It’s July, which means it’s half time of 2022. With two quarters down and two quarters to go, I think it’s safe to say that at some point this year, we’ve all felt uncertain about something, given the many challenges this past year has provided.
At the start of the year, most contact center leaders were scrambling to find talent and whenever I spoke with folks in the industry, it seemed like everyone talked about the “war for talent” and “the great resignation.” But as spring arrived and the second quarter started, many slowed their efforts to hire agents. In addition to the normal challenges of operating a business, companies have had the additional pressure of navigating the ripple effects of the supply chain shortage, inflation, talk of a recession, and an ongoing global conflict.
In our industry, volume follows ambiguity. This means that the more uncertain an environment, the more customer inquiries a contact center is likely to see and the more complex these interactions are likely to be. In my career, I’ve seen many downturns, along with triple digit growth, and nothing drives contact center volume the way uncertainty does.
That uncertainty can come in many ways. For example, when many airlines were forced to cancel or change flights due to staffing shortages, it wasn’t just the travelers who were impacted by the changes who drove chats, SMS messages, emails, and calls into the typical contact center. It included travelers who were concerned about their flights potentially getting canceled. Many travelers aren’t able to easily rebook an entire family vacation or get a refund online. Scenarios like these require personalized help and take time to resolve.
We don’t know the challenges – and opportunities – we’ll encounter before the end of 2022. But there are three ways contact center leaders can prepare their teams for a strong finish to the year, regardless of what the next six months may hold.
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Embrace Dynamic Staffing
The “one and done” staffing approach is, well, done. After all, how could a static plan created in the fall of 2021 ensure your team was adequately staffed for the first six months of this year? How do you know if that same plan can accommodate the likely increase in volumes in the next six months?
The current business environment requires us to be nimble and the supporting software that supports dynamic staff planning, along with long-term workforce budgeting and forecasting. Fortunately, there is an answer that gives Workforce Managers and Analysts the insight they most need. With Playvox’s Capacity Planning solution, you can:
- Access projections based on historical data, actual and projected demand, and forecasted market shifts; this type of functionality is key for staffing during peak seasons such as the holiday shopping season and other busy retail periods
- Pinpoint contact center resource needs based on how shrinkage, leave and attrition projections will impact staffing and hiring; and
- Determine how and when to scale workforce levels to mitigate risks, while also addressing recruitment bottlenecks, shrinkage and leave
You don’t want hiring decisions made nearly a year ago hinder your team’s second-half performance. If you adopt a dynamic staffing solution that can flex with the needs of your team and the changing business climate, you can ensure that you have the coverage you need.
Incorporate Empathy and Understanding
Employee burnout took on a new meaning during the height of the pandemic. Online schooling, endless Zoom meetings, and blurred boundaries between home and the office have taken their toll on everyone.
We’re now seeing the threat of COVID lessen, workers returning to physical office locations, and the easing of some staffing shortages. But with many contact centers slowing their hiring plans, employees are having to bridge gaps, which is resurfacing old feelings of burnout.
When you combine the new ways of hybrid work, with feelings of exhaustion, and the dynamic of four distinct generations in the workforce – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z – it’s more important than ever for managers to incorporate empathy and understanding into their leadership styles. If you still need more convincing, the most recent data from the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey in May of 2022 reported that there are two available jobs for every unemployed worker.
The engagement and retention of your top agents hinges on your ability to bring a new depth to your leadership style – for the last half of 2022 and into the foreseeable future.
Related Article: 31 Empathy Statements to Improve Your Customer Service Today
Avoid the COVID Crutch
Fortunately, COVID cases continue to fall. However, far too many contact centers are still using the pandemic as a crutch for being unresponsive to their customers. Or, they may force customers to contact them in a method they do not want to use. I know that I am always looking for ways other than making a phone call to contact the companies I do business with and all the research I’ve seen shows that consumers want that same flexibility.
You can ease consumer frustration in the second half of the year by embracing a digital-first approach. Whether it’s WeChat or Facebook Messenger, the ability to text an agent or a chat feature on your web site, these channels create additional avenues for connecting with customers where they already are – on their devices.
Don’t let COVID further disrupt your business or brand. Be sure clients can reach you through a variety of digital channels – especially as we approach the busy retail season at the end of the year.
Connect with Consumers
Contact center agents have a unique opportunity to connect with consumers during unsteady and ambiguous times. While we don’t know what’s to come in the final six months of the year, we do know that contact centers will be at the heart of it.
By embracing a dynamic staffing approach, incorporating empathy and understanding, and making your agents available through a variety of channels, contact center leaders can ensure their teams are equipped to finish 2022 strong.