Best Practices for Future Seasonal Customer Support Hiring
Right now, contact centers across the world are busy assessing the fallout from the seasonal holiday rush: did they get it right, or did they have catastrophes? Was it somewhere in the middle? What would they have done differently, and what did they do right? Did they have gaps in their call center scheduling?
For many retailers, the seasonal rush isn’t quite done yet, since there’s the busy returns season to worry about. Other companies don’t see a seasonal rush at the winter holidays, but instead find their busiest season at other times of year, in spring or summer. Whatever your business is, chances are there’s a peak period when demand get high and it’s necessary to take on part-time staff or outsource some customer support to third parties. Call center scheduling is critical to get right during these periods.
Many companies find they make mistakes in the seasonal hiring process. Learning from those mistakes is important to eliminate the headaches when the next peak season arrives. The UK’s CallCentreHelper recently operations heads of two busy contact centers to gain some insight into best practices for seasonal hiring.
Linda Davis, Head of Operations at AllClear Insurance Services, told CallCentreHelper that companies should start early for seasonal hiring.
“Our contact center is made up of four departments, all of which have their peak months at the same time,” she said. “Our January call volumes increase around 240 percent above December’s, so we historically begin our recruitment campaigns early in October. Our summer recruitment normally starts in May as the call volume increase is not as significant.”
Not leaving enough time to engage in seasonal hiring is rookie mistake, agreed Stu Booy, Head of Contact Centers for Monarch Travel Group.
“We start planning the recruitment about three months out, coordinating with the necessary internal departments like L&D, HR and IT,” he said. “Usually we would hope to advertise a position with at least a couple of months to spare, although this is fluid depending on the need and numbers required.”
Companies with strong seasonal needs should ensure that extra agents aren’t just hired by the time the seasonal rush starts, but also trained and with some experience under their belt. Seasonal rushes are an opportunity to attract new customers, so putting rookies with minimal experience into customer support positions isn’t a great idea. Do you really want someone who is calling to buy a gift who could potentially become a loyal customer to meet with your newest and most untrained agent?
Another mistake experts say companies mistake is to not hire enough people. It’s important to take into consideration that there may be attrition between the time seasonal agents are first recruited and the busy season itself. Make sure you are training enough newcomers to take those places.
Finally, companies need to make sure they’re looking in the right place for seasonal workers. Certain types of people may be more open to temporary work, such as active seniors or college students, or those just returning to the job market.
“We find people returning to work after a period away from employment are more likely to accept seasonal positions, such as parents after time off bringing up children, or those who’ve been travelling or living abroad,” Booy told CallCentreHelper. “The short-term nature of seasonal roles gives them the chance to get back into work, without feeling that they’re tied into the first job that they find.”
Edited by Maurice Nagle