Customer service demands always increase during the holiday buying season, and the way this year has played out presents an even bigger challenge. Demand for customer care skyrocketed during the first two quarters of the year when eCommerce is relatively tame. If there was a crush of support requests in February, what might the more frenetic fourth quarter look like.
The time to prep, the time is now
Is your brand aware of how?
Service demands are going to double
If you’re not ready, you’re courting trouble.
Consumers want to feel the ‘wow’
Service delivered here and now
Both their expectations and their spending
Will go up, there’s no pretending.
Maybe I forgot to mention
How support means profit and retention
The holidays you’ll come to dread
Unless you stop to plan ahead.
Lining Up the Pieces
At least half of all purchases made in person were influenced by online browsing even before the pandemic. Since then, the trend has become more pronounced; eCommerce sales spiked earlier this year, and they have remained above traditional norms in the months since. What does that mean for getting ahead of the curve?
- The past as prologue: last year’s data should provide a baseline for this year – what were the most common issues, what channels were most often used, what dayparts saw peak demand, and how did performance measure up to metrics? Knowing what is likely to happen is invaluable; it allows for workflows to be mapped out and scheduling becomes more credible. It is also an opportunity to sync service with the rest of the organization in updating website content, being aware of promotional initiatives, and inculcating an “all-hands” attitude.
- Ramp up and amp up hiring: you already know service is going to require more people, but the hiring comes with a twist – there will not be the benefit of a nesting period that allows for on the job training. Hiring will be done faster, and training has to be more thorough so that even seasonal employees are prepared to operate like seasoned veterans. This may be a good time to look at remote staff or to outsource the entire process, taking advantage of a larger hiring pool and a partner who is already familiar with scaling an operation.
- Create an opportunity mindset: service is a revenue and customer retention center, not just a problem-solving function. Digital channels of communication are effective means of conversion but first, agents have to build rapport by resolving the issue that led to the contact. The scarcest commodity during the holidays is time; a quick answer or resolution builds credibility, and it opens the door to suggestive selling.
It’s About the Experience
Support and service matter because brand loyalty is being eroded, and the experience is becoming more important than whatever the client is selling. It’s among the reasons that companies hire Customer Success Managers before hiring salespeople. They’re treating ‘the experience’ as a chance to add value. As a contact center outsourcing provider, our mindset is one of ensuring outcomes. Customers who believe they are valued are likely to remain customers and refer to others.
The service team is a brand’s ambassadors, and the perception of customer care often colors the perception of the overall brand. Even more, this is the case during the holiday shopping season, when people are rushed and often tense. Treat every customer interaction as though it’s the first communication with that customer. Humanize the brand. People do not necessarily like being sold, but they love to buy, and people are much more likely to buy from a business that resolves issues efficiently and pleasantly.
Beef up the FAQ section for DIY consumers, prepare videos that answer basic questions or point users in the right direction, and set expectations regarding operating hours and any wait times that may exist. Customers will abandon a purchase if they’re having a bad experience; at the same time, they’re willing to spend more if they get great service.
- Be organized: schedule for peak periods, be aware of promotions, understand shipping times if they’re applicable.
- Identify what could go wrong: know what the potential issues are, whether delivery times or stocking issues and have a plan for addressing those pro-actively.
- Breathe: you have seen this movie before.