How to Manage Holiday and Vacation in the Contact Centre

Holiday concept with jack russell dog surfing on a wave
1,306

Stressed out about holiday and vacation scheduling? It doesn’t have to be that way!

We have asked seasoned workforce planning experts for their advice on best managing holiday and vacation in the contact centre – all to help you make the process as fair and as frictionless as possible.

What Is the Problem With Managing Holiday and Vacation in the Contact Centre?

The key problem with managing holiday and vacation in the contact centre is managing the perception of fairness – particularly when it comes to the peak seasons of summer and Christmas when a lot of people will be competing for the same days off.

A headshot of Vatsana Gordon
Vatsana Gordon

As Vatsana Gordon, Director of Modus RP, comments:

“One of the two most emotionally charged subjects for contact centre advisors is shift patterns and holidays. This is because both affect their life outside of work. It is important to find the right balance of both if you want to create an engaged workforce.”

This is critical as, sadly, getting it wrong can cause immediate friction between team members, as well as having a negative effect on morale and increasing employee burnout.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just letting everyone have the time off they want, as customers’ needs also have to be taken into consideration, as Sandhya Majitha, Operations Support Executive at IAGL (also Finalist for ‘Support Person of the Year’ at the Northern Contact Centre Awards 2022), continues:

“When it comes to annual leave in a contact centre, it’s key to ensure you have enough staff to answer the forecasted calls. You can’t leave yourself short! Factor in daily shrinkage and ensure you have enough staff across all opening hours – without causing detriment to service levels.”

To get the balance right, you should try to follow best-practice processes, which help to create fairness and opportunity for contact centre advisors to plan their life outside of work – whilst also meeting customer needs.

To discover more on flexibility in schedules, check out our video ‘Avoiding the Fairness Trap When Creating Schedules

So where do you start with getting it right?

How to Prepare for Holiday and Vacation Planning

1. Get a Clear Picture of the Numbers You Need

Planning, good communication and staff engagement are absolutely vital when it comes to holiday cover. Peak periods such as Christmas and the summer holidays can be a challenge, but the key is to work well in advance and in partnership with the planning team.

This process starts by reviewing data and trends to ensure you are clear on the requirements and staff needed.

With thanks to Brian W. Dooley, Regional Claims Team Leader at NFU Mutual (Also Winner of ‘Rising Star in a Large Contact Centre’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

2. Talk to Your Teams About Last Year’s Volumes

It can also help to check with those longer-standing agents about the general volume around these times of year – especially if reporting is not the best for historical data.

With thanks to Jonathan O’Connor, Resource Planning Manager at Tructyre (also Shortlisted for ‘Resource Planning Star’ at the North East Contact Centre Awards 2022)

3. Manage Peak Holiday and Vacation Time Separately From Other Annual Leave

When creating the holiday rules for the next holiday year, the best process is to block out the ability for anyone to book the special holiday dates.

The best process is to block out the ability for anyone to book the special holiday dates.

This way no one can go and block-book all the special days off before anyone else has a chance to think about their plans.

Then it’s important to communicate that these holiday dates will be advertised separately.

With thanks to Vatsana Gordon, Director of Modus RP

4. Create Booking Windows to Manage Peak Holiday Requests Across the Year

It can also help to set booking windows to better manage these ring-fenced dates across the year.

For example, Easter weekend could have a booking window of 1st–31st January, followed by confirmation of schedules in February.

With thanks to Tim Milburn, Planning Manager at emovis (also Winner of ‘Resource Planning Manager of the Year’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

★★★★★

How to Help Holiday and Vacation Planning Conversations Go Smoothly

1. Start by Asking Who Is Happy to Work Peak Times

Get early engagement and collaboration with teams to see if anyone is happy to work these peak times, then work backwards.

With thanks to Brian W. Dooley, Regional Claims Team Leader at NFU Mutual (Also Winner of ‘Rising Star in a Large Contact Centre’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

2. Ask for Priority 1, 2 and 3 Requests

In the name of fairness, priority requests can make a big difference.

Get advisors to highlight their three most important holiday dates in priority order. All this data is gathered and worked through – with all the priority #1 selections taken care of first.

If all can be accepted, the next process would be to review all priority #2 holidays – until you get to the point where it is difficult to authorize any more holidays without going over allocation.

With thanks to Vatsana Gordon, Director of Modus RP

3. Be Prepared to Negotiate and Be Flexible

Jonathan O'Connor
Jonathan O’Connor

Keeping staff on side will be your biggest tool to get through peak periods.

Flexibility is key.

They may be willing to do part-days to cover shifts between them, for example. You may also be able to compromise and switch one day for another.

With thanks to Jonathan O’Connor, Resource Planning Manager at Tructyre (also Shortlisted for ‘Resource Planning Star’ at the North East Contact Centre Awards 2022)

4. Offer Homeworking Options to Help Get Shifts Covered

We aim to achieve a fair and consistent approach and the flexibility of homeworking does make it slightly easier for those who need to work, for example at Christmas time.

With thanks to Brian W. Dooley, Regional Claims Team Leader at NFU Mutual (Also Winner of ‘Rising Star in a Large Contact Centre’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

5. Be Prepared to Handle Exceptions on a Case-by-Case Basis

Even with guidelines in place, there are always going to be some exceptions which need to be managed on a case-by-case basis between the operational management and the planning team.

There may also be special days or events that you might want to consider differently, for example bank holidays and Eid.

With thanks to Tim Milburn, Planning Manager at emovis (also Winner of ‘Resource Planning Manager of Year’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

☆☆☆☆☆

Mistakes to Avoid When Holiday and Vacation Planning

1. Leaving Teams Behind on the Planning Journey

Brian W. Dooley
Brian W. Dooley

Don’t leave your teams behind on the planning journey. Engage with them as soon as possible.

Also, remind teams of the importance of supporting customers in peak times to drive buy-in and engagement early on.

Working in insurance, we need to be there for our customers when they need us most, and some of our most severe weather-related events have taken place over the summer holidays and Christmas period.

We have robust plans in place should these events occur, and our teams understand the importance of being there for our customers when it really matters.

Many people will remember the Boxing Day floods, and we are incredibly proud of the way our team stepped up to support our customers and agencies.

2. Calling on the Same People Every Year to Work the Unpopular Shifts

Review who didn’t get previous Christmas peak holidays and give them the opportunity to take time off first the following year to achieve a fair balance amongst staff.

With thanks to Brian W. Dooley, Regional Claims Team Leader at NFU Mutual (Also Winner of ‘Rising Star in a Large Contact Centre’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

3. Taking a ‘Computer Says No’ Approach

Sandhya Majitha
Sandhya Majitha

I manage a team of 28 specialist agents who have a variety of daily tasks.

The general rule of thumb I have for my team is that three agents can have annual leave at any one time.

On the rare occasion when more than three need or want to be off, then as long as there are enough bums on seats for our requirements and to be able to deliver our service level, I will allow more off. If it’s not possible, I would expect them to ask a colleague for a shift-swap.

Overall, I think a key mistake is taking a black-and-white approach, as in ‘computer says no’. If you can afford it, then give it.

I think a key mistake is taking a black-and-white approach, as in ‘computer says no’. If you can afford it, then give it.

Flexibility is key, on both parts, as it improves the working relationship and creates efficiencies within the team.

With thanks to Sandhya Majitha, Operations Support Executive at IAGL (also Finalist for ‘Support Person of the Year’ at the Northern Contact Centre Awards 2022)

4. Overlooking the Need for a Pre-Agreed Tiebreaker

If there are clashes with any of the requests, then it is important to decide on the prioritization of these requests – such as, anyone who has had less than x days of sickness in the last three months would get their preference over someone who has had numerous sick days (which are not related to an outstanding health issue).

The other option would be to use their performance scores for any tiebreaker decisions.

Note, this kind of process does override the automated functions of a WFM system. However, it is a good way to create fairness in the authorization of key holiday dates.

With thanks to Vatsana Gordon, Director of Modus RP

★★★★★

Additional Considerations for Managing Holiday and Vacation

Manage Holiday Throughout the Year to Avoid a Last-Minute Dash for Christmas

Don’t let all your planning and preparation come undone by agents’ left over holiday allowance that must be used by year-end.

Keep on track with their allowance throughout the year and ensure all is taken or planned, so you aren’t losing staff simply to use up their holiday allowance.

With thanks to Jonathan O’Connor, Resource Planning Manager at Tructyre (also Shortlisted for ‘Resource Planning Star’ at the North East Contact Centre Awards 2022)

Be Transparent and Consistent About the Guidelines for Requesting Annual Leave

Tim Milburn
Tim Milburn

The key to keeping people happy and getting as many of their holidays approved as possible is letting them know as soon as you can what the guidelines are for requesting leave.

Having clear, documented guidelines is key to ensuring everyone knows when you can and can’t book your holidays and what the approval process is.

It is vitally important to ensure you adhere to the guidelines you set to ensure they are applied consistently and fairly to all agents.

holiday guidelines
Free Example Holiday Guidelines in Printable PDF Format
Version: 1
Date Added: 20 October 2022
File Type: pdf
File Size: 179 KB
Category: Tools
Download Link: Download

The guidelines above support the company holiday policy as it will contain rules which may not be relevant to everyone in the company.

However, having clear guidelines is key to achieving a fair and consistent approach to all effective staff.

It is also a good idea to keep a weekly track of everyone’s holiday allowances and the days they have booked to ensure people don’t take too many holidays too soon or leave themselves with too many holidays to take before the end of the holiday year.

If holidays are not managed effectively, there is a real danger of staff burnout or being disappointed when there is no opportunity to take the days they really need as they left it too late.

With thanks to Tim Milburn, Planning Manager at emovis (also Winner of ‘Resource Planning Manager of the Year’ at the UK National Contact Centre Awards 2022)

If you are looking for more information on staffing and shifts, read these articles next:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 28th Nov 2022 - Last modified: 30th Apr 2024
Read more about - Call Centre Management, , , ,

Follow Us on LinkedIn

Recommended Articles

A photo of people playing with wooden figurines
How to Manage Shrinkage
Holiday shopping and phone call
2021 Holiday Season Is Here. Is Your Contact Centre Ready?
Calendar and Scheduling concept
How to Successfully Manage Agent Vacations in a Call Centre
Five Problems Contact Centres Face During Holiday Seasons