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Improve The Quality Of Your Customer Support During BFCM.


The 2021 holiday season is around the corner! Here are 11 ways to help you take the reins and provide superior customer service during BFCM.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas — the 2021 holiday season is around the corner! This year, it’s predicted that US holiday ecommerce sales will hit $206.88 billion and will account for a record 18.9% of total holiday season retail sales, according to eMarketer.

While the holiday season is a good opportunity to increase sales and customer loyalty, it’ll bring many challenges to your business, especially your customer service team. Why? Because with the normal holiday rush, high order volume, and customers’ increased expectations on shopping experience, your customer service team could face a flood of support escalations.

Think about WISMO, shipping delays, damaged packages, product returns, and more — your agents will have their hands full during the holiday season. Hence, you should develop an actionable strategy for holiday customer service early on to make sure you’ll deliver the best shopping experience for your customers. 

Here are 11 ways to help you take the reins and provide superior customer service during BFCM. 

1. Create a Concrete Plan to Establish a Solid Process

To create an exceptional shopping experience during this holiday season, you need a different game plan for customer service than what you usually do. Because as explained earlier, holiday sales lead to not only more customers but also more issues and tickets. 

By having a concrete plan in place, you keep your agents ahead of schedule. They’ll know exactly what they should do to prepare for the peak season, what they need to prioritize, and how to handle particular tickets. Eventually, you’ll maintain support effectiveness without impacting the quality of the rush time.

Consider the following tips:

  • Set up goals for holiday customer service and metrics to measure the performance. 
  • Draw insights from past holiday trends. Think about the ticket volume you got, customer complaints, most asked questions, which channels your customers favored, etc. 
  • Set up your omni-channel customer support as customers now shop from everywhere. They may see your product on Facebook, search for reviews on Google, go to your website to read more information, and buy it from your Instagram shop. Show up wherever your customers are. 

2. Set Customer Expectations by Letting Them Know About Your Availability

Based on insights you’ve gained when reviewing past holiday seasons, create a service level agreement (SLA) and make it clear about your support availability during the holiday season. This way, you can manage customers’ expectations, create a highly efficient support team, and ensure your agents have time to enjoy their own holiday. 

Case in point: 

Source: Aluvy Design

Consider the following tips:

  • Set your availability, for example, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, from Monday to Friday. Also, identify peak support times so you can assign more agents to handle all of the tickets. 
  • Specify when customers should expect to get an answer from you so they won’t feel like being ignored. 
  • Let customers know about any changes in your schedule or availability as soon as possible. For example, send out an email ahead of time to tell customers you’ll be out of the office during certain days or times. 

3. Review Your Return Policy

According to the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail, retailers expected 13.3% of merchandise sold during the 2020 holiday season to be returned — the estimated cost of those holiday returns was about $101 billion. Hence, it’s better to review and update your return policy as soon as possible.

Consider the following:

  • Analyze why you got many returns in the previous holiday seasons and solve those problems right away. 
  • Simplify your return policy. Avoid offering different policies for different items or impossibly short return windows that cause unnecessary holiday stress. Extending your policy window can give shoppers more confidence to shop from your store and strengthen their loyalty. 
  • Make your return policy accessible on your website. A good practice is to create a dedicated page for your return policy — don’t hide it in an about us or contact us page. Here is an excellent example of a return page from PhoneSoap:

4. Get Extra Hands By Outsourcing Your Support 

While peak season requires all hands on deck, you don’t necessarily need to hire full-time staff. You can easily outsource your front-line effort to freelance customer service agents or an external agency. 

Consider the following tips: 

  • Look at your historical data to determine how much work you need help with and how many additional agents you’ll need to add to your support team this holiday season.  
  • Create a detailed description of your ecommerce customer support agent so that applicants understand exactly what type of job they’re applying for. For example, include the hours per week, types of customer tickets, tone and voice of your business, etc. 
  • Take advantage of communities for professionals like Support Driven and WeWorkRemotely to headhunt seasonal support agents. 

5. Prepare Your Team and New Hires to Move Quickly

Building a skilled support team is a foundation to create a great customer service experience. To do that, you should provide your agents with essential onboarding and training programs. This way, they can quickly get familiar with the products you’re selling, your target customers, and how to handle tickets effectively.  

Consider the following tips:

  • Write down everything your support team and new hires need to know. You can create a knowledge hub or resource base where everyone can access to get the information they need. For example, product sources, materials, how-tos, shipping policies, return requirements, etc. 
  • Set up new hires with the apps, tools, and memberships to communicate and collaborate with the team. Then, teach them how to use those technologies to work effectively. 
  • Offer guidance on how to deal with customer complaints during the peak season. Provide training to help them master critical customer service skills.
  • Organize regular performance reviews to let your agents know what they’ve done well and where they need to improve. Remember to back up your feedback with data.

6. Adopt a Helpdesk to Empower Your Support Team During Holiday Customer Service

If you’re still using email to support your customers, then you may want to update your tech stack this holiday season. With more tickets coming from different channels, adopting a customer support tool like Gorgias can be a game-changer for your business. 

[please provide a screenshot of Gorgias here]

For example, Gorgias allows you to:

  • Provide consistent customer support across channels, including phone, SMS, email, live chat, and social media.
  • Set up rules to automatically trigger tickets based on customers’ inquiries, which helps reduce first response time and increase customer satisfaction (more on this later). You can also use macros (also pre-made responses) to respond quickly to common questions, like, “do you offer a discount on Christmas?”
  • Integrate smoothly and tightly with ecommerce platforms and tools, allowing your agents to pull back customer data and handle tickets from one place. No more switching back and forth between platforms.
  • Create a self-service flow for live chat to automate WISMO (where is my order?) requests
  • Set up chat campaign popup messages to drive more sales. For example, suppose a customer just spent $50 on an item in your store. In that case, you can upsell them another product by showing a message from live chat
  • Provide insightful analytics reports so you can know how your support agents have performed during the holiday season. 

7. Leverage Support Automation to Work for You

Automation is helpful to handle repeatable tasks like updating ticket statuses and assigning tickets to the right agents. It helps you speed up your workflow, boost your customer support performance, and improve shopping experience, especially during high volume periods.

You can set up automation to offer support when customers first land on your site with a help desk. When doing that, make sure you understand your customers’ needs and shopping behaviors. Think about what they often struggle with, what types of questions they frequently ask, and which channels they often use to contact you. Then, use the insights to create the right rules to automate your work process.

8. Add Self-service Options

Wouldn’t it be so much easier for customers if they could find the answer to their questions themselves instead of having to email or call you? That’s why more and more shoppers expect self-service options from brands. 

Simply put, self-service options refer to FAQs, knowledge base, online discussion forums, online communities, and alike. By offering self-service, you can provide online support without the presence of a support agent, deflect common inquiries, increase customer satisfaction, and eventually drive conversions. 

Here is an example of an excellent FAQ page from Ranch Road Boots. The brand provides detailed information about when customers should expect their orders to ship and provides estimates during normal and peak times.

Consider the following tips:

  • Dive deep into your customer data to identify the most common problems they have. Then, construct possible solutions for those questions to create an effective FAQ. 
  • Use high-quality visuals like screenshots, images, demonstration videos where possible to provide detailed instructions. This is also a good way to showcase your products from different angles and impress customers. 
  • Make your self-service accessible and noticeable by creating a dedicated page for it. 

9. Get the Workflow Ready

During peak season, your support tickets may be at their all-time high. And you may get a lot of questions on different topics like product information, packing, shipping, and technical problems. To give every customer the best answer possible, ensure you have ticket assignment strategies in place. 

When it comes to assigning tickets to agents, it’s all about the right person in the right place at the right time. You can do this manually or use the auto-assignment feature in your help desk to automate the process. 

For example, with Gorgias’ auto-assignment tool, you can choose to either auto-assign tickets to available agents, un-assign tickets assigned to agents who aren’t online, or do both at the same time. By using this feature, you can boost your productivity and have time to focus on more important tasks.  

Another best practice that can streamline your workflow is using Views. In Gorgias, a view displays all the tickets that match certain filters — filters can be a tag, a status, an integration, a customer, or a channel. You can create a view for a specific problem, like discount or shipping delay, making it easier to manage tickets related to that issue. 

10. Be One Step Ahead of Your Customer and Make Shopping With You Fun

Today, knowing where customers are coming from, what they need, and what they’re looking for is gold! Why? Because you can use a conversational tool like live chat to turn these insights into a revenue-generating driving force. A survey of 105 retailers conducted by Digital Commerce 360 even emphasized that 80% of respondents said live chat is crucial to improving their conversion rate. 

Imagine a visitor lands on your website and struggles with choosing gifts that suit their loved ones. You can show up through a live chat saying, “let us help you out.” Or, if you know a customer is looking at an out-of-stock product, you can trigger live chat with the message “here is an alternative.” In this season of cheer chaos, it’s clever to use live chat to cut through the noise and reach out to customers proactively. 

Consider the following tips:

  • Determine the best locations on your ecommerce site to put a chat box. You can show it on every page, or on certain product pages, or the checkout page. Look at your data to plan your strategy.
  • Equip your agents with extensive product knowledge so they can provide shoppers with exact information at the time they want, which will help encourage buying decisions. 
  • Brand your live chat with your logo and display the agent’s name and position to build trust with first-time visitors. 
  • Take advantage of live chat to announce your flash sales, free samples, limited-time deals, contests, new arrivals, etc. 

11. Take Care of Your Customer Support Team to Boost Their Morale

Your support agents are your heroes of the holiday rush and represent your business when they could have been with their loved ones. That’s why just like your customers, they deserve to be heard, understood, appreciated and cared for. 

Whether your agents are permanent or temporary, you should show that you recognize their efforts and appreciate what they’ve done. Do that by offering snacks, drinks, flexible working hours, redeemable leaves, holiday bonuses, and other incentives.

Get Your Customer Service Ready for Holiday Season 2021

For your business to really stand out, provide excellent customer service and create an experience they will remember. Now that you’ve learned 11 actionable tactics to improve holiday customer service, it’s time to head over to your Gorgias help desk and implement them.

If you’re new to Gorgias, click here to sign up for an account and start trying all features of our help desk for free in 7 days. Our goal is to empower your support agents so they can do their best work to provide excellent customer service for your customers. Let Gorgias lend you a hand so you can make the most of your busiest time of the year!

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Special thanks to our friends at Gorgias for their insights on this topic.
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