Summer’s here—and with it, BBQs, beach days, and vacation requests. While every manager wants his or her team to enjoy well-earned time off, it’s important to balance the need for recharging their batteries with ensuring adequate coverage. For customer service departments, this is especially a key challenge. These tips will help you get through vacation season with the coverage you need and head into fall with happy employees.
Encourage requests in advance: Planning is your best tool when managing vacation schedules. Set a deadline that requires employees to request time off during busy periods at least a month in advance. Crises and other issues may arise at any time, but planning ahead for a scheduled vacation, graduation, or other event can often be done weeks—or even months—ahead of time. Armed with that information, managers can work to create schedules to support the needs of each employee.
Use temp coverage: If you’re facing more requests than you can meet, one solution is to find temporary coverage. Offer part-time workers more hours. Hire interns. Leverage a temp agency. Bring in staffers from other departments to cover shifts. One company, for example, trained its admin team to respond to basic e-mail customer service requests and would rotate in floating staff when needs dictated.
Incentivize people to work: Sometimes, if you have a lot of employees requesting time off during a single period, not everyone can get the days off he or she wants. However, instead of forcing employees to skip their vacations, many employers use incentives to encourage them to take time during other dates. Bonuses, comp time, and other benefits can help employees without firm vacation plans be more flexible with their time-off requests.
Use more support channels: Certain support channels can be handled by fewer people than others. For example, one support rep may be able to efficiently process many e-mails throughout the day but serve only a fraction of those customers on the phone. Support on Twitter or other social platforms can also be easier to handle with fewer staff members.
Pinch hit: For managers, there’s a never-ending workload that needs to be addressed. However, summer vacations provide an opportunity to get hands-on with customer requests. Don’t be afraid to schedule management to spend time manning the phones or taking on a larger portion of customer service responsibilities. It’s likely that your goals include spending time getting to know your customers. Focus on this now when that can double as a solution for understaffing problems.
Summer may be vacation season, but that doesn’t mean you have to be understaffed. Staggering vacations, getting creative with staffing solutions, and exploring a wider range of support channels can help you get more done.