Preparing your call centre for the Olympics


The advent of the London Olympics, as with many sporting contests, will undoubtedly present certain complications for the operation of your contact centre. Here, we give our best advice for making the very most of this extraordinary event…

Limited Leave

Whilst it’s easy to imagine a trading drought during the Olympics, it is important to remember that many of your customers will harbour little to no interest in the Games. Some will even take to your services as a last-ditch attempt to escape the celebratory bedlam which such popular events so often bring about.

As paradoxical as it seems, then, the chances are that the Olympics will bring an increased, rather than reduced, volume of calls to your business. In fact, many councils and corporations across the nation have, in dogged anticipation of just such an eventuality, forbidden their contact centre staff from taking leave during the Games.

Whilst banning annual leave altogether seems a rather draconian measure – and certainly not a good way of improving employee morale during such an unpredictable time – it would be sensible to limit your staff’s leave to just one or two days over the Olympic period. By planning for the worst, you’ll stay prepared for any unexpected call spikes.

If the councils and corporations are right, the Olympics could well become a fantastic opportunity to do extra business – business which long holding times and unprepared staff will drive right into the hands of your competitors. So do make sure you have ample bodies at hand throughout the Games; your clientèle might just turn out to be much less sport-loving than you’d ever imagined.

Custom Holdtime

Since the bulk of your pre-Games preparation will involve amendments to your agent activities and office policies, it’s easy to forget that, at least from your customers’ perspective, the experience begins the moment they’ve finished dialling in.

With this in mind, you’ll want to adjust your IVR to reflect this memorable time and to show your organisation’s enthusiasm for the Games. Capitalise on the nation’s zeal by drawing attention to any special promotions you’re offering in celebration of the event, and use your hold time to cite any Olympic trivia that is in some way connected to your business. If your company was established in 1948, for example, you might draw attention to the fact that this was also the year London last hosted the Olympics.

As previously suggested, it will be difficult to forecast just how the Games will affect the population’s demand for your services. Just in case an unexpected wave of calls does hit, it would be wise to update your hold-recording with some sport-based music and imaginative “commentary” (All of our agents are running the baton right now, but we’ll be with you as soon as the cheers die down). The patriotic connotations created by such additions will set you apart from your competitors and could well work long-term wonders for your public image.

Transport Troubles

It is inevitable that this, the first ever London Olympics of the contact centre era, will present a series of logistical problems for the operation of your services. Depending on your centre’s location, the most significant of these will be your staff’s ability to arrive for work in good time.

With the organisers themselves predicting queues of up to an hour for certain trains at certain times, it seems unavoidable that our already-stretched transport system will be jammed to breaking point as hundreds of thousands of sport-loving tourists hustle and bustle across the nation. Coupled with increasing petrol prices and ever-unpredictable strikes by vital sectors’ workers’ unions, commuting to work and home again will constitute a major hurdle for your workforce this summer.

Give your staff a running start by keeping a constant eye on the website of your local public transport body. Circulate frequent emails with up-to-date information concerning train delays and cancellations, and distribute daily tips to help your employees stay punctual. From suggesting alternative methods of transport to offering home meditation techniques that will help your staff sleep soundly for an extra-early start, your helpful hints will restore a healthy sense of cooperation to the workplace.

Do bear in mind, though, that in such a rare and effervescent set of circumstances as the Olympic Games, it wouldn’t be fair to penalise tardiness too severely; after all, if there are simply not enough trains to cater for demand, all the planning in the world won’t guarantee staff punctuality. If the transport situation hits your locale particularly hard, you might consider easing the burden by relaxing your employee dress code or even shifting your call centre’s opening hours slightly back. Given the circumstances, your customer base will be more than understanding towards your decision – and your workforce will respect and appreciate such managerial flexibility.

Unvexed Agents

But the Olympics’ potential to boost your staff-to-management relations doesn’t end there. The competition is, after all, a historical event, and one intended to unite the nation under a single banner of industrious optimism. So why not allow the Games to benefit your contact centre in a similar way?

If you’re willing to temporarily relax your office policies, you could find yourself the proud proprietor of a more cohesive, productive workforce by the time the post-Olympic ashes settle. Even better, by making the work environment fun throughout the games, you’ll combat the problem of staff absenteeism so many firms have predicted.

Three of our best bond-forging tips follow:

  • According to a recent CCH webinar, the consensus among contact centre managers is that, far from acting as a distraction to their daily tasks, the silent airing of sporting events on your office’s screens will instil in your staff a valuable enthusiasm. Allowing your agents to view the Games will also put them in an excellent position to build and share a conversational rapport with their callers; you never know when one of your more excitable customers will decide to vent his enthusiasm for that last outstanding sprint or pole-vault.
  • Cross-departmental tournaments, particularly during major sporting events, can help to restore a healthy sense of competition to the workplace. And by introducing Olympic-themed targets and prizes to your contests, you’ll keep your agents bright and motivated throughout the Games. So long as your staff understand the importance of upholding their call quality, targets such as “Fastest Sprinter” (most orders processed), “Least False Starts” (cancelled orders) and “Longest Marathon” (best retention) can all make for thrilling inter-team tournaments.
  • Should your call volumes really dwindle, invest your agents’ free time in a series of team-building exercises. Whether it’s decorating the floor to a sporty motif, organising an athlete-themed mufti day or hosting a Wii Sports tournament on an employee’s games console, your investment will be repaid tenfold in the currency of long-lasting team cohesion.

George Dixon is a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.

So, what special plans do you have for your contact centre during the Olympics? Put your thoughts in an email to Call Centre Helper…

Published On: 13th Jun 2012 - Last modified: 27th Jun 2017
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1 Comment
  1. As a call centre based in London, we will certainly be applying some of these tips. As we operate 24/7, we are lucky to be able to accomodate those staff who need to commute, as they can work during evenings and nights where travelling will be less traumatic and stressful!

    CallCare 25 Jun at 10:44 am
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