you know what that number is? Take a deep breath. It’s the number of days between now and Christmas.
While that idea might bring a twinkle to the eyes of little children, it can make customer service managers a bit anxious. In businesses that have just begun building out their customer service organization, they may be fretting over how to adequately scale for the holiday rush. Of course, if you’re an experienced customer service lead, you know that you’ll be picking up the phone to call your favorite staffing agency in the very near future.
Either way, there’s preparation to be done over the next couple of weeks. Tackle these five areas to make sure that your seasonal call center employees have a smooth transition. After all, the more seamless it is for them, the better job they’ll do, and the higher your satisfaction rates will be.
Great service is about more than just resetting a password or answering a question.
1. Reimagine training
There’s a critical balance that you need to strike when building out your seasonal support team. You must ensure that they have enough skill to feel confident and to effectively help your customers, but you don’t want to invest weeks of time and money into helping them learn all of the ins and outs of your organization.
This is where documentation comes in. Whether you store your processes and frequently-asked-questions in an integrated knowledge management system or a dusty old 3-ring binder, spend time now to go through all pertinent help documentation. Make sure that it is clear and up-to-date. Enlist your current team and ask that they comment with tips and tricks that have helped them resolve problems.
Then, when your seasonal team begins, use some of your training time to make sure everyone knows how and where to find the information they might need.
2. Coordinate with HR
Whether you’ll be bringing in two people or 2,000 workers, new teammates mean extra work for the human resources team. Certainly, if you’ve had past experiences bringing in seasonal staff, review what worked and what didn’t with the HR team.
If the experience is new to you or your organization, spend time learning about:
- How the onboarding workflow might be different for seasonal workers vs. traditional staff
- What the legal requirements are related to seasonal workers
- How you should track and report on performance (After all, hopefully you’ll find some great employees who would love to stay on after the holiday rush.)
3. Clarify Responsibilities
Average handle time increases if someone doesn’t know what they are doing, so obviously, it’s important to avoid this. We talked about training and making sure that everyone knows how to use the internal self-service tools, but what else can you do to make sure that seasonal workers are able to handle inquiries swiftly?
Take a step back and rethink the way your team is organized. Veteran team members should be able to handle more complex or time consuming tasks far more easily than new employees who just walked through the door. Consider organizing your team so that simple repetitive requests are routed to the seasonal staff. Involved inquiries are automatically distributed to long-term team members. Just be sure to help seasonal staff members understand that it’s OK to escalate tickets: help them see that it’s actually the right thing to do in this case.
4. Reach out to last year’s team
This is an easy one, but don’t wait too long. If you’re lucky enough to have seasonal employees from years prior who fit the company culture and performed well, get in touch with them early in the season. Don’t wait for them to come to you. In fact, you may even consider incentivizing them to return. If they come back, they won’t need too much training; you’ll save the time and effort of hiring new people; and they’ll have peace of mind in knowing that they already have a position ready for them. It’s a win for everyone!
Certainly, you're hiring good people who will try to do the job correctly, but as the support team manager, you need to help them learn about quality customer service. You'll need to cheer for great service delivery.
5. Embrace your inner cheerleader
You know why great service matters. More than likely, your veteran employees do too. Great service is about more than just resetting a password or answering a question: it’s about building long-term positive relationships with your customers that set your brand apart and in turn benefit everyone within the company.
Seasonal workers may not instinctively have that knowledge or any real sense of connectedness to the company. They may not really understand why great service matters. Certainly, you’re hiring good people who will try to do the job correctly, but as the support team manager, you need to help them learn about quality customer service. You’ll need to cheer for great service delivery.
Start thinking now how you will do that. Can you put up motivational posters? Are there contests and incentives that you can run? Do you have words of wisdom, funny stories or clever activities that can take place during team meetings? What can you do to help make seasonal teammates feel more connected and appreciate the real value of delivering better-than-great service?
Phew. That’s a lot of work, and there are only a couple of weeks left to go. So take a step back and tackle some of these areas today. It’s sure to pay off as your wide-eyed new teammates walk through the door and the phones start chiming with holiday customer service requests.