In 2021, retail sales enjoyed an unparalleled growth rate of 14 percent, nearly 5 times the rate seen pre-pandemic. It appears, however, that this consumer spending surge may be leveling off, as industry experts forecast only a 6 to 8 percent increase in 2022. In addition to battling inflation, retailers are seeing temporarily injured competitors – like travel and hospitality – return to full strength in a fight for consumer dollars.
It looks like the honeymoon may be (at least temporarily) over for the retail industry. As a result, the generously staffed call centers that were once indispensable are beginning to look like little more than an unnecessary cost requiring swift elimination.
In just a few short months, many retailers will need to scale support again to meet holiday demands. The hiring, the training, the knowledge-building only experience can bring; it’s all right around the corner. Cutting staff may make sense for today’s balance sheet, but its potential repercussions will be waiting in the wings come Q4.
Certainly, there may not be another option. If immediate cost reduction is necessary, reducing call center staff is a fast and efficient way to achieve the goal.
But if you’ve got any wiggle room at all, here are some alternative strategies that will help you keep costs under control through the summer and eliminate the need to start from scratch in the fall.
Continued Training for Under-Performing Staff
Agents who aren’t meeting company standards are often the first to be let go when cutting staff is on the table. But due to current recruitment difficulties, many companies have opted to invest in training existing employees so they can excel in their roles rather than trying to replace them.
Often, additional training for under-performing staff can be done at reduced or no pay, allowing these agents to become more proficient in their roles while saving the company money. Not only do they gain new skills to help them better address inquiries correctly and efficiently, but they also feel more secure knowing they still have a job.
When this supplemental training is over, these agents will be better prepared to jump back into their roles. The skills they have gained will also give them the opportunity to set themselves apart during peak season when they return, showing their knowledge and growth. Giving agents the tools to invest in their own futures rather than replacing them can be beneficial to both the company and the employee.
Offer Tools for Advancement
Under-performing staff aren’t the only ones that can benefit from reduced or unpaid training. When hours need to be decreased, agents who excel in their roles may also enjoy the opportunity to take on additional skill assessments and training courses – especially when they may lead to a promotion.
Many companies do not have enough qualified employees on hand to replace supervisors and quality assurance staff when they leave or when new positions are created. This may be due to a shortage of resources to gain necessary skills or lack of time for additional learning. For employees who strive to show their competency in hopes of moving up in the company, the opportunity to prepare themselves further with reduced pay training can be worth the tradeoff.
Give Employees the Option to Take Unpaid Leave
Although less common, giving employees the option to take a leave of absence is a great alternative to letting them go entirely. Many agents would welcome an opportunity to explore their interests, focus on education, or take internships while knowing that they will have jobs waiting for them when they return. This option also allows for a quick skill assessment when the leave ends rather than a full training program, cutting down on time needed to prepare agents for their role.
Companies may also offer a “stay bonus” based on the length of time the agents have been absent upon their return or the ability to keep their tenure. In addition to these tangible rewards, employers should communicate the value of this time off while also showing appreciation to employees. The majority of these absences are voluntary, and agents are doing your company a favor by taking a brief break from work.
Make a Choice
If you have the budget flexibility to explore alternatives to outright staff elimination during this lull in the retail season, these ideas could provide considerable return on investment for your organization.
If you need to reduce your outsource call center support costs, we can help you find the right partner. Start the conversation by requesting your no-obligation call center cost proposal to help navigate the world of outsourcing options.