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October 25th, 2016

10 Ways to Prepare your Contact Center for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Prepare Your Contact Center for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Exceptional customer service is the new standard, and what better time than the holidays to bring your service up to par? The National Retail Federation estimates that retailers will attain up to 30 percent of their annual sales during the holiday season. With those sales comes an influx of contact center traffic as customers exchange or return items, need shipping and billing help, technical support and so on. In this hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a brand that is helpful and alleviates stress will really wow and retain customers whose loyalty may be available. Think with Google reports that in 2014, 50 percent of holiday shoppers said they would consider new brands, and 41 percent actually bought from a new retailer.

So, how can businesses capitalize on this opportunity? Here are some common sense strategies that aren’t really new as much as they are important reminders. Above all, expect it will be busy and plan for the unexpected. Sometimes, sudden chaos can bring out the best in your team and help you find really creative solutions to problems.

1. Make sure you are adequately staffed. Review your historical reports from previous holidays to get a sense of the contact volume, peak call times and workflows you should expect. Wait times for the customer should be comparable to other busy times (maybe even better). It will be a pleasant surprise for many expecting long wait times.

2. Train your staff for the busy times and give them some tips on how to deal with high demand. Refresh their product knowledge. Make a list of the things that could go wrong with products or services during the holiday rush and give guidelines on how agents can handle situations when those who traditionally need to sign off on them are out of the office and offline. Schedule multiple training sessions to avoid taking large numbers of agents off of the phones during the busy season.

3. Empower agents to use their best judgment when helping customers. Remove the need for clearance or special permissions and allow agents to use whatever means necessary to resolve issues for their customers. Customers will be blown away when agents don’t have to ask their supervisors to handle every aspect of a service lapse.

4. Set up a triage system for handling customer cases either manually or through special filters for chat, email and voice. Agents will be able to assign cases to the proper team right away so each case receives quick and instant attention from the right agent.

5. Motivate your team with friendly competitions, rewards programs or bonuses based on performance. Schedule daily team meetings to keep employees excited about breaking sales numbers while delivering fantastic service. In each meeting, talk about what happened the day before – strategize on how to repeat the good and avoid the bad.

You can foster a sense of teamwork and capability by branding your team as survivors or the resistance against the chaotic holiday season. If all else fails, in-office catering is a sure fire way to channel the holiday spirit in your contact center.

6. Model the right behavior. The best thing a customer service leader can do is keep calm and carry on, so treat the employees the way you want your customers treated and expect everyone else to do the same. While resources may be scarce and pressure higher than usual during the holiday season, you’ve hired your support team for a reason; you should have full confidence in their ability to survive the holiday season.

7. Cross-train across departments to ensure consistency and adequate coverage. If one service department will be away, be sure to define your strategy and how support representatives in another department should be handling customer support.

After the holidays, an all-hands meeting could provide some valuable insights that can be implemented in ongoing training efforts.

8. Communicate across departments so everyone is aware of seasonal product offerings. Working closely with the Inventory team can eliminate any delays in getting the most current information on stock items to your agents. There is little margin for error when handling back orders and delayed items during the holidays, and anticipating circumstances such as these can make the difference between keeping or losing your customers.

9. Update your IVR greetings with holiday hours and a quick message to let customers know they may experience longer than usual wait times. Take this opportunity to promote alternative service channels (e.g., FAQ page, social media). Customers that are warned of long wait times upfront are less likely to get angry and more likely to try these alternative channels.

10. Consider creating a Holiday FAQ page that many customers can refer to for answers to holiday-related questions. A Holiday FAQ and other self-service options may very well be life savers during the season as many customers prefer these over phone or email. Include questions like “What are your holiday hours,” “Do you have any rush order options,” and “What’s the latest version of your product, and how is it different from previous versions?”

Okay, let’s get to work. It’s holiday time!

The Aceyus blog is co-authored by Ben Vesta, Vice President of Product Development; Kortney Parkman, Marketing Specialist; Cristofo Romani, Application Consultant; and Jennifer Griffin, Human Resources Manager.

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