With the next holiday shopping season right around the corner, now is the perfect time to get your call center customer service strategy in order and ensure that your team is prepared for the annual wave of requests.
According to Forbes, 68% of organizations report a spike in their customer service requests during the holiday season. Unfortunately, many businesses struggle to keep up with these sudden swells, which leads to plenty of unhappy customers and tarnished brand reputations.
The following guide will help you cash in on the holiday shopping surge and deliver exemplary customer service in the process.
Preparing for Holiday Time Customer Service Volume Spikes
Preparedness is the key to navigating the holiday time customer service surge. Even if you have well-trained staff members and state-of-the-art tech, you cannot rest on your laurels during the holiday season — you need a plan.
With that in mind, it is vital that you do the following:
Remember to Provide a Voice
We may have entered the age of artificial intelligence and chatbots, but many customers still prefer to hear a genuine human voice, especially when they’re frustrated about something like a late or missing holiday gift.
If a customer gets stuck in a redundant loop with a chatbot, they may cut ties with your brand altogether, but an empathetic support agent can turn a bad experience into a positive one.
As such, while it’s essential to have those chatbots in place, don’t let your voice channel fall by the wayside. It isn’t going out of style anytime soon, and it deserves a place in your support model.
Listen to the Data
When it comes to data, the more you have, the better. Analyzing metrics like historical call volumes, customer feedback from previous seasons, first-call resolution rates, and other points will help you better understand potential spikes.
Data analytics can also reveal what went right and wrong during past volume spikes, allowing you to identify your weaknesses and clear them up ahead of the 2023 holiday season.
Pick Your Battleground
Whether you run an e-commerce site or manage a brick-and-mortar shop, you need to determine when, where, and how you’ll deliver your support. Delivering omnichannel support is vital, but that doesn’t mean you have to use every channel imaginable. Integrating too many into your support model will do nothing but stretch your team too thin and make things confusing for your customers.
Instead, use your customer service strategy to focus on a few foundational options that are popular among your consumer base. Phone-based support remains crucial, but you should also add a few complementary options like live chats and emails, as well as social media-based support if you have the bandwidth.
Consider Scaling Up Your Workforce
The holiday season is just that — a season — so hiring many full-time staff members at once might not be the best approach. Instead, consider seasonal or temporary reinforcements that will help your team keep up with the spike in customer support requests.
That kind of customer service strategy, however, can prove costly, as you’ll have to recruit, hire, train, and onboard each new member, only to part ways with them a few months later. Alternatively, you can use an outsourced customer service provider, which can connect you with trained, experienced agents who are at scale with the level of support needed to align with your seasonal needs.
How to Improve Customer Service in E-commerce
E-commerce, even with all its convenience, can be a double-edged sword during the holidays. It’s easily accessible, but it also means customers have high expectations.
With that being said, if you want to win at e-commerce customer service and prepare for the inevitable holiday call center call spikes, you should take care of the following:
Develop a Plan
Though it may sound like basic advice, you’d be surprised just how many brands end up “winging it.” Having a plan in place when a worst-case scenario becomes a reality will help you navigate the hurdles and get back on track.
On that note, make sure to include proposed solutions for each scenario. Map out potential scenarios, like website crashes, payment gateway issues, and delivery mishaps, then brainstorm with your team and ensure that each solution you come up with is feasible from a logistics and cost standpoint.
Make Sure You Have Staff and Resources in Place
Your staff is your frontline defense against disgruntled customers, so make sure they are prepped and ready. Doing so might mean hosting extra training sessions in the run-up to the holidays, equipping them with FAQs or resource sheets, or even having a few extra team members on standby.
If you have multiple customer support shifts, consider offering overtime opportunities in preparation for the spikes. It may cost you a little extra in payroll expenses, but it’ll be an investment that pays off in spades when you are able to deliver for your customers.
Implement Self-Service Tools
The majority of consumers are independent and thus prefer the use of self-service tools when they encounter a problem. According to HubSpot, 81% of customers attempt to resolve an issue themselves before contacting customer service.
As such, offering FAQs, chatbots, and self-checkout tools can be a game-changer for your business, especially during holiday volume spikes. Let customers help themselves and resolve simple issues on their own while your team tackles the more complex issues.
While you may want to keep things in-house, outsourcing is a great option for many businesses, and it isn’t about handing over the reins completely. You can use customer service outsourcing to augment your existing team to save time, improve call handling capacity, and ensure consistent quality for your customers.
Nevertheless, if you do want to pass off the headaches of holiday customer service to someone else, you can outsource all of your support operations, and that will maximize your savings and allow you to reallocate internal resources to core business functions.
The Holiday Rush Is Coming — Are You Ready?
Make the most of the 2023 holiday shopping season by retooling your customer service operations. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, consider outsourcing, and ensure your team is prepared when your customers reach out for support.