5 Creative Ways to Manage Agent Shortages in Your Contact Center

Contact Center | 4 minute read

If there’s one thing you’re going to need during a crisis, it’s more hands-on-deck.

It’s both sad and confusing to see some contact centers laying off support staff when they’re so obviously needed right now. Your customer’s experience with you during this crisis is important; don’t ruin the relationship in the future by abandoning your customer service now.

Your customer's experience with you during this crisis is important; don't ruin the relationship in the future by abandoning your customer service now. #custserv #customerservice Click To Tweet

Here are some quick and easy ways you can manage staff shortages at your contact center during this crisis.

1. Bring in staff from other departments

If you have sales teams, retail staff, or manufacturing staff whose work has been affected by the pandemic, get them in to help handle the burden with the customer service team.

You may find that many of them are happy to have something to do for a few hours — especially if the only other option was to be temporarily laid off.

One simple way to use these entry-level agents to mitigate call surges is by setting up a human-triage/IVR to update customers as they wait — the personal touch will help reduce the anxiety of waiting and you can use that extra first step to route them to the best possible agent.

2. Extend your working hours

This might seem like a simple and obvious fix for staff shortages in your contact center, but it’s a powerful one to employ in a crisis.

If your contact center is operating on a standard 9-5 schedule, even opening for an extra hour each end of the day is adding 25% more operating time — that can take a big load off the agents you have left.

You may also find that you can divert callers to this later time, alleviating even more pressure from your team.

If you use that time intelligently, perhaps using them exclusively for call-backs or as a buffer zone for more complicated enquiries earlier in the day, this can be an even more powerful solution.

3. Offer overtime

One way to get your support agents on board with your crisis-induced extended working hours is by offering overtime.

Some contact center managers won’t like this one — especially as many of them are feeling the pressure from falling profits elsewhere in the ecosystem — but you will likely have little choice in the matter.

One of the most important things to do is to keep your agents as motivated as you can, and even a small incentive can go a long way towards achieving this. This doesn’t necessarily even have to be a financial reward.

Although increasing compensation for overtime hours will definitely go a long way, one-off rewards to be claimed at a late date, either personally or as a team, can also inspire your agents to lean into their tasks a little harder.

4. Call in staff from on-leave

This might seem extreme but it’s commonly practiced by the emergency services, and many call centers are now left with little choice.

It goes without saying that cancelled leave will be reinstated, and you may find that — in the current at least — that many of your customer support advisors may actually be quite happy to have their leave cancelled. Spending your annual holiday in lockdown isn’t much fun at all!

Give your support agents a chance to rebook their flights and take a proper holiday later in the year, by giving them the option to postpone leave till after the crisis (and maybe even make some extra overtime money in the meantime). You may be surprised by how many of your agents take you up on the offer!

5. Go remote — or virtually remote

When we predicted that moving to the cloud would be one of the biggest contact center trends of 2020, we didn’t think that it would happen quite so quickly.

In order to protect the health of your employees and to assist with flattening the curve, it's important to make as much of your operation as virtual as possible. #covidcrisis #customerservice Click To Tweet

The close proximity to lots of other people and multiple-users of the same equipment has always made call centers a breeding ground for disease. In order to protect the health of your employees and to assist with flattening the curve, it’s important to make as much of your operation as virtual as possible.

This will help reduce the number of employees that don’t turn up because of safety concerns, and it will also help you to bring in extra workers from other localities and extend your working hours. And it will also help to prevent further staff shortages by reducing the chances your team becomes ill.

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