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Every industry can expect a solid hike in sales during the holiday season, and this year is no exception: according to the National Retail Federation, sales this year are predicted to increase 3.6% to $655.8 billion, which is significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5%.
To prepare for the flood of shoppers before the holiday season, many retailers take to seasonal hiring. You see it in the news every year—retailers like Target and Macy’s frequently hire tens of thousands of extra workers to help manage the onslaught of shoppers.
But what does the increase in holiday traffic mean for ecommerce? Well, when Amazon is hiring 20% more seasonal workers this year, we can assume that other online businesses are likely to see a surge in traffic as well—and all these visitors will have no shortage of questions for your support staff.
Don’t get lost in the holiday shuffle and overwhelm your agents. Use the following guide to identify and fulfill your staffing needs this winter.
If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, you may not immediately think you need to take up seasonal hiring. Or if you do have a physical storefront to manage, you may be more concerned with hiring staff for your floors than for your online presence.
But your current live chat support team may not be able to handle the influx of chat requests this holiday season, and whether or not you’re ready for it, your visitors will have just as many questions as usual (if not more). If they don’t get them answered in a timely fashion, they may spend a lot less time and money holiday shopping with your business.
Do you need more live chat agents this holiday shopping season? The following actions can help you determine your seasonal staffing needs:
If you’ve identified a need for more agents, then you’re first step is going to be hiring the right people. From your initial job posting to the legal concerns of onboarding temporary workers, we’ve outlined our top three tips for a successful holiday employment process.
To find the best and most qualified agents, try to start your search by posting to job boards that appeal to seasonal workers and customer support professionals.
The following boards can help you reach support professionals looking for extra work over the holidays:
After finding and interviewing your candidates, make sure your prospective hires are trustworthy in addition to competent. While you might not have to worry about internal shrinkage with live chat agents, you will have to be aware that sensitive customer and company information is up for grabs. In addition to making sure your processes limit the possibility for stolen information, be sure to conduct quality background checks for seasonal agents.
This can be done at city, state/province, or federal level. What you choose will be dependent upon where you are from—for example, in the U.S. a background check by the local police will not include any information concerning crimes committed in other states. For this reason, many U.S. employers request background checks from the FBI.
The process can naturally be more complicated with an international hire. This is why it’s critical to ask for references. But that alone won’t verify the legitimacy of your candidate, as there are companies that can pretend to be references for job-seekers—and quite convincingly so. Here are some tips to help you verify a reference:
Be cognizant of relevant labor laws when considering seasonal hires for your live chat needs. How you legally classify these workers will depend upon laws and regulations of your local and federal jurisdictions.
For example, are you legally required to use the term seasonal employee? If so, what does this mean for your company in terms of taxes, healthcare, benefits, and labor laws?
The following links can serve as a guide, but be sure to speak to the appropriate legal representative for further information.
It’s unlikely that your seasonal hires will have as much knowledge, experience, or training as your normal agents. They may not be able to meet your normal response time, chat volume, or handle time goals. As a result, setting the bar too high for seasonal hires can lead to customer dissatisfaction, and the cost of bad service is astronomical—about $338.5 billion worldwide, according to this survey by Genesys.
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To make sure you keep expectations manageable for your holiday agents, keep these tips in mind:
Advertise your support channels on:
Using your most experienced or best-performing agents as supervisors for seasonal workers can help reduce the strain on current supervisors. It can also allow your team to test agents for future managerial positions. Consider putting these seasonal supervisors in charge of:
Using live chat scripts has many benefits. If you don’t already use them, you may want to review our blog post on the many reasons it could benefit your live chat operation.
Seasonal agents in particular will benefit from the use of scripts. Scripts can help agents:
You can use scripts for simple things like greetings, salutations, and hold messages. But you can also update your current scripts to reflect specific holiday-related information. For example, you may want to remind customers of your holiday promotions when greeting them. Or you can prepare canned answers for common, holiday-specific questions that might not otherwise belong in the FAQ.
Seasonal live chat agents can really help make the holiday season a success for your company. Have you hired seasonal live chat agents in the past? Are you planning to hire seasonal agents? How do you plan to hire and manage them?
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