Level up your operations, hire more people, keep your CSAT score as high as a dragon can fly, and you will nail the holiday season this year!
It’s never too early to start planning for the holiday season. If you’re like many other companies, you’ll need to expand your capacity for the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
The holidays usually involve ferocious competition to win new customers and for almost all retailers you’ll see increased sales revenue, but also more customer support tickets than you would normally get throughout the year. This can be hard to handle – do you hire more agents just for the holidays? Or do you struggle through with the team you’ve got?
One thing is for certain: planning early can be a big help. Instead of reacting as the volume starts to increase, get ready before the holidays start.
We’ll go through some strategies you can use to prepare for a smooth holiday support season this year.
1. Create a plan
First things first – create a plan for your holiday season strategy to deal with increased customer support inquiries.
- Outline goals and objectives for customer service during the holiday season – for example, what are your expected response times for customer emails?
- Examine your data from customer service volume from previous years so you know how many inquiries you are likely to receive on a daily basis.
- Act on feedback from existing customers to identify what issues need to be resolved before you get a surge of inquiries from customers.
- Invest in more tools and office space if you anticipate needing more for the holiday season.
2. Plan your hiring strategy
You’ll need to start thinking about hiring extra customer support reps to support your team during the holiday season if you anticipate a significantly heavier workload than usual.
Getting a head start is the best way to approach this strategy since you can’t leave it all to the last minute. You don’t necessarily need to hire new full-time support reps as you can outsource this work to external agencies, or hire temporary support reps to take on the extra workload.
Another option is to have the entire company help out. If you have team members in your company helping with support throughout the year, you can increase the number of hours they spend in the queue during the holiday season. This is an easy way to expand your support team without hiring extra employees.
3. Start training your support reps
Now is the time to start training your support reps on how to best help stressed-out customers. Customer support reps need to learn how to use positive language to de-escalate negative situations and to offer alternative scenarios to customers who are getting ready to bash your company.
73% of customers fall in love with a brand and stay loyal because of friendly customer support reps. The customer support team covering the holiday rush has to be trained to deal effectively with irate customers and turn negative situations into positive ones.
- Make sure support reps know how to route complex issues to the right team – if they can’t deal with the customer inquiry then it’s important to get an effective solution from the expert.
- Become experts at active listening – acknowledge the frustration of your customers and allow them to vent their problems. Customers who have issues just want to be heard by the support rep and have their issues resolved.
- It’s important to establish a policy that enables your support reps to deal with abuse from customers. There’s never any excuse for customers unnecessarily treating your support reps badly; we are not punching bags for irate customers.
4. Invest in the best technology
Customer support teams can’t thrive without having the right technology in place to help them do their jobs properly. Now is the time to be thinking about new customer support channels to implement to help you during the holiday season.
You should invest in innovative technology that can help with the customer experience such as live chat tools. Live chat tools such as Intercom or Olark can help customer support agents deal with customer support inquiries efficiently and quickly.
If you haven’t already, make sure you invest in help desk software such as Help Scout or Zendesk. You need these platforms to keep track of your customer conversations and who is interacting with your customers from your support team. If you’re working from an overflowing inbox, things are bound to get messy when it comes to holiday support.
5. Automate as much as possible
Think about how you can automate customer support processes to save time for your agents. You can keep your response times lower, streamline your support processes and save time for your customers. When you use saved replies and automate your help desk, you can get much more done with the least amount of human intervention.
Take some time to identify what the best aspects of the process are that you need to automate, including repetitive inquiries or ones that can be resolved by a knowledge base or a bot.
Always keep your audience front and center when automating customer support processes. Here are some ways you can automate customer support:
- When you get a refund email request from the customer the agent doesn’t have to read it – set up a rule to automatically assign this email to the billing team.
- Create an autoresponder that replies to incoming emails with expected reply times, and a link to any frequently asked questions.
- If a customer indicates that they are dissatisfied through a customer satisfaction survey, you can send a notification to the supervisor to help turn the situation around.
Automations allow your customer support agents to be freed from mundane tasks and able to concentrate on customer happiness during this busy season.
6. Improve your customer self-service
If you’re planning to reduce your customer support hours during the holidays to give your agents some well-deserved vacation time, you’ll need to make it easier for customers to self-serve. Make sure your knowledge base support materials are up-to-date, and include a reminder of your reduced support schedule for the holidays.
Include quick links to your FAQs and support docs from popular places such as in-app notifications, offline chat messages, and blog posts outlining your hours in the holiday season.
If you don’t have a knowledge base that your customers can use to self-serve, you can quickly set one up using Help Scout’s Docs or Zendesk’s Guide, depending on the support software that you already use. You’re planning this with enough time to set up your own knowledge base for your customers.
Consider creating an FAQs page especially for the holiday season. Check that all information relating to order tracking, shipping policy, delivery expectations, and returns policies are all up-to-date for your customers. With a special FAQs page, you can deflect the majority of basic customer queries and create a delightful customer experience.
7. Review last year’s data
You’ll have the time to go over last year’s customer pain points and frequently asked questions. Use this information to update your customer-facing knowledge base and saved replies in your help desk software. You can take this time to better internal processes and rules such as shipping policies from the previous holiday season.
If there are any customer concerns that come up repeatedly in your inbox then you can take the time to correct policies – for example, if customers are frequently confused about your returns policy then you can make it more explicit on your website.
Forge ahead when it comes to holiday customer support
Whenever you start preparing for the holidays, give yourself enough time to hire more hands for customer support, train your support reps, automate common processes, and invest in the best technology. You will be empowering your support reps to deliver the best customer support possible with minimal resources – without compromising on quality.
We’ve put together a resource with all 11 templates so you can keep your customers content during your time away.