The Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks, which means one thing: the holidays will be here before we know it! Just like it's never too early for PSL season, it's never too early to start planning for the holiday rush.
However, if you're starting your planning right now you're no longer early. Not only are consumers are planning on getting a headstart on holiday shopping this year, but some have already started!
With shoppers flooding online markets for gifts, the holidays are a key time to have your customer service running in top gear. When you offer busy customers an effortless experience, they’re likely to shop with you again and recommend your brand.
But it's not always simple to offer best-in-class service, especially during peak season. Delivering exceptional support will be an even bigger challenge this year as businesses continue to face pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, shipping issues, and heightened customer expectations in addition to seasonal challenges.
Here we highlight the main pitfalls of the upcoming holiday season and how your customer service team can avoid them:
1. Planning too late
If you wait until October to plan for the holiday season, you’re already behind. Because you'll want to train staff, hone your workflows, and prepare for a volume influx, at least two to three months of planning is recommended. While this may seem early, it allows you to sharpen policies, reflect on past holiday seasons, create goals, and design a plan the whole team can get behind.
2. Not having customer service help available
When customers are holiday shopping, they expect customer service to be available when they need help or have questions. The longer they have to wait for a response or an answer, the more you’re likely to lose their business. That’s why it’s important that your business has service available 24/7. Implementing a solution like AI automation ensures your customers are taken care of even when your human agents are tending to another customer or are off the clock.
3. Not offering omnichannel support
Consumers are always seeking out convenient experiences, especially during the busiest time of the year. They don’t want to be forced into live chat when they’d rather send an email on their own time or a text message on the go and get back to their holiday errands. With omnichannel support, you can be everywhere your customers want you to be. When customers are empowered to contact you in a way that works best for them, they’ll feel more satisfied with the experience.
4. Limiting return policies
Just as online purchases have drastically increased over the past year and a half, so have returns. The holidays are stressful enough and you don't want to make it more difficult for your customers. If grandma doesn’t like her new sweater, she should be able to return it with ease.
If you haven’t already, consider implementing free returns and longer return windows. With the shipping challenges and logistic issues brought on by the pandemic, return policies matter more than ever before. When consumers feel constrained by a return policy, they’re less likely to purchase from you. In fact, 70% of consumers say return policies determine their purchasing decision. These more lenient policies allow customers to give gifts with peace of mind, knowing that an exchange for a loved one will be hassle-free.
5. Being unclear on shipping timelines
There is no denying that shipping delays have been a widespread pain point since the start of the pandemic. Pain point or not, customers still want to know exactly when they’ll get their online purchases. Will that dress they ordered arrive in time for the holiday party? And when will that gift they bought for their brother be delivered?
While you may not have total control over when an order will be delivered, you do have control over how you communicate with your customers about shipping. Using clear language about shipping expectations on your website, during checkout, and with CS reps can help avoid any confusion or misinformation. It’s also important to make it easy for customers to look up or inquire about their order tracking. Better yet, be proactive and keep them updated on the status of their order delivery.
6. Not supporting your reps
The holidays can be stressful, especially for your customer service reps. Between an influx in tickets, frustrated customers, and the anxiety that usually comes with the holiday season, agents have a lot to balance. While your team is gearing up to support your customers, make sure you’re supporting them.
Ensure they feel ready to take on the holidays by providing them with clear expectations, solid training, and the right tools to do their job. AI automation can alleviate pressure on your team by taking on high volumes of repetitive and transactional queries, allowing your team to scale for the seasonal rush. Technology like Thankful's Agent Assist can also help save your agents time and effort through delivering AI intuition that empowers them to provide quicker and more accurate service.
Leading up to and throughout the holiday season, be sure to regularly check in with your agents and express appreciation for them. While their hard work should be recognized and rewarded, it is also important to foster an environment that values mental health. Focus on your team’s wellbeing and implement ways to boost their spirits during this busy time.
7. Avoiding accountability
If a customer is frustrated, be ready to apologize and make it right for them. It's best not to let something small turn into something big. Equip your reps with ways to show empathy, so they can make customers feel heard. Give them options for handling disgruntled customers, such as offering free shipping or a special discount.
As you plan for the holiday season, remember to have some fun. When you share a little holiday cheer, it rubs off on customers and makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Looking to integrate automation before the holiday season? Request a demo here.