The Customer Touchpoint
• Good communication. Whether in the form of positive feedback as part of weekly performance reporting, general information about what’s going on in the company or involvement on a regular basis with other employees, good communication is the key to keeping employees informed and happy.
• Ongoing training. This should include cross-training, skill-based progressions and seasonal merchandise training by buyers. These tactics effectively show your contact center employees their value to you and may offer advancement opportunities.
• Coaching/counseling. Use goal setting and performance evaluations as motivators and for help in retaining good employees.
• Rewards/incentives. Strategies to try include: pay for performance, incentive-based pay, longevity rewards, raffles and prize drawings, and celebrations such as pizza parties to keep the work environment fun. Surprises and contests all aid in retention.
Best Practices for Handling Seasonal Spikes
Almost every catalog has some degree of seasonality associated with its business. Some seasonal trends are more severe than others, with some extreme cases seeing more than 75 percent of their annual order volume coming in an eight-week period. To address this spike in staffing requirements, utilize some creative thinking and management practices. The following ideas come from catalogers who have faced this issue in their businesses:
• Maintain a database of past temporary employees, and attract them back with bonuses or higher pay scales based on their experience.
• Employ the recruiting techniques outlined above. Tactics used to attract full-time contact center employees can work equally well for part-time or temporary workers.
• Provide financial incentives for seasonal employees who remain with you for the entire season.
• Search for labor pools in which part-time or seasonal work is attractive. This can include parents with school-aged children, those seeking second jobs, college students and retirees.
• Outsource the work for either all of the year or during peak business periods. Where outsourcing makes sense, finding the right situation and vendor requires careful analysis and research. But many businesses find the practice a good one for handling peak seasonal business volume. Partial outsourcing typically consists of 5 percent to 15 percent of order volume for overflow, after hours and weekend service.