During the holiday season, customer service requests usually go up – a lot. One logical solution to the problem is adding more members to the customer support team, but there are more actions to take to ensure your team is prepared for the intense and joyous season approaching!
What does the holiday season mean for customer service?
When preparing your team for summer, preparations usually look a bit different, and you might only need a pre-vacation checklist to get going. But when it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, increased pressure is usually put on the customer service team. To help them out, you need to plan ahead to make room for increased calls and requests.
This season probably means intensified website traffic, sales, and customer demands. The National Retail Federation reported that US retail sales during the holiday season in November-December 2020 grew to 8.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019. According to Forbes’ research, 68% of organisations said they saw a greater increase in customer service inquiries during the 2020 holiday season versus the 2019 holiday season.
To stand ready for the holiday rush, prepare your customer service team in advance. Otherwise, you might find your staff being overwhelmed by the increased workload, ending up with poor customer service and unhappy customers.
8 tips on how to prepare the customer support team in time
1. Invest in staff, training, and onboarding
If your company’s experiencing holiday peaks, you probably need more staff, right? You might look into outsourcing temporary staff. Another option is to let the internal staff help with customer service-related tasks. Regardless of your choice, remember that they all will need proper training.
If you hire extra holiday staff each year, you need to spend a lot of time searching for, training, and hiring the staff. Of course, each hire will cost money, so make sure to plan how many people you need. Whether you hire part-time seasonal help or let the internal staff assist, you need effective onboarding. The recruits should learn about your products and services, commonly asked questions and responses, as well as communication and technical skills.
2. Review your demand plan
The best way to ensure you have the right amount of agents when the Holidays are approaching is to review your demand plan or customer support forecast. You can look at historical data from last year’s Christmas to determine how many support interactions you’ve had then and make predictions for this year. It will be much easier to know what to expect and how many agents you’ll need to handle the increasing workload.
If you take in too many agents, you spend money unnecessarily and end up with agents twiddling their thumbs. If the number of agents is too low, your employees might burn out, and longer queues can result in worse customer service and unhappy customers.
3. Set up FAQs and a chatbot on your website
It is helpful for both new agents and customers to get access to articles with answers to commonly asked questions. If you don’t have one, create a knowledge base on your website, preferably in connection with your blog or similar.
Another thing that can help take some relief off your agents is to set up a chatbot flow that asks the website visitor what they’re looking for and what their question is related to. Let’s say the chatbot asks: “What can I help you with?”. The chatbot can then offer some common topics customers usually wonder about, like shipping, billing, and returns. That makes it easier for the visitor to find the right area, and you can route the ticket to the right team that can handle that question. Continue reading about getting started with the Telavox widget.
4. Set opening hours and adjust welcome messages
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) allows the caller to quickly navigate to the right person via their telephone keypad and a pre-programmed telephone system. There are many benefits of interactive voice response (IVR), like greeting your customers properly when they call or that your PBX employees save a lot of time by not having to forward calls. With IVR, you can also receive more calls at the same time. IVR streamlines work and reduce your costs. Customer satisfaction will also be higher as they do not have to wait to arrive when they call. Plus, a voice answer guarantees they will end up with the right person on the first try.
If you don’t have one already, record a professional welcome message in your PBX where you inform your customers about the upcoming Christmas season. It’s a good idea to mention your differing opening hours or that response times might be affected.
With the increased task load and more staff members added to the customer support team, you also need to prioritise smart functions to make their job easier. Here’s where queue management comes in. A queue is one of the most-used PBX services, and it is a must to revise your call strategy (i.e., how calls are assigned to the queue members) ahead of peak seasons.
Telavox’s call center has an additional service called Call Center Pro that provides more advanced PBX functionalities and insights that will help both agents and customers. Here you’ll get advanced insights from your call center that enables you to ensure what number of agents is necessary.
6. Plan for employees that are on holiday themselves
Using profiles is the best way for colleagues to see who’s available. The profile’s name is shown for colleagues when it’s active, which means that your agents, for example, can see what other agents are in a meeting, on holiday, or are sick.
Also, use profiles to manage how users should receive calls, and be clear on how to set this throughout your organisation. Similar departments and roles should have similar profiles to make it as straightforward as possible.
For those using Microsoft Teams, Telavox offers features for presence sync. It’s a function that gives you real-time updates about your users’ availability. It will become easier to see if an employee is available, which will prove valuable to agents looking for assistance, who can instantly see who they should reach out to.
7. Get specific information for every case
Your contact center can provide clever functions and valuable insights, but you must use it fully. Integrating your cloud PBX with your CRM makes it easier for agents to track their interactions with customers and access all the information they need at all times, making them more productive and efficient.
The main perk of integrating your telephony with your CRM is that it improves your customer relationships. Your agents have access to real-time calling data about the customer and previous interactions. And when a customer reaches out to you, agents can automatically view their personal information and profile. Customers who reach out to follow up on a particular issue can be directed to the agent who previously handled their call.
You can also use Programmability to integrate your telephony with other platforms, such as your sales or eCommerce system, so that you can automatically check callers' order status or other details. You could, for example, check if an order has been dispatched, and then play a pre-recorded message informing the caller of the status. That means the customer gets an answer right away, and your agents can spend their time on other things.
8. Shorten time-to-resolution and first-contact-resolution
How quickly an agent can help solve a customer request is always essential for a customer service team. During peak seasons, it’s even more critical. That is why you should, if you’re not already doing it, get familiarised with time-to-resolution, i.e., how long it takes for an agent to solve an issue.
And while we’re on the subject, also look into first-contact resolution, the possibility of an agent solving an issue on the first try. As the pressure is higher during the holidays, it will likely take longer for agents to answer calls or chat messages, which might result in annoyed customers. So, training staff to quickly reply to customers’ questions and give answers to the most common questions can help increase first-contact resolution and, thereby, customer satisfaction.
The best way to use other teams’ freed-up time
The customer support team has their hands full, but what about the rest of the company? The potential downtime other departments might experience can be used for other value-bringing tasks.
Strengthen internal knowledge with reskilling or upskilling
For other employees with less to do, let them invest that extra time in themselves and their skills. Upskilling means that your employees can update and refine an already existing skill. One of your developers may want to get better at a certain programming language.
Reskilling is instead about adding new skills, say another developer wants to take a course in a new programming language. Both ways contribute to increased employee engagement and a strengthened corporate culture.
Perform a security audit
Slower periods are also the perfect time to invest in your digital security. Performing a security audit means reviewing a few aspects of your company and ensuring they’re following best practices. Here are some tips on conducting a security audit in 10 minutes.
With some thought-through preparations and by taking advantage of your digital tools, the holiday season can be smooth sailing. Go over your demand plan and insights from previous years to make an informed choice about staffing needs and hire new members accordingly. Use your digital communication tools to better prepare customers for the upcoming season and provide them with excellent support throughout the period, for instance, with the help of a chatbot on your website.
Finally, don’t forget to ensure your customer support staff have all they need to do their best work. If you’re interested in a communication solution to make the holiday season go by smoother, take a look at Telavox’s PBX phone system. Here, PBX, chat, email, video, and more are fully integrated into one easy-to-use platform.