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Inside Outsourced: Holiday Happenings

While the holiday season is coming up for us in the United States, the holiday of Diwali was in full swing over at the Mid America Novelties call center. We see Rajiv at a clothing store haggling over the price of a sari he wants to buy his girlfriend for the holiday. Subtle as always, our favorite cantankerous assistant manager tries to get a lower price by saying: "If the silkworm who gave his life for this sari could see what you’ve done with it, he’d spin a tiny noose and hang himself."

Back at the office, the agents explain the holiday to Todd. Not being the most culturally sensitive person, he sums up his lesson by saying it’s a combination of Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July and Star Wars. The agents then say how they expect to leave early that day, which doesn’t sit well with Todd. After finding out that fellow call center managers Charlie and Tonya are going home early, and after seeing the festivities right outside the office window, Todd agrees to let everyone go home. And with them gone, he says he’ll handle all the calls himself. Good luck!

As Rajiv leaves the building, the sari he bought for his girlfriend catches on fire and gets destroyed. Not wanting to go home empty handed, he offers to buy Madhuri’s sari right off her back (and promises to giver her one of the company’s "I’m with hottie" t-shirts to wear home). It turns out Madhuri is quite a shrewd businesswoman. She manages to turn Rajiv’s initial offer of 10,000 rupees up to 21,000, even though she only bought it for 3,000. With business sense like that, maybe she’s in line for a promotion?

We then see Todd covering the phones, frantically answering each call. Just as he faces a lull in the calls, Tonya walks in and says he should put the phones on voicemail. He obliges, and the two walk around the street taking in the celebration. When they get back to the office, they get a little intimate. Just as things heat up, Asha walks in. She tells Todd she canceled her holiday plans to come back and help him with the calls, but she leaves disgusted by what she just witnessed. Todd doesn’t seem to mind all that much, as he and Tonya finish what they started.

The next day, Tonya senses that Todd still has feelings for Asha, so she makes it her goal to make him forget about her. So the two continue their romantic interlude. Complicating things even more, Rajiv tells Todd that he knows someone was doing some extracurricular activities in the office, and he’s going to watch the security camera to find out who it was. Not wanting to get found out, Todd says he’ll watch the tapes himself.

As he plays the tapes, Rajiv’s face appears on camera telling Todd he knows what he did. As the recorded version of Rajiv continues lecturing him, the real Rajiv goes up to Todd’s desk to watch his reaction. In his speech, Rajiv threatens to show the tape to corporate and makes some demands on Todd. But Todd calls him out, saying that now he has the blackmail attempt on tape. And with that, they call a truce.

So Rajiv once again fails in his quest to get Todd fired. Which is good, because then we wouldn’t have the show anymore. Anyway, to shed some light on some of the issues brought up in this episode, here’s ICMI’s Executive Director of Consulting, Macklin Martin.

Q. Upon learning of the holiday, Todd decided to let everyone off early, as he took on the phones himself. While that might not be the best strategy, how should managers of off-shore contact centers handle a situation like that?

A. Whether onshore or off, the call center manager’s job is to ensure that the right number of resources are available to handle the workload with quality. There are typically many times throughout the year that call centers can operate with a skeleton crew. It’s important to use good business sense and allocate resources in the most cost effective manner. Most off-shore centers operate under a strict service level agreement with their clients that requires an appropriate number of resources (agents) to be available during all operating hours.

Q. With the American holiday season fast approaching, how do contact centers in the U.S. handle scheduling and such during the holidays?

A. Holidays are always exciting times for the workforce management team in the contact center. Contact center scheduling during holidays can be extremely challenging with vacations and holiday call traffic patterns differing substantially from typical days. It’s bet to plan ahead and budget for increased absenteeism and vacation usage. Leverage shift trades and non-conventional schedules to close gaps in staffing. The key is to plan and forecast appropriately, while thinking out of the box as far as scheduling.

Q. In the scene where Todd works the phones by himself, he starts out pretty strong, but ends up just wanting to get off the phones. While most agents won’t find themselves in that position, burnout can happen to anyone. What are some ways to prevent it?

A. We all experience a bit of burnout from our jobs from time to time. Call centers employees are certainly not immune to it. How do agents do it? I think this is a topic on human motivation that Herzberg would have loved to expound on. After nearly 20 years in this business, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are those among us who truly want to serve others. These altruistic souls become our teachers, firemen, nurses and call center customer service agents, who, through their devotion to service, enable what we do every day. How does the altruistic agent continue to serve us well day after day, call after call? I am not sure. Do we know what motivated Mother Theresa? Or what gets the Dalai Lama to travel the world with a message of peace and humanity? Again I’m not sure, I am just happy that they do what they do!

Did you miss this episode of Outsourced? You can watch it online right here. As always, check back soon for our recap and analysis of each new episode!