Understaffed and extra busy? Here’s how to keep your cool

Understaffed and extra busy? Here’s how to keep your cool

May 2, 2013
Understaffed and extra busy? Here’s how to keep your cool

There are going to be days when you don’t have enough customer service staffing to meet demand. Things like flu epidemics, holiday seasons, and tricky new product releases are going to happen, and no matter how well you planned, you’re going to have to work with fewer agents than you’d like. It’s unfortunate and a giant pain, but it’s also inevitable, so it’s best to have worked out a strategy for dealing with this situation.

The first thing you want to do is let your team know. Explain to them that you’re running short and that you really need them to work with you to deal with the problem. Keep them engaged by explaining why you are behind, not just asking them to work more. It’s also a great time to make sure you are using your rewards and recognition strategies to help keep them motivated through the longer hours.

Cancel all of your meetings and ask your staff to do the same. In fact, any non-essential activities should be postponed. Right now, you need to focus on right now.  If the busy workload is going to be extended past a day.  It’s best to schedule extra hours and set clear expectations regarding how much extra time people can work, and what your expectations are during that time.

Take a look at the day’s work. Are there any tickets that don’t need to be answered right away? If so, don’t. Save them for a day when you’re not understaffed. Are there any simple tickets that someone from a different department can answer? If yes, see if you can get some help from the other department heads. Marketing, sales, product management–often times tickets are directed to them anyway. If you’re customer focused, most–if not all–employees in the company should have some basic training in how to respond to support tickets.

Are you the kind of team that likes to go out for long lunches? Not today. in fact, lunch might have to be on you. If you can, bring in lunch (and other goodies) for your agents on the company dime. It lets your team know that you appreciate their hard work.

The most important thing is to stay calm and focused. One way or another, the day will end. It’s up to you determine what kind of day it will be.

At the Helm is a series for anyone who manages customer service professionals. These tips, best practices, and philosophies are designed to help you manage a team that is primed to give your customers the best possible service.

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Don’t underestimate the value of clean data
Don’t be afraid: empower your support team
Rewards and recognition
Acting on customer service feedback
Don’t panic: 6 steps for dealing with service disruptions
Broaden your team’s horizons with events
Keeping things fresh with rotating roles, part 1
Keep things fresh with rotating roles, 2
Organizing for future success
Transparency through open communication
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