All businesses know the importance of customer support and try to do what it takes to delight their customers. It is, after all, prudent to see customer service as an opportunity rather than just a cost. They see this from the prism of happier customers who will continue to remain loyal and will likely become good ambassadors.
While service is an activity that goes on throughout the year, past experience shows that holidays are the time when demands on customer service peak. This period provides an excellent opportunity to businesses that see customer support as an opportunity. Now is the time to plan and be ready to harness this great opportunity.
With the experience of forced lockdowns followed by people working from homes, we have seen that consumer behaviour has gone through a significant change. Their expectations have changed too. So have the ways they reach out to companies.
Businesses have also seen customer support activities stretching to cater to evolving customer expectations, demands, and the rush. This has already pushed boundaries and forced firms to innovate and implement systems to keep pace. Technologies to enable better customer support continue to evolve, and more businesses have learnt to use them.
The differences in approach and the results between the businesses that have refined their customer support and those who continue to struggle are clearly visible.
The road ahead
Holidays are approaching, and customer support demands will again increase, not only in volumes but also in variety. For businesses, the time is now to take stock of the expected volumes, anticipated customer expectations and review their current capabilities and capacities.
The key to harness is in detail, both in planning and testing the operational capabilities plans. The process begins with stating the objective for customer support this holiday season.
Any delay in taking suitable and timely actions will likely create frustrations in customers and lead to lost business opportunities. As the old saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine’’.
The necessary steps
An obvious starting point is to review the results from last holiday season and learn from the changing landscape of customer expectations over the last year when customers were operating from home. Couple this with learning from the best of companies who have excelled in customer service, and we should be in good shape.
It will also make sense to evaluate which actions over the year have given better results and which channels for support have seen the highest evolution. For example, the adoption of self-service and instant communication tools has evolved significantly.
All this is easier said than done. This will require time and a series of checkboxes to tick. Let us review the steps and tips to learn from.
Restate the objective
It is a good idea to have a relook at the objective statement in the changing landscape of customer engagements and their expectations.
This modified statement could also look at customer support from the perspective of newer opportunities harnessing while delighting the customers.
Get relevant data points together
Any planning without relevant data points could go awry. Internal data from the last holiday rush is undoubtedly the one to have on the table. Add to it the data from the last full year with a focus on patterns and peaks in support traffic. The planned increase in sales revenue is another relevant data point because every additional sale is a potential customer support case.
You can also link your hosted phone systems to your CRM software to unify customer data entry points, allowing you to store and collect relevant data in a single, user-friendly online portal.
Additionally, your hosted phone system provides you with data on agent performance. These detailed reports allow you to view the average handling time per call, the number of first call resolutions, customer satisfaction scores etc.
Redraft or modify the operational plan
Your existing support obviously works. We are talking about redraft from the perspective of incorporating increased stress levels in consumers in the post-pandemic scenario. Incremental modifications to incorporate insights from data points collected as outlined above must be baked into the plan.
The plan must also include multiple channels to provide support to customers wherever they are and in the form that works best for both the business and the consumer.
The right plan based on relevant data points is an absolute must to reduce the probability of stretched execution. The plan also needs to be communicated well, the teams need to be aligned and inform the customers about how to reach out for support during the holidays.
Put chatbots to use
Chatbots are a great tool to save time for support agents by automating routine and mundane queries from customers. This allows agents to only focus on more complex requests, while the chatbots assist customers with quick solutions to simpler queries.
Chatbots have seen significant acceptance for good reasons, and there are best practices available to learn from. It is a must-have for any business that is yet to include them in the support plans.
Even for businesses already using chatbots, there are opportunities to refine them by training them further on evolving patterns in customer queries. And yes, the bots need to quickly hand over to a human for queries that may require intervention.
Live chat still works
There is simply no alternative to live chat for its convenience for customers. The near-instant resolutions through live chat are sure to crank up satisfaction levels.
The key here is to review your existing chat tool for efficacy and look for alternate tools that could be superior. The other approach could be to increase the efficiency of your current chat tool through canned responses with links to articles that provide solutions, routing to relevant agents through the capture of keywords in chat, and such similar enhancements.
Self-service is on the rise
A majority of younger customers today are happy to find resolutions themselves through the information that is made available to them. They have begun to prefer this over reaching out to businesses or their agents.
Enabling self-support through frequently asked questions or blogs should certainly be on the table.
The key here is to review and update the frequently asked questions basis the current trends and patterns in customer queries. You should have data on your existing FAQ on its usage and effectiveness. There will always be an opportunity to improve this piece. Viewing this content from the perspective of customers is a good approach. In fact, contributions from your existing customers can be a great resource.
Needless to add, this support channel has to ensure that the customer gets to the relevant information for his support needs in the easiest way possible and in the shortest time. After all, no one likes to navigate through mazes.
Self-service achieves two key objectives – it fulfils the evolving customer expectations around finding resolutions on their own, and it considerably brings down the load on the customer support operations.
Look for the differentiators this holiday season
Innovation is the key when looking for that little extra that can make the experience for customers extraordinary. Review if tools like video chat make sense for a deeper engagement. Think out of the box and find things like co-browsing to guide the customers better.
Differentiators make a business stand out from the pack, and they are undoubtedly worth inclusion in the overall support strategy.
The regular checkboxes of adequate staffing, roster management, agent training, cohesive alignment of technical resources, appropriate escalation matrix, and rewards for exceptional customer support are all critical and must be visited. There are best practices available for each of these topics, and it is best to include the appropriate ones into the plan for customer support for this holiday season.
Two things are happening in customer engagements. There is a sea of sameness in support, and there are rising customer expectations with evolving engagement models.
In a nutshell, this is time for a change that is differentiated rather than just incremental. The upcoming holiday season is an excellent opportunity to take the next step and convert customer support to have delighted customers that add to your business’s bottom line. And the time for action is now.
Olivia is an outgoing person who enjoys writing, is an SEO enthusiast, and often interacts with others in intellectual conversations. She enjoys listening to music in her free time. Connect with her on Linkedin