Statistics show that a single negative experience can cause 51% of buyers to stop buying from brands they follow. Businesses that understand this and realize the importance of excellent customer service strain to give their customers the best shopping experience as the holiday season arrives. This is due to various factors – sudden spurt in traffic, a considerable increase in demand, an increase in the expectations of customers, etc.
For such companies, the high number of customer demands can weigh even the strongest support teams down. So, how can firms prepare to provide customer service effectively during the time of the holidays?
Here are a few tips to help you deliver excellent customer support during the holiday season:
1. Review Sales Trends From the Previous Year
`To get an idea of what to expect, you should take the time to look at business and customer trends during holidays in the previous year. A great place to start is to have your marketing staff provide you with a forecast of holiday campaigns and rush sales. To do this, they’ll need to review and compare sales generated during non-holiday and holiday seasons, at least for the past year.Some important issues to focus on during the review process are the volume of sales registered by your business during the same holiday season last year, and customer queries and complaints filed during that time. You also need to check for changes in communication channels that customers use to reach you during the holiday and non-holiday season.
If you find that phone calls and live chat are more popular communication channels during holidays, consider increasing staff to handle these channels to boost efficiency. In the same way, if you come to know that self-help support is what customers prefer, try to improve your FAQs and help centers.
2. Prepare a Customer Support Plan in Advance
Shoppers have expectations of the kind of experience they’d want as they go shopping over the holidays. Some of these expectations include seamless customer service, great discounts on their favorite products, and smooth shopping experience.
These expectations are not easy to meet, particularly when a business is dealing with an influx of customers. To improve customer service during the holiday period, you need to plan for it in advance.
You should develop a solid plan two to three months before the holiday season starts. An ideal customer support plan for holidays should address a wide range of issues such as:
- Staffing: Your plan should address the issue of either hiring additional customer support staff or providing extra training to existing ones.
- Direction: The plan should provide clear goals or objectives that your business plans to achieve during the holiday season.
- Feedback: The plan should show how feedback from current customers will be implemented during the peak season.
- Customer needs: It should enable you to understand the needs and wants of your customers
- Workflow: The plan should indicate how customer support related tasks will be handled and by who.
- Forecasts: Based on previous data, the plan should forecast customer inquiries and sales volume over the holidays.
- Resources: It should indicate the budget dedicated to customer support during the holiday season.
Whichever aspect you decide to focus on to improve customer service, ensure that it is planned for in advance.
3. Provide Self-Service Support
By itself, a competent and knowledgeable customer support team is not enough to provide customers with great experiences. You also need to provide the team with the right tools to enable them to interact with shoppers and serve them effectively. Increasingly, customers are preferring to buy from businesses that respond to their queries or resolve their issues promptly.
For support teams to be able to do this, you must invest in software tools that enhance efficiency. Since 77% of customers today are preferring self-help support, it would be great to invest in a knowledge base tool that helps you create self-service portals, help centers, FAQs, online manuals, and more.
It will help you on three major fronts:
- Equipping your support staff with the right knowledge so that they are able to resolve customer queries quickly.
- Empowering customers with self-help support, so they don’t raise tickets and look for external assistance every time a question arises.
- Onboarding customers and giving them a well-guided tour of your products and services. This reduces support ticket volume to a great extent.
4. Use Live Chat Solution
Live chat can play a critical role in enhancing customer support during holidays. As a customer service tool, a live chat solution allows individual support agents to chat with several customers at a go. It comes with features that enable them to provide excellent service and improve productivity at the same time. Live chat plays a key role in supporting your holiday selling process. Available statistics show that 49% of people want to have their queries responded via live chat as they shop online.
Live chat solution can come in handy for your business because, during the holiday season, you’ll have customers who need support to make a purchase, some may be experiencing payment problems, while others may require slight encouragement to buy. If you decide to use live chat to boost your customer support, here are some more tips to help you get the best of this customer service tool:
- Use data from the previous year’s holiday sales to plan your live chat strategy i.e., predict the amount of traffic to anticipate and determine the number of customer support agents you’ll need
- Place a personalized greeting on your site to stay ahead of your competition
- If you have a limited budget, are receiving the same queries over and over, or do not have sufficient time, consider integrating a bot in your live chat software
5. Manage Customer Tickets With Help Desk
The influx in the number of customers who rush to shop during the holidays is likely to cause a corresponding increase in customer issues, particularly for eCommerce businesses. While buying customers who experience difficulties or have queries will use different communication channels to seek help from the brands they follow. If not managed properly, the increase in customer queries and issues can quickly overwhelm support teams and portray a business in a bad light.
One way that businesses can provide seamless customer support experiences during such periods is through the use of help desk software. During the holiday season, help desk software can improve customer support for businesses by:
- Facilitating fast resolution of customer issues through a ticketing system
- Routing customer tickets to a centralized location and assigning them to the relevant persons for resolution
- Tracking resolution of customer issues to ensure that they are fully addressed
- Monitoring tasks being undertaken by customer support agents
- Facilitating multi-channel communication to ensure that customer issues presented on different communication channels are not left out
- Promoting collaboration among support teams
- Increasing the productivity of support teams in the business.
This shows that a robust help desk software solution is instrumental in driving the much-needed customer support efficiency during the holiday season.
6. Motivate Your Customer Support Team
Working during the holidays is not a pleasant experience for anyone. There is a raft of ideas that companies can implement to encourage them to serve customers during holidays. These include:
- Giving them an option to work from home
- Offering them extra days off then it is not too busy
- Pay them for working overtime
- Allowing them to work half day
- Providing holiday rotation schedule
- Give staff personalized gifts such as holiday cards to brighten their days
7. Manage Customer Expectations
Inform customers of any schedule changes early enough to ensure that they don’t get disappointed. If you are providing an extended return period or anything new, make this information available on your site’s customer service page. You should also notify them if you will be late in responding to their queries. When people know that responses may be delayed, they can factor in your hours or reach out with queries earlier.
Also, consider using auto-responders to share critical information such as work hours or refunds with customers. To do this effectively, update your auto-responses early so that customers have time to prepare.
The holiday season presents happy times for many, even for businesses, given the increase in traffic, customers, and sales. But managing customers during this peak period can be taxing.
While it may be easy to blame customers, the best way to deal with this seasonal issue is to anticipate customer needs, plan, and choose the right customer support tools. When you have meaningful insights to refer to before taking action, dealing with a sudden surge in customer demands gets easier.
Implementing the steps discussed above will ensure that customers can access the support they need as they shop during the holidays. In fact, following these steps can promise great results not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.
Why restrict excellence in customer service only for the holiday season, when you have the entire year to win the hearts of customers?
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