Customer service during the holidays is both an immense challenge and a huge opportunity. Retailers who deliver consistent, high quality service to their holiday customers can turn once-off purchasers into loyal return customers.
Here’s how to set your team up for holiday support success.
1. Prepare For The Rush
A little upfront preparation can make a huge difference in how smoothly your holiday customer service runs. Handling customer questions can feel reactive, but there’s a lot you can do to get ahead of the game.
Predict Your Busiest Periods
Understanding when demand for customer service peaks for your business is essential to your planning. Use your help desk reporting to look at historical trends in incoming conversation volume. Does overall demand ramp up starting in mid-October? Are there big spikes on particular days that your team needs to prepare for? When are your busiest times of the week?
When you have multiple people handling customer service, this data will help you schedule coverage across your support channels to avoid delays in service. Even if you’re on your own, knowing when to expect spikes in your workload will help you plan your other work, and when to focus on service.
Look for Quick Wins
Even better than quickly responding to a customer question is that customer never having to ask for help. Review your incoming support questions and look for recurring problems that you can address now, before the rush really begins.
Some examples to consider:
- Update product pages with missing or inaccurate information
- Review help documentation for out-of-date information
- Address common queries that aren’t answered on your website
- Make your FAQs and help pages easier to find
Spending time to improve these now will pay off many times over through the holiday rush.
Refresh Your Saved Replies
Do you have a library of reusable responses for you and your service staff to use? Review the most commonly used responses for accuracy and completeness, so that you can confidently use them instead of writing them for each individual customer.
Consider your most common holiday questions, perhaps around shipping times or exchange policies, and craft some detailed responses you can easily share.
For more help planning for your busiest period, read through the Surviving Rush Hour playlist.
2. Care For Your Customers
It’s not just business owners and support staff who deal with a lot of work during holidays. Your customers are often just as stressed, trying to check off their own long list of tasks.
That stress can make them more prone to making mistakes, and more likely to misunderstand or be short in their dealings with your team.
If you can be understanding and helpful, you can create a great customer experience that they’ll remember. Here are a few ideas for helping create calmer customers:
- Set accurate expectations
Find ways to tell your customers how long they should expect to wait for your help. Update your chat support introduction and your email support page to set realistic guidelines, and let your customers pick the most appropriate channel accordingly.
- Rethink your triage processes for the holidays
First-in, first-served is a great starting point, but during rush periods the most important questions to answer aren’t necessarily the oldest. Try adding some new workflows to your help desk to identify urgent problems, pricing queries or other scenarios where speed really matters most.If you have the capacity, a staff member manually reviewing incoming questions can identify the most important questions and ensure they are addressed first.
- Say thank you
Take a moment to thank your customers as you serve them. It feels great for them, and it can really help build some word of mouth for your business. Look for low-cost, quick techniques that have big impact.
- Be helpful, even when you can’t help directly
Sometimes customers have needs or goals that you just can’t provide. Any time you can, direct that customer to somewhere that may be able to help, even if that means a direct competitor. People will remember a person who helped solve their problem, and they will share that story with others.
3. Care For Yourself and Your Staff
The holiday rush can be exhausting for customer service folk, both physically and emotionally. No matter how well prepared you are, rush periods demand concentrated effort, but you can take steps to look after yourself and your team.
- Rotate assignments
Reduce the chances of burnout by having people rotate through different support roles, whether that’s moving from chat to email, or phone to social support. The change will give them a mental break, and help spread skills across your team.
- Preserve some out-of-queue time
When you’re scheduling your support coverage, be sure to give each person some explicit “get out of the inbox” time. Maintaining that slack time will not only help them regain emotional energy, but it can be spent on improving things like documentation, saved replies or website copy.
- Create the conditions for self-motivation
Help your team stay motivated by ensuring they feel recognized and supported. Try sharing some great customer feedback at the start of the day or celebrating milestones like hitting 100 conversations for the day so far, or a streak of great ratings.
Holiday Support Success is Within Reach
When the holidays are upon you, it can feel like merely keeping up is a victory. With some up-front planning and tweaks to your systems, you can not only survive but stand out from your competition. Deliver consistent, high-quality experiences to your customers when they really need them and they’ll return to you again and again.