Now, I know what you’re thinking – it’s only September! The holiday season is more than two months away. Why start planning now when we have so much time?
But the reality is, the holiday season begins much earlier for customer service teams than it does for consumers.
Think about it: does your team need to hire extra staff to keep up with holiday demand? Do you need to train team members on new channels that will be open for consumers to use? Do you need to give your agents an advance notice of extended holiday hours?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, it’s time to get planning.
There are so many moving parts of a customer service team during the holiday season, it’s imperative that you start planning now so that when the holidays do finally roll around, your team is set up for success and ready to handle any customer interaction.
Below, we’ve outlined 5 ways to prepare your customer service team for the holiday season.
5 Ways to Prepare Your Customer Service Team for the Holiday Season
1. Hire Seasonal Staff
For many organizations, the idea of the upcoming holiday season means more than jingles on the radio, bright lights and holiday decor, and a peppermint mocha latte from Starbucks. It also means the influx of customer inquiries to their support team, running the gamut from returns and exchanges to lost packages and .
It’s no easy feat to be on the front lines of an organization at such a busy time of year. And for many agents, the pressure can start to stretch them pretty thin.
If possible, your organization can look into hiring seasonal support staff to help your team keep up with this demand.
Doing so will give you the flexibility to have even more hands on deck at your busiest time of year, and ensures you won’t be spreading your current agents too thin over the coming months.
2. Refine the Onboarding Process for New (and Seasonal!) Hires
That leads us into our second point – the importance of refining your onboarding process during this busy season for any new or seasonal agents.
Onboarding is a critical part of any job, and a poor onboarding process can have detrimental effects on any employee’s confidence or ability to perform their duties, ultimately setting them up to perform poorly.
Especially in a remote work environment, the onboarding process can make or break how your new hires interact with customers.
From making sure your Knowledge Base is stocked with anything and everything they could need to know about your brand and products or services, to putting a training checklist in place, to keeping one-on-one meetings with agents really specific and tactical, there are so many ways you can ensure a great onboarding experience that sets agents up to have great conversations with your customers.
3. Increase Shift Hours
So, what do you do if your business is anticipating an influx of support tickets for the holidays, but can’t afford to hire new agents for the season?
One option is to increase the shift hours of your current team.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: particularly around the holidays, when the likelihood of angry customers is at an all-time high, how will my team react to being asked to extend their hours?
Your agents need to feel valued by your organization, and understand how important they are to the success of your team and your business at such a busy time of year.
One of the best ways to do this is to have a detailed rewards and recognition strategy for your team.
While there is obviously a feel-good element to recognition and rewards, data also confirms that agent engagement is a key indicator of performance and retention.
In fact, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 58% of company leaders found that employee recognition contributed to a return on profit margins.
Simply put, agents who receive recognition will help drive company success.
Not sure how to build a top-of-the-line rewards and recognition program? Check out our guide for everything you need to know.
And with Stella Connect, you can put the power of rewarding agents into your customers’ hands.
By collecting real-time feedback after each customer interaction, you give your customers the ability to recognize the work of the agents who helped them and provide deeper insight into the conversation.
When an agent gets positive feedback from a customer, it can make their day and help underscore the importance of the work they do each and every day.
But what about negative feedback? Well, it happens. But negative feedback doesn’t need to cast a dark cloud over your agent.
Rather, negative feedback should be viewed as both motivation to do even better, and as an opportunity to continue to grow. If a customer pinpoints a specific issue, you can dive deep in coaching your agent on how to hone the necessary skills to ensure the next customer interaction is a great one.
4. Implement New Channels
How do customers typically get in touch with your team?
Do they call and email, without the option to chat in? Or maybe your team focuses entirely on written communication, and phone support is no longer an option.
Whatever the case may be, the holiday season calls for a reevaluation of all your support channels.
For example, how easy is it for a customer to get in touch with one of your agents? If they have a pressing issue, but don’t want to wait for an email reply, can they chat into your site or pick up the phone? If your phone lines are busy, is there an email address they can utilize to have someone follow up with them?
If your organization has any barrier to entry, it’s going to cause friction for your customers.
Consider implementing new channels you may not already be using, like live chat, to help handle some of the incoming customer support volume.
5. Bulk Up Self-Service Options
Let’s face it: customers want answers to their questions as quickly and efficiently as possible, and when they want them.
For many, the concept of not being able to reach a resolution because it’s outside of business hours or because all of your agents are busy is a deal breaker.
This is where self-service options come into play.
Self-service customer service means giving your customers the tools, resources, and opportunities to have their questions answered and issues resolved without ever having to actually interact with a member of your team.
Now, of course, there are times when self-service isn’t an option. But more likely than not, your team has a handy list of Frequently Asked Questions that can be answered without having to chat with an agent.
When possible, anticipate the incoming holiday rush by implementing self-service options for your customers. Whether that’s in the form of an FAQ on your website, a support chat bot that can answer common questions (or direct them to an agent) or simply putting processes in place that allow customers to do things like request refunds or exchanges on their own, self-service is the way of the future.
And with the busy holiday season, your agents will be free to handle more pressing customer concerns, while easier ones can be handled offline.