Why do you need this customer service holiday guide?
If you’ve been in the eCommerce business for quite some time, you know very well how busy the holiday season can get. You wouldn’t want to be left behind, would you? It’s hard to resist when you have the opportunity standing right in front of you.
If you want to capitalize on people’s generosity brought about by the holiday spirit, you need to make the necessary preparations. It’s hard to get into battle if you come unprepared.
That being said, we’ve crafted for you this simple customer service holiday guide to help you along the way.
If you’re serious about making your customers happy during the holiday season, you have to be ready to supply their needs. From the number of items in stock to the customer service, you have available. Everything needs to be planned out a month or two ahead.
1. Forecast Support Demand
The best way to meet the volume of demand is to look at the daily and yearly peak trends. At what month should the volume start rising? By how much does the volume increase once the holiday season kicks in?
It’s important to understand these trends because it will help you know how many freelancers to allocate. Will two customer service reps be enough to cover all requests in the days prior to Christmas? Do you need to hire more freelancers to meet the projected demand?
It’s easy to say that the volume spikes during the holidays. Relying on actual numbers, however, will allow you to save more money. Why hire more people if they show that your current roster is enough to cover everything?
2. Conduct Refresher Onboarding
Volume can become overwhelming. When you have more requests to process than you usually do, it can make you vulnerable to mistakes. The holiday isn’t a good time to commit costly mistakes.
The best way you can help freelancers and prepare them for what’s to come is by allowing them to brush up on their knowledge. Give them time to go through a simple refresher to help them remember the nitty-gritty. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate either.
Just give them time to go through the basics like your refund policies and standard SOPs. This will keep them from cracking under pressure and asking other people for help. This will save you time and make your customers happy in the process.
Prepare Customer Support
If there’s an aspect of the business that needs to be prepared more than the others, it’s customer support. Being on the frontline, customer support can easily make or break your holiday sales. This is the reason why you need to provide customer support hires everything they need to get things done.
With online shopping becoming a popular alternative, you can expect more people to buy during the holidays. As mentioned earlier, proper forecasting can make a huge difference, particularly when it comes to deciding whether to bring in more people or not.
It’s not a case of “the more the merrier” though. If you’re going to outsource, it has to make sense both from a logistical and financial standpoint. It has to comply with what your forecast tells you and not just because you want to have more people on deck.
It’s important to remember that outsourcing costs money. You’ll be hurting your business instead of helping it if you spend money on something you don’t need.
Timing is also important because hiring too late or when you badly need it can cause more damage than good. You need to give freelancers time to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of your business. If you’re going to hire more, do it ahead of time. Resist the temptation of throwing someone in at the last minute.
2. Schedule Accordingly
Most online stores operate on a 24/7 basis. You’d want someone to be there for your customers no matter what time they reach out, right? You don’t want them to jump to your competitor because no one’s there to pick up.
That being said, it would be good to hire freelancers who work on specific timetables. Then they will be accordingly throughout the day based on the forecasted volume. For instance, you can hire two who work in the mornings and three in the evenings, since more people tend to do their shopping at night after coming home from work.
Make sure to plan for the weekends, too. There are people who prefer to take weekend breaks, so be sure you can hire someone to cover these days before making plans.
3. Prepare for Vacations
Another aspect that deserves special attention is pending vacation plans. Let’s face it. The holiday season brings people together. With family and friends coming from out of town, some freelancers may already have vacation days planned.
Ask them ahead of time which days they’ll be offline so you can assign backups. This is also a good opportunity to assess if you need to bring in more freelancers. This is especially true on days when more freelancers are taking off.
It’s important to remember how crucial things are during the holiday season. We’re not just talking days here because there should always be customer support available at every hour.
People don’t like to be kept waiting, and this is true both in real life and online. An hour without customer support can cost you dearly. Not only will you be losing sales, but you also stand to lose customers. Can you imagine what this can do to your business’ reputation?
This can easily spread like wildfire with review sites and social media available for customers to vent on. Why take that risk when you can do something to keep it from happening?
4. Expand Communication Channels
While email is a reliable means of communication, we have to agree that it does come with disadvantages too. One particular disadvantage is speed. The time it takes to get a reply can be a bit long. It simply won’t fly for customers who want to speak to someone ASAP.
Customers demand a better overall experience. You need to provide them more ways to communicate with you. Adding phone and chat support (if you don’t have them yet) would be a smart move. Not only will this make your customers happy, but it will also allow you to resolve issues faster.
Incorporating website adjustments like Zendesk and Messenger chatbots is also a brilliant idea. By feeding your customers the answer to their questions automatically, freelancers are able to focus on more important tasks. This will come handy if you are “undermanned” or if the majority of the team is engaged in chats or calls.
Customers won’t have a reason to go anywhere else when they’re being given the attention they need.
5. Communicate More Internally
It’s during the holiday season when the phrase “communication is key” becomes more relevant. With so much going on and your desire to satisfy every customer, it’s crucial for everyone to be on the same page.
From the guys who do your product listings to the freelancers in charge of customer support, everyone should know what their respective roles are. More importantly, everyone should be able to easily communicate with everyone they work with.
For instance, anyone from customer support should be able to talk to someone who manages the inventory to check stock issues. They should also be able to communicate with the graphics guy or copywriter if one of the product listings needs updating.
Communication apps like Slack or Skype are good alternatives for such. Not only do they allow everyone to talk to one another, but they also let you quickly share files. Internal communication is essential in times like these and the apps mentioned help you make it happen.
6. Be Proactive
It’s no secret that you have dozens if not hundreds of competitors vying for customers’ attention. If you want to come out on top, you need to do something that will separate you from the pack.
Since demand and volume are relatively higher during the holidays, proactive support may just be the game-changer you’re looking for.
The first thing to do is analyze where customers usually hit a roadblock. Do they have difficulty adding to cart? Is your store still not accepting PayPal as a payment method? What were the top issues you encountered last year?
The objective is to be one step ahead of your customers. Before the holiday season even begins, make sure that these issues have already been resolved. The website should be revised to make checkout easy.
What does this kind of approach do for your business?
- Enhanced customer loyalty and trust
- More opportunities for higher conversions
- More word-of-mouth recommendations
Proactive support also means reaching out to customers for follow-ups. It’s a simple gesture that customers appreciate, opening more opportunities to do business in the future.
Optimize for Mobile
Speaking of being proactive, the majority of online shoppers today buy online using their phones. It would be good for business if you have your website optimized for mobile before the holidays come.
This modification presents a lot of benefits not only to your customers but to the business as well. For one, it will allow you to keep up with the competition. Just being optimized for mobile already gives you an advantage over competitors who aren’t.
Like what we’ve been saying throughout this customer service holiday guide, providing customers with a great buying experience should be a priority. Getting mobile-optimized is a surefire way of doing it because they no longer need to login to their PC to see product pages clearly.
In this day and age, being mobile-optimized is almost a requirement because you stand to lose a ton of opportunities otherwise. You wouldn’t want to be left behind, would you?
Keep Customer Support Reps Happy
Last but not least, nothing can get in the way of highly-motivated freelancers. Things become easier when you’re happy with what you do. Though you may feel a lot of pressure due to the demands of the holidays, it’s imperative for everyone to remain happy and satisfied.
This is one responsibility you cannot take for granted because this is not the time for any form of distraction. Keeping freelancers happy doesn’t necessarily have to equate to monetary compensation. Though money is definitely a good motivator, it’s their morale that you need to pay attention to.
Are you giving them everything they need to perform their duties? Are the expectations you set realistic and achievable? Are you still easy to work with despite the pressure, or are you crankier than usual?
Answering calls and processing orders isn’t the most exciting task, especially when you’re handling larger volumes and stressed out shoppers. The least you can do is keep everyone comfortable because happy customer service equates to happy customers.
The holiday season presents a lot of opportunities that eCommerce businesses can take advantage of. This customer service holiday guide aims to provide you with helpful ideas to help you prepare and make your customers happy.
A lot goes into preparing for the holidays. You have to ensure that your website is functioning perfectly and all the freelancers you’ve hired are ready to perform their roles at peak efficiency. If you’re going to succeed in capturing your customers’ hearts, a total team effort is required.
The great thing about outsourcing is that you only have to pay them for as long as you need them. To be clear, these preparations shouldn’t just be a holiday thing. You can continue to implement any of these ideas for as long as they meet customer demands.
That being said, now is the time to review what your business is lacking based on the ideas presented in this customer service holiday guide. Which among these ideas can you implement immediately? Which of them makes sense for your current situation?
If you think hiring more freelancers is logical based on your current forecast, FreeeUp can definitely help. If you’re not a client yet, take a few minutes to sign up so you can begin requesting the freelancers you need.
Noel Rosos is a personal development writer, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and founder of Life’s How You Live It, a personal development blog dedicated to helping people live the life they’ve always dreamed of. He is also a writer/contributor for Arianna Huffington’s wellness site, Thrive Global. He is an affiliate marketer, a full-time husband and father, and a self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST.