It’s that time of year again – Decadent hot drinks, German markets, the same 10 Christmas songs we’re tired of hearing but secretly love, and plenty of shopping. Christmas is just around the corner and that means businesses across the world are about to get a whole lot busier. People are spending more at this time of year as they prepare their gifts and get ready for the celebrations. This means that customer service and sales teams also experience increased traffic. As much as the winter holidays are a time of joy, there’s also an increased level of stress. Preparations for the Christmas holiday begin as early as October in some countries and continue to ramp up until the new year. It’s no surprise that increased spending means increased interactions with businesses through their customer services and sales communication channels. With that in mind, we want to help you answer the question “Is Your Team Ready for the Holiday Season?”. Let’s take a look.
Why Your Business Needs to Be Available Through the Holiday Season
Most customers don’t expect that businesses will be operating on Christmas day or any other holidays. We all deserve a little break and time to celebrate with friends and family, and even the most holiday-averse scrooges tend to agree. However, the holiday period isn’t just about one day. Companies will choose different days to open or close, causing widespread frustration and confusion for customers. A 2017 study found that 90% of businesses asked said their offices would be closed on New Year’s Day, and 72% said their offices would be closed on the Monday after New Year’s Day.
Just because people are familiar with disruptions to services over the holiday period, it doesn’t mean they enjoy it. This time of year, is rampant with frustrated customers, so you should try your best to not let your business add to this problem.
How To Maintain Excellent Customer Relations Over The Holiday Period?
Be Mindful of Increased Stress and Customer Frustrations
With the increased stress and pressure around the holiday period, it’s time to ramp up the empathy and deliver on what customers want. This means a speedy response to complaints. I’m sure we can all agree that the holiday period is a busy one. If you’re not out shopping for gifts, you’re meeting up with friends, celebrating with food and drink, or at a holiday function. This is also true for your customers. If a customer is contacting your company, it’s likely because they need something, not because they’re feeling lonely and want to idly chat. They’re already feeling frustrated at having to take time out of their busy day to contact your company, so make the process as easy as possible for them.
This is why a prompt response works wonders. A speedy response will settle their frustrations and set you apart from your competition, but if you’re struggling to respond promptly, it’s essential that you still respond eventually. One recent study found that 62% of companies ignore customer service emails. This is an alarming statistic and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There are most certainly several factors that contribute to why customer service emails go ignored, but we can at least assume this happens because customer service emails aren’t a priority for businesses. So why aren’t they a priority? Is it because of the detached nature of emails? In a live chat or a phone call, a significant delay in replying wouldn’t be acceptable, of course. But since email communication is more removed and in the realm of “reply when you get the chance,” many companies are finding that this “chance” never comes. Maybe companies believe that the customer will forget about the email. Or maybe companies have resigned to the belief that these emails end up floating in the digital ether, mixed in with a bunch of other tickets never to see the LED light of day again. Whatever the reason, don’t let your company fall into this pitfall. Prioritize all customer interaction and allow customers to communicate with your company in the way that they choose.
There are several ways to tackle this issue and ensure that no customer feels ignored or let down by a lack of response. For example, with CommBox you can send automatic messages to customers who have waited a long time or abandoned the call. You can also implement a more flexible and adaptive way of communicating with your customers by allowing communication to continue through another channel, such as SMS or live chat after a call has been terminated.
Leading on from the last point, how do you provide a more optimized and efficient customer experience that caters to the customer’s communication preferences? The answer is through an omnichannel platform.
What Is An Omnichannel Platform?
Omnichannel is a complete and holistic approach to customer communication that focuses on providing a seamless experience. This applies to all communication between customers and your business, whether that be sales, customer relations or customer service. The basic principle is that your customers should have the same exact experience whether they’re shopping online, from a mobile, a desktop, or in a physical store. The same is true of customer service – the customer should always receive the same treatment and expect a consistent experience with your company.
The omnichannel platform came about when companies started to realize that the fragmented nature of previous systems simply wasn’t fit for the digital age. Many companies had siloed teams, antiquated infrastructure and applications, and poor access to customer data.
How Omnichannel Coverage Can help Your Business
A key part of providing an excellent customer experience is connecting the customer with the right agent. Unhappy customers don’t want to be passed from person to person, having to reiterate their frustrations until they finally reach someone who can help fix their problem. This is where skills-based routing comes in. It’s an intelligent and elegant approach to routing calls. The AI within the platform will determine which agent is the best fit for the interaction based on the agent’s particular set of skills, availability and prior experiences. This can be set up in a number of different ways depending on the needs and wants of your business, but the end result is the same: a more streamlined and efficient experience for both agents and customers.
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have traditionally been fraught with problems to the point that you often expect a frustrating experience. However, with the shift to digital, callers can now be diverted to self-service of live digital agents through more intelligent and responsive IVR.
More Control Over Your Data
Having interconnected systems that all sit within one platform grants you better control over your data. You get a more complete view of who your customer is, what they have bought in the past, how they like to be communicated with, and more. This allows for a more intelligent and efficient approach to communication that leads to happier customers. Past research has found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, so you should prioritize a better experience for your customers.
Using a Chatbot
Just because you’re operating with reduced capacity, or maybe even no staff at all on certain days over the holiday period, it doesn’t mean customers should be left without a response. Automated messaging systems like AI powered chatbot services can provide an excellent alternative to traditional communication channels.
Chatbot applications come with a multitude of benefits such as:
- No wait time – customers gets relevant answer to their query straight away which will help satiate their frustrations.
- Self-service – oftentimes customers are contacting your company to resolve an issue that has a very simple solution that doesn’t need the involvement of an agent. A chatbot is an excellent way to deliver answers to frequently asked questions.
- A Quick resolution – customers now expect fast responses to questions or complaints. The holiday period doesn’t have to get in the way of this if you implement forward-thinking digital technologies.
The CommBox Working Hours App
In the digital age, it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the competition and pay attention to what’s going on around you. This means adopting emerging technologies like AI and automation or risk getting left behind. It also means understanding your customers’ wants and needs, and that means understanding who they are and the unique pressures and experiences they will have.
If you’re operating at a global level, this means your customers will celebrate different holidays, keep to different schedules, and have their own unique culture surrounding when they want to engage with your company. In a global world, accommodating these factors is a must.
At CommBox we have implemented a Working Hours module that allows businesses to customize a channel for these purposes. For example, you can set a channel to run on certain days or hours. You may decide to allow a chat service run during the working hours for a particular country. Or you may decide to set a particular channel for all communications in a certain language and design operating times around the time zones typical of customers who speak that language.
This module allows you to prepare for holidays and special occasions in countries across the world, so you’re constantly aware of the mindset of customers in those regions and their expectations. Not only does the working module give you an increased sense of control around your operation, but it also sets expectations for your customers so they are never left disappointed.
We’ve covered some key ways you can prepare for the holiday season and set yourself apart from the competition, and we hope you’ve found them useful. In this last section, we’re going to quickly list some other ways to prepare for the holiday season. These tips are less connected to the digital realm but are useful nonetheless. Let’s take a look.
- Train your agents for the holidays: a little tweaking to your communication style or script can go a long way. Customers like to be wished happy holidays. It’s also a good idea to give agents a refresher about how to calm frustrated customers since there are likely to be increased numbers of these customers around the holidays.
- Know your trends: if you have analytics data from previous years, make sure you use it to prepare for this year. If you don’t have this data, then make sure you capture it this year!
- Do you have enough staff? people take more sick days at this time of year as common illnesses make their way around. However, the holiday period also tends to be very busy, so you can’t afford to be understaffed during this time. Make sure you have a plan for reduced headcount, whether that’s seasonal employees, bench agents, or more advanced technology systems.