After the year we’ve l had, I think we are all ready and eager for a little holly jolly in our lives. For many contact centers, though, the holiday season is greeted with equal parts dread and merriment. That’s because for many organizations – retail and services alike – November and December represent their busiest time of the year, whether it’s because their customers are busy buying gifts, customers are squeezing in medical procedures before the end of their insurance plan-year, or because it’s the organization’s fiscal-year end and it’s an all hands-on-deck push to make “the number” – things can get chaotic.
And this year, more than ever, contact centers are gearing up for record-breaking interaction volumes. Deloitte’s pre-Thanksgiving pulse survey and holiday retail report states that, like everything else in 2020, the upcoming holidays are going to be unlike any other we’ve seen. Deloitte found that 51% of shoppers surveyed are feeling anxious about shopping in stores and 60% prefer online shopping to in-store this holiday season. And we all know that more online shopping equals more questions, support, and purchases coming through the contact center.
Contact center agents can feel this weird push-pull of being stressed at work and wanting to be present and excited for holiday time with their own families. I have a dear friend who worked in customer service for many years at one of the largest, big-box retailers in the country, and she frankly stated that her job “ruined Christmas” for her for years, making her feel disengaged during the holidays as a whole. Couple this with the COVID-19 and election year fatigue that many employees are already experiencing and you might find that many contact center agents are feeling more like Scrooge than Santa this year. But the trouble is that according to 2020 Forrester research, “engaged employees generate 81% higher customer satisfaction” than non-engaged employees. So if your agents are feeling Grinchy, it’s going to bleed into their interactions with your customers.
With this in mind, what can we do to help our contact center agents feel calm, engaged, and excited this holiday season? Here are some tips and ideas to make December more pleasant for you, your agents, and your customers.
1. “Holiday Hero” program
Customers are the lifeblood of our contact centers – and our reason for even existing. And agents get energy and motivation from solving customers’ problems. In a 2019 NICE inContact survey, “helping customers” was the number one agent motivation for working in customer service.
Creating a “Holiday Hero” program will keep customers front and center during the upcoming rush. Use your customer survey and analytics data to pick one outstanding customer interaction per day and name the agent responsible for that experience as the day’s “Holiday Hero.” For example, did your agent help a customer get that “must-have” present for their kid in time? Or were they able to help your customer with a creative solution to make their payment AND have money left for festivities? Those are experiences worth celebrating.
You might have a program like this in place already, but you probably just recognize one agent per week or per month. But during the holiday rush, one day can feel like a month, so changing to daily recognition can keep the momentum. Send out an email every morning recognizing the previous day’s “Holiday Hero,” with a photo of the agent and a short synopsis of how they created such an impactful customer experience. Sending in the morning will remind agents that they have a whole day ahead of them to bring cheer and possibly become the next hero. Then, after the holiday rush, have all the agents and leaders vote on the top 3 most impactful “Holiday Heroes,” and crown the winner as the “King of Christmas” – a title that comes with fame and glory to last until next holiday season.
2. Holiday-themed gamification and social engagement
Gamification can (and should) be part of your performance management strategy all year to keep agents motivated and engaged. But during the holiday rush, consider mixing things up. Change your wallboards to have holiday themes, encourage your agents to dress their avatars in more holiday-themed apparel, and refresh your reward inventory. And like the “Holiday Hero” program, increase your frequency to daily, or even intraday, mini challenges to keep the energy up from Black Friday to December 26th.
Some monetary and non-monetary prize ideas you can add to your virtual storefront during this holiday season include:
- 2020’s must-have (and if possible, hard to find!) gifts for kids. Think Tickle Me Elmo cor Furby circa 1996.
- A catered holiday meal. If your agents are working on Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza – or the days leading up – take stress off their plates by getting some food on their family’s plate without them having to spending precious time-off in the kitchen.
- Scheduled on-the-clock online shopping time. Your agents have shopping to do too! Let them win time during the workday where they can get some done (…instead of them sneakily doing it behind your back in between calls).
- Time-off that can be redeemed after the holiday rush. Time-off might be scarce or impossible during the holidays but work with your HR team to see if they can earn some bonus time-off after the holiday rush is over.
- Santa-gram. If you have kids, you know visits with Santa are hard to come by this year. But agents could redeem points for a Santa to come to their door –in a socially distant, masked manner – to give their kids the thrill of the year, and officially make Mom or Dad the coolest parent on the block.
- Pay for someone to address their holiday cards or wrap their presents. The worst part of sending holiday cards or giving presents is writing all the addresses and wrapping the boxes. Add the chance for agents to have someone else do it for them!
- Anything that makes your agents’ lives easier during the holidays! After a long day helping your customers make their own holidays a success, your agents probably have very little energy left to focus on their own. So any reward that can help make their lives easier during December is a great prize.
3. Virtual holiday party
The contact center is usually the “fun” department in the organization. You know, the group that decorates for Halloween, can be heard singing Happy Birthday (almost daily depending on the size of your contact center), hosting potlucks, and coordinating White Elephant gift exchanges. Just because we can’t physically have these events this year doesn’t mean we can’t have them virtually. Think about how your annual holiday party can go virtual this year. Instead of a White Elephant gift exchange, you can coordinate a Secret Santa gift exchange with gifts delivered to agents’ homes. Instead of having everyone wear their ugly sweater to the office, get everyone on video conference to show them off – and get their whole family in on the action! Whatever your contact center’s holiday tradition is, there are ways to make it virtual. And if your contact center doesn’t have a holiday tradition, 2020 might be the year to start in order to make agents feel connected and part of a team that cares about them.
The holidays are upon us, and you can make this holiday season merry and bright not only for your customers but for your agents too. Despite what the song says, for many contact centers, the holidays are NOT “the most wonderful time of the year.” But these tips and ideas are easy, low-cost ways to diffuse tension and bring more fun to December, no matter what industry you’re in. And for more ideas on how CXone Workforce Engagement can help you keep your agents engaged all year long, check out the webinar replay Improving Your Agent Experience, One Step at a Time.