How to Provide Excellent Holiday Customer Service for Christmas 2022

November 21, 2022
Time:
5
mins
Christmas tree with snowflakes

Are you prepared for the holiday rush?

According to Freshdesk, customer service queries increase by 75% over the Christmas period.

It's no surprise as to why: every year, the holiday season brings more and more customers online, all searching for the perfect gifts.

This means that your customer service team will receive more support queries and your online store will attract more traffic too.

It also means that your social media channels will be full of questions, queries and, at worst, the odd customer complaint.

After all, the peak season for online shopping means more customer issues of all types - from frequently asked questions on sizing and specification to queries on return policies and delivery.

So, what can you do to ensure your customer service team provides excellent support during the busiest shopping period of the year?

In this article, we'll provide the top tips to help you manage this hectic period. We'll cover:

  • Planning and preparation
  • Proactive communication with customers
  • Drawing on past holiday trends
  • Empowering your agents to resolve queries quickly
  • Optimising self-service on your website

Let's get started.

online shopping

Holiday customer service tips

To make sure you're offering excellent customer service this holiday season, take note of the following five tips.

1. Set a clear plan for your customer service team

Detailed planning is one of the best things you can do to ensure you continue to deliver great customer service during the holiday season. 

So, what sort of things do you need to plan?

Let’s break down the key areas:

Operating hours 

Setting your operating hours and response times are a crucial part of an effective customer service plan.

You need to decide - will you continue with your usual operating hours over the holiday season, or will your hours change?

There is no right or wrong answer here. You can still go the extra mile while keeping your core operating hours the same.

What's important is to make a plan and stick to it.

For instance, if you’re a small business with limited staff, maybe you don’t want to spend Christmas day manning your digital channels.

On the other hand, if you’re a larger business, maybe you need to offer increased support throughout the holiday.

Ultimately, you just need to decide what is right for your business.

Decide when and if you are closing, decide if you’re increasing or decreasing your customer service operating hours, and decide what these new hours are. 

response time watch

Workloads 

Once you've got your support team members aligned on your core operating hours, the next step is assigning enough staff to cover demand.

Not only is this crucial for a seamless customer experience, but it's also vital to ensure high workplace morale.

Of course, assessing your needs can be tricky to calculate, but you can use data to help.

To get started, look at your contact center data from the past few months to see how many interactions you get per day on average.

If you have the information available, look at past holiday customer service trends to try and predict if demand will increase, decrease, or stay roughly the same.

Armed with this knowledge (and bearing in mind your Christmas operating hours), you can calculate workloads for the holiday season.

If you predict demand will increase drastically, you might want to consider hiring a few seasonal agents to help out.

happy call center agent

Contact channels 

Now that you've got your core operating hours set and your support team prepared, you should decide which contact channels you're going to offer this holiday season.

For instance, are there any you're going to prioritize during business hours?

Are there any you are going to preclude?

Ideally, it’s best to keep all of your current contact channels operating.

This will ensure you continue to serve customers via their preferred channel, and it will keep demand spread out.

However, if you don't have enough advisors to man all of the channels, it would be best to ‘close’ a few.

For example, it’s better to offer customer callbacks than to leave their live chat requests unanswered. 

An even better option would be to deploy a customer service chatbot.

That way, you can make sure that your bot is ready to answer all the common questions your customers might have.

customer using engagement channels

2. Communicate with customers

When your detailed holiday customer service plan is complete, the next vital step is to update your customers about any changes. 

After all, it's crucial to manage customer expectations over the Christmas season. 

If they know when your help desk or support team is available, you're far less likely to face any last-minute support requests.

To start communicating more with your customers, put any important information on your homepage so customers can easily see it.

This includes holiday operating hours, details on days you are closed, and all your available engagement channels.

You could even send a pre-Christmas email that contains all of this information so customers are pre-warned and prepared. ‍

If you are experiencing an increase in demand, be proactive and let your customers know too.

For example, when customers join a phone queue, apologise for the wait and give them an estimation of how long they will be on hold for.

If it’s taking X amount of hours to reply to emails, set up an automated response that informs customers of this when they send an email to you. 

You could even redirect them to your website's knowledge base, helping more people answer their own questions through self-service.

E‍ither way, open communication is always key to managing expectations and keeping customers happy.

customer conversation with agent

3. Draw on past holiday experience

A good way to prepare your holiday customer service is to draw on past trends.

To get started, look at whatever data you have available from past festive seasons and prepare. This might include:

Demand

Did customer service demand increase or decrease last Christmas?

How much did it increase/decrease by?

What date did changes start and when did things settle back to normal?

Whatever the answers to these questions, use this data to manage workloads this year.

They’ll make you all the more prepared.

That said, if you struggle to manage or make of multiple data sources, it’s a good idea to look into data integration techniques and tools to help you out.

It'll help you prepare for the upcoming holidays and the seasons beyond.  

Type of requests 

What have been the most frequent customer queries in the past, and were you able to deliver on these requests?

Has it been questions about returns, deliveries, or specific product information?

Make sure agents have the up-to-date information for the most common queries, and ensure content on your site that addresses these issues is clear and correct. 

Type of contact channel

What contact channels have been the most popular for you during past holiday seasons?

Take note of any seasonal preferences and cater to them.

If live chat has the most demand over the holidays, put more teams on it.

If email is barely used, consider closing this contact channel during the holiday.

Be strategic with your channels to make your holiday customer service as effective as possible. 

Remember

Why prepare for just this years holidays season?

If you record all the data from this season, it'll undoubtedly help you out next year.

The more data you have, the more prepared and strategic you can be year on year - leading to greater success for your team and your company in the long run.

contact center agent digital engagement

4. Empower agents to respond quickly

89% of customers rate speed of response as the most important aspect of a good customer experience.

That remains true for holiday customer service, so don’t let yourself or your team down with a slow average response time.

‍But how do you go about that, exactly? How do you ensure you meet customer expectations and successfully motivate your team?

There are a number of key components to ensuring fast responses and resolutions.

First, make sure your agents have the right training and knowledge to handle requests from start to finish.

If an advisor needs to transfer a customer to another department, it automatically slows down resolution times.

Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but try to limit it as much as possible by ensuring all teams have adequate, up-to-date knowledge.

For example, you might provide some pre-Christmas refresher training on how to handle frustrated or rude customers.

Second, give your agents access to customer data.

Context can be key to fast answers.

If an agent can see what webpage a customer is contacting you from, view past customer interactions, and access historical data and background customer information in real-time, it can help them resolve issues faster. 

‍Finally, one of the best ways to reduce queues and ensure fast responses is to offer more channels. 

Live chat and callbacks are the leading contenders here: 

  • Live chat allows you to answer customer questions in real-time. What's more, agents can handle more than one live chat at the same time, making it far more efficient than phone calls. 
  • Call backs are a simple way to reduce call wait times and get customers off hold, which greatly increases customer satisfaction. 
customers waiting for support

5. Optimize self-service for higher customer satisfaction

Self-serve is an emerging contact centre trend that can be incredibly helpful in managing holiday customer service demand. 

‍Self-service is all about allowing customers to answer their own questions whenever possible.

The most basic way you can do this is by ensuring content on your website is easily accessible and correct.

This is where a knowledge base comes in handy once again.

Update content on deliveries and returns, and make sure it is easy to understand.

If you find you get specific Christmas related FAQs, put these questions and answers on your homepage. 

Another great way to help with customer self-service is a conversational virtual agent.

These can quickly be installed on your website, and programmed to answer FAQs or direct customers to the right information so they don’t need to contact your customer service team or helpdesk.

These tactics are especially helpful following the Christmas rush too.

After all, it's this New Year period that sees more customers getting in touch with refund queries and requests.

Either way, by preparing your company with the best tools possible, you'll be in a much better position to handle customer service during the holiday season.

customer hand and AI hand

The takeaway

Providing optimal customer service can be challenging during peak periods like Christmas.

Unfortunately, consumers demands don't decrease during this busy time - in fact, they're more likely to increase.

With the tactics detailed in this article, you can arm your business with the tools required to take on the hectic holiday rush.

But, when it comes to digital customer service, these strategies will fall short if you don’t have the right technology to help facilitate them.

In order to provide the best support during challenging periods, you need the right platform as your foundation.

And that's where Talkative comes in.

Our solution provides a complete suite of engagement channels that'll empower your customer advisors to connect instantly, and effortlessly, with your digital customers.

You'll also be able to manage all customer conversations within a single plane of glass.

As a result, you and your customer-facing teams will be fully equipped to provide superior customer service and experiences, even during your busiest seasons.

So, what are you waiting for? Book a demo with Talkative and take the first step to being ready for the holiday rush.

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