At Desk.com, we talked to some of the support managers taking on the holidays this year to understand how they empowered their teams to provide amazing customer service. Through a series of interviews with them and our WOW team members, we gathered six effective strategies that all holiday heroes should use to prepare for the peak seasons:
1. Plan AheadYou should consider planning at least three months before peak periods. This time is needed to determine personnel needs, training, and if necessary, schedule longer shifts for existing employees. Planning ahead and setting goals is essential - especially for fast-growing companies that have experienced rapid customer growth in the previous months.
Fortunately, some simple reporting and forecasting efforts can really go a long way to determine how much personnel and tools you need on hand for the peak seasonal demand. There is a wide set of factors that you should consider analyzing in order to effectively forecast the holiday season.
Desk.com’s customers paid special attention to these key points:
- Look at your workflows from the past peak seasons
- Understand your past years’ customer satisfaction ratings during the holidyas
- Consider the cost of hiring seasonal workers compared to training team members from different departments
- Make an educated forecast of how many customer inquiries you will receive this year
2. Divide and Conquer: Triaging Customer InteractionsOne of the biggest mistakes you can make during the holidays is not providing a process for your support team to efficiently and effectively handle all of the cases. Unfortunately, an inbox full of hundreds of cases that grows by the hour has the ability to slow any agent down. An effective process that keeps agents productive is “triaging” - a strategy that gives all cases quick, instant attention.
Triaging cases as they come in allows you divide and conquer your case load by having the right cases, assigned to the right teams, right away. By gauging the urgency of a case and correctly categorizing it by the type of help the customer needs, you’re ensuring the right agents are handling the customer’s question. This prevents specialized agents from wasting time digging through cases looking for the ones that most require their subject matter expertise.
Desk.com customer, SmugMug, says this about triaging cases:
"Triaging cases makes all the difference during the holidays. It's necessary to triage for cases and set up special filters. In order to efectively triage incoming customer interactions, we use Case Filters a lot in Desk.com."
3. Improve Self-Service SupportIt’s no secret that the holidays are a time of high case volumes and even higher emotions. The best way to keep both at bay is to provide customers with the resources they need to solve their own questions. You can serve more customers faster simply by making answers to common questions readily available to them through an online support center. Most customers prefer to solve their own problems anyways! According to Forrester, 72% of customers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email.
A Holiday FAQ is an incredible resource for customers and has the potential to dramatically deflect calls or emails - meaning, holiday shoppers do not need to contact your support team because they have solved their own problem using the FAQ.
Consider some of the following questions for your Holiday FAQ:
- What are your work hours during the holidays?
- Did you recently release a new version of a product during the holidays? What’s different about it from the older version?
- Are there any discount codes available? Explain the fine print.
- What are the shipping policies?
- What are your return/exchange/ cancellation policies?
- Do you have any rush order options?
4. Empower Agents to Get the Job DoneWe’ve all been in that situation when a holiday order somehow goes terribly wrong. It might have been lost in transit or arrived three sizes too small. In which case, having a problem resolved in the shortest amount of time in a friendly and personalized fashion has the greatest impact on a customer’s holiday experience.
In order to deliver amazing customer service in the shortest amount of time during the holidays, you should consider empowering your agents to solve customer problems at all costs. By giving agents trust and confidence to make their own judgment, they will be able to deliver a fast, personalized customer experience without having to jump through any hoops. A team of support agents that deliver a fun and fast customer experience has the potential to be a huge competitive advantage during the holidays.
Desk.com customer, Bonobos has created a positive reputation for their company because of the amazing customer service that they provide. Here is what Senior Support Manager, Cole Sickler said about why they empower their agents:
By empowering our staff to do whatever they want to satisfy a customer they can jump to a workable solution immediately without having to get clearance or jump through any hoops."
5. Focus on Fast Resolution TimesMany customer service managers will advise that the biggest efficiency metric to focus on is an immediate first response time. Setting goals to reach a customer as soon as possible is a great way to make them happy because it assures them that support is reachable. However, bear in mind your team could consist of agents that pick up a phone within two rings or average an hour response time via email. But, if they require multiple contacts over a period of 2-3 days to solving each case, then your agents might not be as effective as you thought.
There are several ways to twist the gears to make sure agents can solve cases as fast as possible:
- As mentioned earlier, triaging cases allow agents to quickly respond to easy, one-touch-resolution cases and escalate the higher priority ones that require more time and patience.
- Desk.com customers love using Macros to get simple questions answered fast and effectively. It’s also easy to train cross functional teams on which macros to apply where.
- Actively respond to cases with links to your knowledge base giving customers the opportunity to solve their own issue. HINT: This can be automated with Desk.com’s Macros.
- As also mentioned earlier, empower agents to solve cases at all costs. Rather than creating a bottleneck filled with cases that have not been resolved due to agents asking permissions from their managers, give them the freedom and resources to make the customer happy.
6. Activate Whole Company SupportRather than spending time and money on seasonal workers, consider activating whole company support - or cross-training fellow colleagues - for the busy holiday season. Whole company support provides more personnel that require little training as well as allows your system to be more resilient to the stress that will undoubtedly be experienced during the peak season.
First, you should equip all of your colleagues to answer basic questions customers may have (refer to the Holiday FAQ previously discussed). Then set up an escalation procedure for common situations that require additional steps or expertise from full-time agents. This tactic is particularly useful on busy days like Black Friday and the day after Christmas when all hands need to be on deck.
With basic training and some guidance, you can stack your support team with more personnel and make sure each customer receives a fast and personal response.