Halloween was just here – pumpkins still grace doorsteps, and the leaves are falling – yet step into a retail store, and you’re likely to hear holiday music blaring and be greeted by green and red colors bedecking the shelves.
Yes, the holiday “season” is upon us.
If you work in customer support – particularly in the retail sector – chances are, the holiday season is your busiest time of year, and you’ll need to equip your customer service team with the necessary resources to handle the additional calls, emails, and live chat traffic. For many companies, holiday sales and services bring in 25 – 40% of annual revenue, and how you treat your customers during the upcoming months can have a drastic effect on future sales and customer retention. Your customer service needs to really shine during the winter months, so make sure your team is ready. We’ve compiled five tips to improve customer service this holiday season.
Holiday Customer Service Tip #1: Look at last year’s metrics
Before you dive into your strategy for the Holiday Season of 2013, take a look back at last year’s metrics over the holidays to see where your weaknesses and strengths were. Did your team struggle with first call resolution? Did you measure customer satisfaction scores during the months of November, December, and January? What was your call volume? What types of issues were documented? It’s helpful to revisit the previous year so you can gear-up appropriately with training and coaching before you head into this year’s busy season.
Holiday Customer Service Tip #2: Staff up accordingly – but recruit internally first
Looking at your metrics from the previous year should give you an idea of how many additional staff you will need to handle the increased call volume, but before you consider hiring temp workers, first see if you can use internal staff to fill the gaps. There are many advantages to using current employees to assist with customer support, including the fact that staff from other departments will develop a better understanding of your customers. Zappos is known for using this tactic during the holidays – in fact, they even recruit executives to assist on the customer-side.
Holiday Customer Service Tip #3: Reiterate the importance of listening skills
You and your staff are not the only ones feeling the stresses of the holiday season; your customers are too. The holidays have a way of making almost all of our lives seem more hectic and rushed. Reiterate to your team the importance of using their active listening skills and manners when talking to customers. A simple “thanks for being patient,” and “I’m listening” can help diffuse a stressed customer’s fuse. Remind your customer service employees to be extra considerate – your customers really will notice.
Holiday Customer Service Tip #4: Acknowledge the customer’s problem
As we mentioned in holiday customer service tip #3, your customers are likely stressed and in a hurry during the holidays. If your customer says there is a problem, make sure your customer service team listens carefully (practicing empathy) and acknowledges the problem. In addition to manners, empathy is often quick to go when we are in a hurry. It’s a great idea to run through a few call center training games with your team before the calls start flooding in.
Holiday Customer Service Tip #5: Beef-up multi-channel support
A 2012 holiday survey found that live chat was the most preferred form of customer support during the prime shopping months. A whopping 94% of customers reported that they were likely to use online chat – if available – while shopping. Do you have a multi-channel holiday support strategy in place? In addition to working with your call center reps, have you been equipping a team to handle online support? Remember, use what your customers are using; if they expect to find online chat, offer it.
Be over-prepared, not under-prepared this holiday season
Make a lasting impression on your customers this holiday season, win future business, and give your customers a reason to talk about your brand. By preparing your team ahead of time, you’ll be ready to make the Holiday Season of 2013 a shining success.