It's in the nature of customer support that you will sometimes experience 'dead zones' - times during the day when nobody gets in touch. Our live chat system includes a basic analytics package, so we pulled out some stats and discovered that our contact rate tends to dip significantly around 1pm, then at 4pm.
Knowing what to do during these times can be tough. The prospect of doing nothing is novel for a while, but you'll soon find yourself getting bored. You are also missing some great opportunities to improve your own support, or that of the company.
First of all, let's take a look at how busy I am throughout the day. This data is pulled straight from our live chat system and relates to the volume of chat queries received during each hour, averaged across an entire month.
As you can see, my workload steadily increases through the morning - peaking at noon, then dropping suddenly during lunchtime.
I then typically see another batch of queries in the early afternoon, followed by another quiet period in the hours just before I leave the office.
If you know when those dead zones are likely to be during your day, you can plan to do other things at those times. You can also have things ready to go for when you're not immersed in a support interaction. In no particular order, here are 14 of my ideas.
- Follow up on old conversations - if someone reported a bug and it's been fixed, let them know! Alternatively, if someone suggested a feature and a decision has been made on if or when it will be developed, drop them a message back. It's great to be pro-active.
- Read through your knowledge base and make a note of any changes that need making.
- Check your stats.Finding out things like your average response time, or your busiest periods, will help you to set some goals for yourself or your team. It also enables you to celebrate successes.
- Catch up. Other teams are making decisions all around you, and it's important to be up-to-date on product plans so you can tell customers who ask about them.
- Clean up. I'm talking about your inbox, your computer, and your to-do list. If you're anything like me, they get pretty messy pretty fast, so a periodic spring-clean can be a good use of your time.
- Write something. Most of my writing gets done during our dead zones. They're the best time for writing, because you can be pretty sure they'll be the quietest parts of the day. That's great for focus!
- Ask. Your team leader/boss/product manager/cleaner might have something that needs doing, so volunteer to do it! It keeps you busy and also makes you look like a more pro-active employee.
- Stand up. Some studies have shown that sitting at a desk all day is as bad for you as smoking, so those little trips to the water cooler or aimless wanders to the window could save your life.
- Get a drink. We all need coffee (Ed. - or tea), so use your dead zones as an opportunity to get yourself (and maybe your colleagues) a drink as a little boost.
- Work on a side project. If you have an idea for something that you think would benefit the company, and you have the skills to execute it, present your idea to the relevant people as a personal side-project.
- Organise your desk. As a support worker, you probably don't have much stuff on your desk, but a tidy desk is a tidy mind, so use these opportunities to keep it neat.
- Read. I don't just mean the news or a novel. Something pertaining to your job is preferable. There are loads of great support blogs, each with their own styles and angles. Have a dig around and learn something new!
- Get off the computer. If you have something to do, think about doing it off-screen. Staring at a computer and using a keyboard all day can be exhausting, so taking time away from the PC is always a good idea.
- Procrastinate. Fine, I guess it's allowed occasionally. Just don't get caught in any kind of procrastination cycle/spiral/circle/other curved structure. Watch one video. Or maybe two. But that's definitely enough. Although three isn't that many...
If you like that list, here's a handy image version you can save to your desktop. If you have any other ideas about things to do during dead zones, put them in the comments!