How To Get Your Support Center Ready For The Holiday Season

In a busy season where ticket volumes — and call hold times — are likely to rise, it pays to make sure your support center is set up to help you deliver a better, more efficient experience while maximizing your investment.

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Heading into September, holiday season planning is in full swing for businesses. But success with holiday shoppers is about more than targeted ads and seasonal displays: it's about customer experience — at a time when people tend to need more assistance than usual.

Research from Freshdesk finds that customer service queries increase by a whopping 75% over the holidays. In a busy season where ticket volumes — and call hold times — are likely to rise, it pays to make sure your support center is set up to help you deliver a better, more efficient experience while maximizing your investment.

For advice on how businesses can get their support center ready for the holidays, we asked our own Joe Jorczak, Head of Industry for Service & Support at Yext, for his top tips.

Prepping for the holiday shopping rush isn't only about seasonal promotions and creative window displays. What should be top of mind for businesses when it comes to their support experience?

There's a lot in flux right now for business — the economy, supply chain, jobs outlook, and more — which makes planning for the upcoming holiday season especially important.

The one thing that's for certain is that customers will want and expect every support interaction to be quick, easy, and painless.

It's been a terrible summer for customer support: customers are on edge and support teams are stretched to the limit. Brands are saying all the right things about how much they care and how hard they're trying but support experiences are generally getting worse.

Customer care leaders can't put the support experience on autopilot this holiday season and assume that customers will be satisfied with long wait times and multiple calls to get issues resolved. They may suffer through it but they won't forget and at the first opportunity will take their business to brands that value them more.

What are your top five tips for support leaders looking to deliver a great customer experience through the holiday season?

  1. Because customers are on edge, it's critical for Support teams to listen and have empathy for their situation. No one really wants to contact customer support so when they do, make it easy and efficient.

  2. Before the Black Friday/Cyber Monday code freeze happens, it's imperative that Support leaders take a fresh look at the support experience through the eyes of both customers and agents. Try it out as a customer yourself and experience first hand what they have to navigate to get answers to questions.

  3. What's causing customers to call or submit tickets? How many of those issues can be handled with self-service if the resources were easily findable? Look at the data and ensure your help content is fresh and accurate.

  4. Talk with your colleagues in Marketing and Commerce — ensure they understand what's driving support requests and where easy access to information can remove friction from the brand experience. Ask them what policies and processes can be changed to remove obstacles and foreseeable problems.

We're hearing a lot of talk about the recession when it comes to planning budgets. How can brands help their support center do more with less — while still keeping both agents and customers satisfied?

I'm a big believer in keeping it simple. Start with the help content and knowledge resources you already have -- often the answer to a question is hiding in plain sight and it's just not findable. Ensure that all of your help content -- including videos, tutorials, blog insights -- are easy to find through any channel the customer chooses - whether it's on the website, your help center, on messaging, or in-app. Two examples:

  • One simple thing for retailers is to keep your holiday hours current and easy to find on the website without having to make five clicks
  • Also, if I have a question during order checkout about a product size or feature, do I have to leave the cart, and hunt through the website to find information? If customers can easily get answers to their questions they are more likely to hit the buy button and share their easy experience with a friend.

Technology has an important role to play in improving the support experience but leaders need to realize that a one size fits all approach will not work. A few examples to consider:

  • Chatbots can be good at resolving certain types of requests but some customers simply won't want to use it under any circumstance.
  • Rethink the role of IVRs - yes, they help with call routing but customers hate them and chances are, if they are taking the time to call it's because they need help from a person and couldn't resolve the issue via self-service. Don't make the customer jump through hoops for the sake of dubious efficiencies.

Do you have any predictions for the 2022 holiday season? What might be the same — and what might differ – from last year?

Brands that optimize for the customer experience are going to stand out this holiday season and set themselves up for years of growth and market leadership. Using Covid or any other reason for why your support experience is subpar won't work with customers. They know what a great experience looks like - whether it's Chewy, Amazon, Costco, or Chick-fil-A — and know that any business is capable of delivering the same if they want to.

Any recommendations for further reading?

Actually, I'm a huge fan of Carol Dweck's book "Mindset." With a growth mindset, people (and organizations) are capable of phenomenal improvement no matter the circumstances. Embrace the opportunity to challenge the status quo and believe that you can be a market leader when it comes to customer experience and delivering the best support experience possible.

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