How May I Help You? How to Handle Customer Service on Holidays

Posted by Guthrie-Jensen Consultants

Shopping is at its peak during the last quarter of the year. A lot of people shop online or in-store beginning from pre-Halloween festivities all the way to Christmas and the New Year. The volume of shoppers likely increases, as the gift-giving season is just around the corner. Perhaps non-frequent shoppers will buy a few things for themselves as well due to the sales and salary bonuses. It’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed, both for consumers and merchants.

However, with more customers comes more responsibility. During this time, many companies know that they should invest in a solid customer service plan, including tools to answer inquiries and logistical processes to meet shipping and delivery timelines.

Besides that, a good business should know how to handle customer complaints and conflicts around the holiday season. With the customers’ stress about getting all of their gifts on time and their schedules getting even more hectic, you should be able to meet and surpass their expectations.

Here’s how your customer service team can prepare for the holiday shopping rush.

Holiday Shopping Trends

Over the past few years, Thanksgiving weekend has become famous for the Black Friday sales. It pushes around 36% of people to shop in November, nudging consumers to do their Christmas shopping early. However, that doesn’t mean that December holds no power—last-minute shoppers and continued sales still attract shoppers to add more items to their cart.

Online shopping makes it easy to avail of said deals, but because people can’t see the products first hand, return rates are higher for e-commerce purchases. It’s important to set a transparent return and exchange policy so that you can field off these inevitable requests from your customers.


Preparing for Complaint Management During the Holidays

1. Create a schedule and coverage plan

Strategize a work timeline for your customer service team. Discuss working hours, what areas they’ll handle, and who they can escalate matters to. It can be difficult to motivate your CS team to work during the holidays, so it’s good to devise a plan as early as now. You can either allow them to work from home, work in half-day shifts, offer more pay, or give them the option to offset the days they worked during the holidays. Make sure each employee has equal hours divided among them and incentivize performance.


2. Manage customer expectations

Announce the availability of your CS team and preferred communication channels on your social media, website, newsletters, and more. This is so they can plan their schedule around when they want to reach you. If you announce that you’re available only on the weekdays, customers will know that messaging on a Saturday will result to getting a response the following Monday. Keep blasting your holiday customer service schedule so that there are higher chances for your audience to see it.


3. Set up a sample workflow

Have a dry run of work setup and see if it’s doable. You can practice it on a regular shift or days when you know customer tickets are more evident. Identify loopholes, raise concerns, and use this time to perfect your strategy. If your team says the schedule needs some adjustment, you have a chance to fix it before the actual holiday rush. This lessens mistakes and unnecessary time spent on simple concerns.


4. Train them how to deal with stressed customers

Handling irate customers is an art. Have your team read up on materials or attend workshops that focus solely on this subject matter. There are webinars or conferences they can enroll to learn the proper language to use, the dos and don’ts of promising to your customers, and the speed of the average response time.


5. Triage customer tickets

Not all messages will have the same level of urgency. Have an efficient category system that will enable your team to determine which from the queue to attend to first, and tag concerns with the right department. Your team will be able to focus on high-priority messages faster this way, and your customers will feel valued and satisfied. Have dedicated teams present for all types of concerns that may arise during the holidays. If someone’s working a solo shift, they should have someone they can depend on in case things get too tricky to handle.


6. Improve self-service support

75% of customers like solving purchase-related problems on their own. Providing a knowledge base for customers in their shopping journey is critical. In fact, more than half of your customers would abandon their carts if they can’t find the answers to their queries. Types of self-service support channels include FAQs, chatbots, blogs, and online forums. Empower your consumers with a transparent and interactive website that can answer a lot of their concerns. This also means fewer tickets arriving on your customer support software.


7. Provide a multichannel experience

Frantic customers will message you at the first portal they can think of. Let your customers know that they can message you in different ways: call, SMS, web forms, social media, e-mail, and more. Set up automated responses with reference numbers so they can follow up with their concerns. As much as possible, try to meet a timeline (e.g. 24-48 hours) so that your customers won’t be left hanging.


8. Have backups ready for all agents

In the event of an absent team member, someone should be expected to cover or handle the shifts. Your customer service teams are people, too and they may have unexpected events or personal situations to attend to during the holidays. Ensure that they have someone they can lean on in case they really can’t show up to work. Implement a system on how they can swap working hours with other team members. Make sure everyone is on the same page, so no one is left surprised when they have to sub for another team member.


Ready, Get Set, Go!

Holidays can be stressful for all parties involved: customers, businesses, couriers, and customer service representatives. That said, your CS team should employ a calm and level head during this crucial time. Customer service is hard work, but with proper training and preparations, you can handle the wave of messages during the holiday rush.

If you want to see real-life scenarios, gain more knowledge about the topic, and improve your customer handling skills, it’s a good idea to get involved with training. Guthrie-Jensen Consultants’ Exceptional Client Care Seminar will fully equip your customer service team in any delicate scenario they may face with your shoppers, ultimately strengthening customer relationships amid the holiday rush.

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