How Customer Support Teams Can Survive the Post-Holiday Pandemonium

McKay Borbon | Content Marketing Manager


Just because Starbucks stops serving Pumpkin Spice lattes, doesn’t mean the holidays are over for customer support teams. 


Hold on to your venti Linda--the post-holiday season spike for support teams this year is going to be even crazier than 2020. E-commerce sales are projected to increase by 15%, there’s an ongoing labor shortage and to top it off, the worst supply-chain crisis in history is happening. 



What does the post-holiday season look like for customer support teams? 

We dove into the 3 biggest challenges CS teams will face and applied our best research into how to combat them to turn that post-holiday frown upside down. 



Returns Are All the Rage, But Extended Policies Set The Stage For Loyalty


Due to an over 45% increase in online shopping last holiday season, over $428 billion in merchandise was returned. 


COVID and economic-related shopping shifts and struggles will continue in 2021 and into 2022 while customer expectations continue to evolve and increase. This makes return policies the center of customer loyalty for every retailer worldwide. 



Mark Mathews, NRF’s vice president of research development and industry analysis points out that, “Retailers view the return process as an opportunity to further engage with customers, as it provides additional points of contact for retailers to enhance the overall consumer experience.”


72% of shoppers reported that a great return experience makes them more likely to buy again from the same retailer. When you offer busy and stressed customers an effortless experience, they’re likely to recommend your brand and share their experiences on social media. In September, the leading e-commerce giant, Amazon, extended its returns policy till the end of January and other retailers should follow suit.


But how can support teams keep up with the scale and speed of the inbound return process online during return season? 3 words: Thankful’s AI Agent.



Our AI Agent works within your existing helpdesk to effortlessly resolve large volumes of returns across email, chat, SMS, and in-app channels. With the ability to understand, connect, solve, and inform, Thankful’s AI Agent delivers a human-like service experience. It's equipped with speed and expertise that’s born to scale and built to drive loyalty beyond the holiday season.


Backlog = Burnout. Automation = Bingo. 


Most companies during and after the holiday season have a support ticket backlog longer than any CVS receipt you've ever seen in your life. 


Zendesk found that 85% of customers will jump from one service channel to another if they don’t get a response from their initial contact. In some cases, half of those customers will wait less than an hour before trying again.

Many holiday customer queries are repetitive with agents handling the same issues over and over again which can take a toll on them mentally and physically. As a result, many agents during this time of year report high levels of stress with equal parts boredom and burnout. 


With the current labor shortage, most customer support teams are already short on expertise, which makes it impossible to handle pre and post-holiday spikes in service demand. So what are brands to do?


Model what Lumin, the famous men’s skincare brand did.


During the post-holiday season chaos that began in 2020, Lumin was struggling to manage extreme ticket volumes and needed to provide customers with quick and personalized customer service. They made the wise decision to begin leveraging AI automation and partnered with Thankful. 


By analyzing their most common tickets, we partnered to create automated, AI responses that balanced speed and resolution to deliver a competitive customer experience.

Lumin was able to eliminate the burden of staffing and became empowered to scale without making any major changes or major investments. The shocking result?


Most Consumers During The Holidays Are Straight Up Not Having a Good Time. Be Empathetic and Reep the Rewards.


A whopping 88% of people think the holiday season is the most stressful time of the year.


The physical and mental impact of the pandemic, pressures of gift-giving, Aunt Karen’s Facebook page that always starts drama, and the plight of seasonal depression are just some of the emotional weights that people are carrying this holiday season. 



So how can brands make the holidays a little brighter for every customer they touch?


Deliver empathy with every interaction and transaction. Remember: Tickets are people. 84% of customers are more likely to continue doing business with you if they're treated like a person, rather than a ticket. There are big returns to making empathy the backbone of your brand's mission, especially during the holidays. 


Empathy-driven experiences lead to increased customer engagement. A Gallup survey found that customers are 9 times more likely to be engaged when they receive empathetic customer support. In the world of marketing and sales, engagement always equals more revenue long-term, especially experiences that are shared on social media.


Empathy within your CS and AI systems is a necessary path to securing your customer base both now and in the long run. AI automation has the power to deliver empathetic experiences at scale through personalization.


Personalization is a key component to providing an empathy-driven service experience. The more personalized a service interaction is, the more a customer feels cared for. When trained, AI is capable of retaining knowledge and utilizing it to tailor responses that are personal and relevant to each individual customer. Learn more about our best-in-class natural language processing that makes this all possible and start a free trial with our AI Agent today.


Customer loyalty initiatives, automation, and AI-powered empathy is how support teams will survive the post-holiday pandemonium of 2021. Let Thankful be your partner through the panic and help you drive positive outcomes with your customers! Let's Chat!



Additional Resources:

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McKay Borbon | Content Marketing Manager

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