Holiday customer service 101: 8 tips to prepare your team
Your customer’s initial experience with your business likely begins long before they land on your website or set foot in your store. Today, 83% of local consumers are searching daily to find information about businesses in their area – and what they find can mean the difference between conversion to an in-store or online visit or their clicking on to a competitor.
For many retailers, December is the busiest time of the year in terms of sales. It’s a stressful time, too, as the holiday season brings increased demand for customer service in-store and across phone calls, emails, and other online communication methods. These channels are an integral part of your brand’s service strategy, each a touchpoint that helps shape that customer’s overall experience with your company. Is your brand meeting customer expectations? Is your customer support team ready for the holiday rush?
Whether customer service requests come in search via Google Business Profile Messaging, over the phone, or at the register, customer service representatives (CSRs) are your frontline. How can you help them prepare for the holiday rush?
Check out these eight tips you can incorporate into your holiday customer service strategy to delight and satisfy local customers in every location this holiday season.
1. Start preparing now
It seems that holiday shopping kicks into high gear earlier every year – and this one is no exception. The start of the holiday shopping season historically has been marked by Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts. Now, shoppers are eager to get a head start before Thanksgiving with holiday sales from big box stores like Walmart and Target starting earlier in the year.
After two years of rising prices, stockouts, and extended delivery times, shoppers are not risking inventory shortages this holiday season, despite a potential upcoming recession. According to the 2022 Deloitte holiday survey, 38% plan to start their shopping earlier, pulling more of their budget into October and spending an average of $329 vs. $266 in 2021.
Initially, these trends seemed to come from the rising popularity of e-commerce shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, more consumers turned to online channels for gifts. Retailers raced to capture the early traffic and entice them with sales, creating a snowball effect that sets off the current wave of early start dates.
E-commerce and brick-and-mortar brands should think about preparing their customer service for the holiday promotions as early as August and September. Brands can set up support systems and audit their customer experience journey to ensure they address any gaps in service or ability to fulfill orders.
Recommended reading: What is customer experience management?
2. Fix abandoned carts
Abandoned shopping carts can pose huge problems for brands with online stores, especially during the holidays. To combat this issue, retailers should focus on improving their customer experience by offering personalized messages to shoppers who leave products in their carts. These messages could include reminders about holiday promotions or deals or simply a friendly note saying, “We’re sorry we couldn’t help you today.” Brands can also offer alternative shopping suggestions based on their shopping cart.
Abandonment emails are one of the best ways to get your customers back into their shopping carts. They’re easy to set up, relatively inexpensive to put together and work great for new and returning customers. These can be sent as SMS messages, too.
In addition to sending out reminders about products in their cart, you can offer special discounts during certain times of year (like Black Friday) or give them a coupon code if they’ve already purchased something else.
3. Repair any issues
Not only does proactive outreach put customers’ minds at ease, but it can help prevent an influx of customer support requests. Ensuring that your customer service technology can effectively segment your customer base and provide proactive communication is an excellent first step to resolving potential issues.
It’s also crucial to ensure your digital storefront and online presence is up to date. Numerous issues can arise with product orders due to misinformation on your site and in your local listings. It’s also essential to make sure your holiday hours are updated for the season.
Simple fixes, such as these, can help resolve potential issues in customer service before they arise and affect your customer service management.
4. Prepare routing
Agents overwhelmed by call volume can cause delays and frustration for both shoppers and brand representatives alike.
Brands can help alleviate these issues by implementing intelligent routing systems that automatically match shoppers with the correct support team member based on crucial information, such as past purchase behavior and agent specialty. By doing so, brands can ensure that every shopper receives the highest quality service possible.
Customer support agent involvement is the most important factor in holiday shopping success. When overwhelmed agents are a strong possibility, brands can help hold the queue by using intelligent routing to manage the flow of requests.
Automated flows can be built, but they’re needed per support use case from agent availability to channel recommendation.
5. Create self-service options
Brands can provide customers resources to help themselves, which can help create more positive experiences and give agents time to handle urgent service requests.
Technology can be a reliable route when it comes to customer service management. It can also alleviate repetitive or time-consuming tasks your customer service team may have to deal with in influx during the holiday season. This is where AI can help.
AI can help route customers to the correct representative through chatbots and initial questions during phone calls. Chatbots can help track packages, provide different options to purchase and help build loyalty after purchase. This way, your team can focus on more complex aspects of customer service, such as escalated calls and priority cases.
Another excellent form of self-service is Google Business Profile (GBP) Messaging, which enables searchers to send messages to businesses to their GBP by clicking the chat icon on their profile. This is a quick and easy way for potential and existing customers to ask questions. They can also ask for special requests for booking or quotes through this feature.
Google Messaging can be trickier for enterprise brands, who need to promptly answer questions at scale. Creating a strategy to accommodate the influx of shopper messaging during the holiday rush will benefit your customers and the customer service team. It can help to equip local managers with templates to answer the most frequently asked questions, and provide them examples of what needs to be escalated.
6. Omnichannel support
Omnichannel support should be considered an integral part of any customer service strategy. Customer service representatives should be able to access information about the customer and their account through various channels such as email, phone, social media, chat, and mobile apps. Then they can access the information they need to quickly and efficiently assist customers.
Another component of the customer service channel is managing online customer reviews. Online reputation management can be challenging to address at scale, but with the right resources can become more manageable.
There’s also a conversion and social proof element to online reputation management, which needs to be a component of your local SEO strategy. Templated responses, customer service training, benchmarks for response time, responding to negative and positive customer reviews, and monitoring and reporting spam reviews are all excellent aspects of a well-formed online reputation management strategy.
It’s crucial to incorporate a strategy focusing on different review platforms and features, such as Google Customer Reviews. We all know how impactful reviews can be for shoppers questioning a purchase which is why brands need to focus on responding to and monitoring reviews.
7. Reframe scalable staffing
There are a handful of practical and common ways businesses increase their client service capacity to prepare for the busy holiday season, including:
- Increase seasonal staffing
- Offer extended hours
- Provide incentives
- Use technology
- Invest in training
- Create a culture of being customer-centric
- Be transparent and ask for feedback
8. Personalize your local customer’s experience
To create meaningful ,long-term connections with customers, enterprise brands need to focus on personalizing the local search customer experience.
If you follow the previous tips, you will likely cover most of the impactful opportunities that can help to personalize your customer experience, such as creating relevant holiday posts, including special offers and seasonal promotions, monitoring and responding to reviews, and updating your store’s holiday hours.
Brands can also create localized and personalized video content and ensure your in-store products are in stock and updated on your GBPs.
Recommended reading: How the Google My Business Product Approval Process Works
If you’re looking for more ways to personalize your customer experience, dig into your customer reviews at a more granular level or ask for feedback. Going right to the source can be insightful and provide invaluable data for your customer service strategy. It’s also important to do local research to incorporate community content into your GBPs.
Is your customer service team holiday ready?
The holiday shopping season presents enormous challenges but also great opportunities for brands. Success will extend beyond the immediate sales haul when companies plan ahead and support and train their customer service teams to meet customers’ needs.
That effort will help create loyalty among shoppers who appreciate how your brand made their holiday experiences rewarding and positive experience. If you’re looking for more ways to optimize customer interactions, check out our specialized content and resources.
Interested in our solutions? Get in touch, and we can bring you up to speed.