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Whether it’s Christmas, Easter or even the King’s Birthday long weekend, the most wonderful times of the year can also be the most stressful for customer service teams. Major holidays, as well as long weekends and school breaks, create a perfect storm of surging inquiry, often coming from multiple directions.

Holiday flight cancellations cause deluges in demand from disgruntled passengers, while retailers deal with inbound contact increases of up to 10 times their normal volume during a holiday period. TSA’s Group Operations Manager Krystal Valentine says this seasonal pressure creates a complex balancing act for already stretched customer service departments. 

“The earlier you can start preparing, the better,” Ms Valentine says.  

“If you can, start planning at least a month beforehand, which gives you enough time to increase your headcount through casuals. You need to make sure that you’re well-staffed for those periods. It’s really important to understand your workforce and put in actions to ensure you’re not losing service for your client.” 

However, ensuring adequate staffing and planning for a holiday surge is not as simple as activating a job ad on LinkedIn or Seek, according to Ms Valentine. 

“Particularly in the last few years, we’ve found a lot more people wanting to take time off with family, which makes a lot of sense,” she says.  

“We’ve also seen a lot of changes in public holiday laws, giving employees the ability to opt out of working on a public holiday even if they usually work on that particular day of the week. At TSA, we really focus on making working through each holiday period as exciting as possible for our employees. At Christmas we will have incentives and do secret Santa activities, and of course at Easter we’ll all share some Easter eggs and some hot cross buns. 

Ms Valentine says other initiatives TSA implements to ensure its employees are continuously engaged are games and prizes, which encourage socialisation and interaction, providing thankyou messages to staff over busy periods and ensuring the leadership team works alongside frontline staff over the holidays. 

“It’s really important when you’re trying to drive attendance to give that motivation to the team, Ms Valentine said. 

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Planning for all possibilities

While Ms Valentine acknowledges staffing, workforce planning, and capacity are a contact centre’s top priorities heading into a holiday period, there are several other important initiatives that help ensure each customer interaction runs smoothly. 

“We look closely at trends from prior years, and we stay in touch with our stakeholders to understand if they’re predicting any spikes or changes in customer behaviour,” she says. 

But that’s not to say things are predictable when it comes to call spikes. 

“In recent years, I worked over Christmas, and there was barely anything,” Ms Valentine says.  

“But last year, the entire East Coast was absolutely flooded, so some of our clients who wouldn’t usually have increased calls at that time of year experienced a huge spike in demand. In situations like that, we really try to keep in close communication with our stakeholders to know whether we need to adapt, and we also have a team on standby over any holiday period.” 

Diving into digital solutions

However, even the best-laid plans can falter under 10x contact volumes. Ms Valentine says when delays occur, transparency is critical. 

“Digital offerings and digital enablement are the key focus across a lot of brands, and the solutions that we can put in place can be customised for each specific client,” Ms Valentine says. 

“When a surge occurs, we can leverage our contact centre technology to place interactive voice response messages to inform customers that there might be delays or to refer them to go online. We also equip our team members with specific scripting to inform customers that there may be a delay. Acknowledging the delays makes the customer feel heard and really helps improve that customer experience.” 

Proactive communication makes customers feel valued rather than neglected, Ms Valentine says. 

For optimal holiday support, both operations and expectations must flex to the realities of seasonal spikes. 



TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.

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