Holidays usually bring fierce competition and opportunities to capture new customers. For most retailers across industries, the holiday season promises increased sales revenue. 44% of customers consider holidays as the best time to shop online.
However, holidays come with their own set of challenges. Most of the businesses expect a spike in customer service requests and hence delivering good quality support is a challenge.
So when it comes to managing your holiday customer service, having proper planning is necessary to manage your support effectiveness without impacting the quality.
Planning for holiday customer support not just makes it easy for your team to do their work efficiently but also delivers a great experience for your customers.
10 Tips to plan for holiday customer service
While the spike in customer service requests can test your team and system efficiency, thorough planning and advance preparation can help you come out successful than ever on the other side.
Here is a list of tips that will help you to be ready beforehand for the holiday season.
- Outline a solid plan
- Offer live chat support during the holiday season
- Automate your holiday customer service with chatbots
- Empower customers with self-service options
- Employ live engagement tools for holiday customer support
- Train your team to handle irate customers
- Set clear customer expectations
- Stay customer-obsessed
- Reward your employees
- Schedule your customer support during holidays
Let us discuss the tips & best practices in detail to prepare the holiday marketing campaigns and deliver a superior support experience.
1. Outline a solid plan
The first step in creating a holiday customer service strategy is to outline a concrete plan beforehand and then communicate the vision to your employees. Good planning and preparation can help you come out stronger rather than going out of control.
A well defined plan helps in handling support requests seamlessly without affecting the support quality. It is the best approach that helps to anticipate and understand your customers’ raised stress levels and work to deliver exceptional service.
Here are some tips to create a solid plan for holiday customer support.
Gain insights from previous holiday trends
The holiday season needs a different approach, unlike any other day. You need a different customer service strategy for this special season. Prior to jumping directly for outlining the plan, it is crucial to review trends, metrics, patterns from last year.
Provide omnichannel customer support
Identify the most preferred channels of the customers during the holidays. The channels might differ from business to business. However, considering both reactive and digital channels is the key. Provide omni-channel customer service to engage customers across their preferred channels by being where they are.
Focus on frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Go through the most viewed blogs during the last holiday season by identifying their categories. You can collect details from the ticket data to look for what customers ask you frequently. Make sure that those blogs are updated and are easily accessible so that customers do not have to waste time finding them on your website.
Plan for additional resources
One of the ways to manage the influx of holiday customer support requests is to add more people to your team. Hire temporary agents to manage the holiday customer service. Keep the training materials updated and simple internal systems to give access to the staff to help customers. Use historical data to learn how many temporary agents need to be added.
Amazon expanded its manpower to meet customer demands. It hired almost 2000 support associates to manage its holiday customer support.
2. Offer live chat support during the holiday season
A dedicated support team, when empowered with the right tools, can do wonders even during the holidays. Adding the best live chat tool to your website can assist customer support agents to address their queries in real time. Customers prefer to live chat over other channels due to convenience and prompt assistance.
96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Online chat helps you to deliver instant support that results in a higher satisfaction rate, which finally boosts conversion.
Canvas Candy, a renowned art studio had customized the live chat widget to match with their website style and company’s branding, which helped them to deliver great holiday customer support.
Here are a couple of best practices for providing great live chat support for holidays.
- Make the most out of mobile apps by installing live chat apps and provide support to iOS and Android users on the go.
- Grab the attention of your website visitors with festive eye-catchers and encourage them to start a conversation.
- Route the chat requests to the right team or department to provide effective support in the first go and improve first contact resolution.
- Reduce cart abandonment with personalized live chat triggers at the right time of the buyer’s journey.
- Prepare canned replies for the frequently asked questions and add solution articles if needed to improve the response time.
- Tag conversations with specific details (like shipping, support, pricing) to help your team to address customer concerns immediately.
- Engage your website visitors and customers with personalized welcome greetings.
3. Automate your holiday customer service with chatbots
The holiday season brings along its fair share of chaos. The customers are impatient and the businesses see a substantial increase in queries. Automating some of the mundane, routine queries with AI chatbots can significantly reduce the employees’ workload.
58% of B2B and B2C companies use a chatbot on their website to interact with customers.
Leveraging chatbots can save a lot of time for your support agents, particularly during the holiday season. You can create a win-win scenario by using bots as they are a great way to keep your response times. Chatbots also helps you streamline your support process and reduce friction for the customer.
Here are the key points why chatbots are your best friend when it comes to automating your holiday customer support.
- Bots are always active to handle your common customer queries during the holiday season and deliver prompt responses.
- A maximum number of FAQs (shipping, delivery) are handled by the bot, which reduces the number of support requests.
- Bots are easily scalable to handle conversations during the peak holiday season and assure real time quality support to all your visitors and customers.
- You can offer human handover when bots are unable to answer complex queries, thus deliver a hybrid holiday customer service experience.
Your team can go through the chatbot best practices to use bots effectively to deliver good holiday customer service.
UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S), kicked off the winter season with customers’ needs in mind by creating the Marks & Spencer Christmas Concierge chatbot. The conversation map provided customers a personalized experience based on their answers to pre-ordered queries.
The key takeaway is that leveraging specific bot customization during the holiday season can delight customers with a personalized experience.
- You can train your bot with common FAQs based on reviewing past holiday sales to handle customer requests accurately.
- Configuring the chatbot based on your use case will help to manage holiday customer support in the right way and boost sales conversions.
4. Empower customers with self-service options
A comprehensive, easy-to-navigate FAQ page can be a great resource for both customers and your team during the holiday time. 79% of customers expect organizations to provide self-service tools to find answers without having to contact the support team.
And quality self-service options allow your team to help a higher volume of people overall, potentially increasing your holiday sales.
But prior to the holiday rush begins, it is important to review the reports of the previous holiday season. Check out the frequently asked questions that could easily be answered on your website. Then, make it easy for customers to find those answers without having to reach out to support.
A great example of easy to navigate can be applied to the holiday season is REI’s Gift Center.
REI has made it exceptionally easy for its potential customers to navigate to even more gift ideas by providing a gift-oriented product menu in their navigation. They also differentiated their “gift center” from the rest of the menu bar by highlighting it in red.
Here is what you can do to deliver excellent holiday customer support with self service options.
Prepare support content
Identifying the problems beforehand from the customer’s perspective can provide many issues that need assistance. Being proactive in constructing possible solutions for the queries can bring a sigh of relief making holiday customer service seamless for you as well as customers.
Create a FAQ page especially for the holiday season
Having a special FAQ page for the holiday season will definitely help the customers. Cross-check that all the information such as order tracking, shipping policy, delivery expectations based on regions, exchange/return policy, etc., are all up to date. Customers often tend to come up with the same kind of queries.
For example, for an eCommerce business, it could be about your return policy, or refund policy, etc. With the special holiday FAQ page, you can deflect such queries and deliver a great holiday customer service experience.
5. Employ live engagement tools for holiday customer support
For B2C businesses, the holiday season is their time to shine. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales grew 4% in 2021 to reach $729.1 billion.
Holiday customer service strategies differ from business to business. In case your business demands face to face interaction with your customers, then using live engagement tools like video chat and co-browsing is the best way to deliver personalized support.
- Video chat helps to have personalized conversations in real time over the website and mobile apps in order to get the answers to get a perfect holiday gift.
- It also gives brands the opportunity to connect their online business to actual people. The face-to-face chat with a humanizing effect makes the online shopping experience meaningful.
Leveraging visual engagement tools helps your online buyers in making decisions on the website or mobile app in real time and shorten the sales cycle, thus delivering superior holiday customer support.
6. Train your team to handle irate customers
Holiday customer support requires being prepared in advance in many aspects to make the most out of it. One aspect is handling angry customers. Having a well trained support team can dissolve such a situation into a profitable one.
73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps.
The holiday customer service team has to be prepared for calming listening to harsh words and bad tempers. Train your team to use positive language while conversing with angry customers.
Note: Establish a policy for abuse. At times, customers might cross their limits in abusing your agents. In such cases, agents can end the conversation as for any business the first & foremost responsibility is toward its employees.
Here are the best practices to be followed by the team all the time including holiday seasons.
- Route complex issues to the right team – If you are not able to address the queries, without delaying the issue to the expert, who can provide an effective solution.
- Practice active listening – Let your customers vent, and acknowledge their frustration. Most people when they are upset or frustrated just want to be heard. Give them that holiday gift with an empathetic ear and never minimize their concerns.
- Communicate with a positive tone – Always choose positive words while interacting with rude customers. Generally, customers switch brands because they are put off by untrained support professionals. 70% of the customer’s journey is dictated by how the customer feels they are being treated. The well trained efficient representatives can make irate customers fall in love with your brand.
Some examples of phrases to be used are as follows:
- Choose positive phrases like my apologies, you’re welcome, I can understand why you’d feel that way.
- Avoid negative phrases such as I don’t know, please calm down, no problem, etc.
7. Set clear customer expectations
Imagine customers coming to your website, trying to contact support about their concern, expecting a response but not getting any. It will only add to their frustration and they might not return for a repeat purchase
Being upfront and transparent about your availability is one thing that is always appreciated by customers.
For example, if customers know that your responses may come a little later (or that your office closes for statutory holidays), they can plan on your hours or contact you earlier.
Here are some ways to set transparent customer expectations.
- Communicate about your availability & business hours. Let customers know about any changes in schedule and next availability as soon as possible.
- It is good to underpromise always and overdeliver. This helps manage customer expectations and set the stage for a positive customer experience.
- You can use autoresponders to share more information about your holiday information (hours and refunds).
8. Stay customer obsessed
Making customers your focal point will help to deliver great holiday customer support. Understanding customers by putting in their shoes, what exactly they are looking for, and align your services accordingly will undoubtedly set a stage for a positive experience.
Both Amazon and Zappos are the best examples of brands that are customer-focused and put a lot of effort into creating a culture around the customer and their needs. Their commitment to delivering customer value is genuine.
Here are some of the best practices for exceptional holiday customer support.
- Empower customer service agents to make decisions – Set a limit to your support team for taking decisions independently to offer a great service experience to the customers.
- Reducing on hold times and transfers – Use the live chat tool to respond to customer concerns in real time without unnecessary routing.
- Focusing on what your customers want – Identify your customer needs through focus groups then distribute them across the right departments.
9. Reward your employees
If you keep your team happy, they will keep your customers happy. It’s a simple equation.
The holiday season is quite stressful for the customer support team and rewarding them could be a good option to motivate them and make them happy. Hosting a holiday lunch party is a good way to express your gratitude to your employees.
When businesses put efforts into rewarding their team, the employees have greater motivation to take care of your customers and go the extra mile. You can follow reward ideas like:
- Give out holiday bonuses to the employees
- Incentivize based on performance
- Offer an extra day off after the holiday season is over
- Declare customer service champions monthly
Your support team represents your company in the front end. Being grateful in some way or the other ensures superior holiday customer service that benefits your business. Also, your team is in high spirits throughout the year.
10. Schedule your customer support during holidays
Managing holiday customer service requires proper scheduling of your support team. Align your team and notify your customers on how they can reach your business during the holidays, or help themselves, you will need to work on creating your modified schedule.
You can monitor how the support team is responding to the messages and complaints on social media channels as they are the ones on the frontlines during holiday hours.
Some tips that can help you in scheduling your customer support during holidays.
- Identify your peak support hours – You need to know what are the peak hours when customers rush to you. Manage your agent’s availability to address customer requests effectively.
- Offer 24×7 support – You can deploy a chatbot to offer round the clock support even when your support team is not available. Bots engage customers in real time and provide prompt responses generally to the commonly asked queries.
Stay on top of your holiday customer service
No matter what holiday you are preparing for, allow yourself ample time to enable your customers to self-serve, notify customers proactively, and set your schedule ahead of time. Having a conversational support funnel helps to empower your team to deliver excellent efficient support at scale, without compromising on your quality of support.
Hence holiday customer support, if planned appropriately, not just boosts the conversions but also delivers a great service experience.