How-to Provide Excellent Holiday Customer Service this Christmas

Nicole Davies
April 15, 2021
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Nicole Davies

According to Freshdesk, customer service queries increase by 75% over the Christmas period! Is your business ready? In this post we'll walk you through five simple and easy to implement tips that will help you manage the increase in demand over Christmas and truly ace your holiday customer service. These include:

  • Detailed planning
  • Proactive communication with customers
  • Drawing on past holiday trends
  • Empowering your agents to resolve queries quickly
  • Optimising self-service on your website
Infographic: Holiday customer service

Let’s jump right in....

1. Set a clear plan

Never underestimate the power of a good plan! Detailed planning is one of the best things you can do to ensure you continue to deliver good 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 - will you continue with your usual operating hours, or will your holiday customer service hours change? There is no right or wrong answer here. If you’re a small business with limited staff, maybe you don’t want to spend Christmas day manning your contact channels; if you’re a larger business, maybe you need to offer increased support throughout the holiday - both are fine! The most important thing you need to do is 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. 
  • Workloads - make sure you have enough agents to cover demand. This can be tricky to calculate, but you can use data to help. Look at your contact centre 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.
  • Contact channels - what contact channels are you going to offer customers? Ideally, it is 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 do not have enough agents to man all of the channels, it would be best to ‘close’ a few. For example, it’s better to offer customers a call back than to leave their live chat request unanswered. 

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. 

Put any important information on your homepage so customers can easily see it - that includes holiday operating hours, details on days you are closed, and available contact 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. 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 is taking an 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. 

Open communication is always key to managing expectations and keeping customers happy.

3. Draw on past holiday experience

A good way to prepare your holiday customer service is to draw on past trends. Look at whatever data you have available from past festive seasons and prepare.

  • 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? As we mentioned earlier, you can use this data to manage workloads this year.
  • Type of requests - what have been the most frequent customer queries in the past? Has it been questions about returns, deliveries, or specific product information? Make sure agents have the up-to-date information for these 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? Take note of any seasonal preferences and cater to them. If live chat has the most demand, put more agents 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 possibly. 

Remember: record all the data from this holiday season to help you out next year! The more data you have, the more prepared and strategic you can be year on year. 

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 down with slow response times. 

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 agent needs to transfer a customer to another agent, it automatically slows down resolution times. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but try to limit it as much as possible by ensuring all agents have adequate, up-to-date knowledge (a bit of pre-Christmas refresher training on how to handle stressed customers can also go a long way!).

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 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 contact channels. Live chat and call backs are the leading contenders here: 

  • Live chat allows agents to answer in real-time and, the really great thing...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. 

5. Optimise self-service 

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. 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 customer service.

We hope you find these tips useful this Christmas. If you have any other hacks that help you manage the holiday customer service rush, get in touch to let us know!

Nicole Davies
Nicole Davies
Digital Marketing Executive
Customer Service
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