With Christmas and New Year just a week to ten days away, customer support teams will have their hands full. For customer service leaders, the concern would be handling the crush as smoothly as possible while surpassing customer satisfaction goals. Declan Ivory, VP customer support, Intercom, shares six ways to deliver great service experiences during this time.
The holiday shopping season started early for customer support teams, especially online operations. Call and messaging volumes ramped up steadily in the weeks before the holidays and may not decline until well in January with all the returns and exchanges.Â
For customer service leaders, the question is how to handle the crush as smoothly as possible while surpassing your goals for satisfaction and resolution times. As an experienced customer service leader and now VP of customer support at Intercom, I have come to rely on six ways to keep delivering great service experiences during the busiest time of year.
1. Automate the Everyday Answers
The last thing you want to do is lose a customer because you could not answer a common question quickly. Software bots can help customers access the information they need in real-time and free up support staff to take on more complicated or important queries.
How can you identify what questions to automate? We recommend digging into data from previous years and identifying patterns that point to the simplest, most frequent queries that eat into your team’s bandwidth the most. If you are looking for inspiration, here is a list of the most common questions our customers leave to their bot. I will bet they line up with your own.
- What are your shipping options, prices, and timelines?
- What is your shipping process for international customers?
- What are your holiday return and exchange policies?
- How do I apply promo codes?
- What is the deadline for placing an order guaranteed for pre-Christmas delivery?
2. Answer Top Holiday FAQs Before Customers Ask Them
What is better than automatically resolving frequent questions? Proactively solving them! A best practice here is to add useful and unobtrusive banners across the top of your website pages to highlight essential need-to-know information as your customers navigate your site. For example, you could alert customers about cut-off dates for guaranteed delivery and holiday return policies, so they do not have to contact your team or dig around for that information. You could also inform customers about increased processing times or shipping delays before they make their orders to help manage their expectations.Â
If you encounter an unexpected delivery delay after purchase, send your customer a personal message to alert them before they come to you to ask about it; getting ahead of inquiries with personal communication can go a long way toward earning loyalty.Â
3. Proactively Reduce Friction on Critical Pages
The average shopper abandons their cart 7 out of 10 times, according to a recent Barclaycard studyOpens a new window . That abandonment rate peaks during the holiday season, particularly in December. One of the best ways to ensure customers complete their orders is to use targeted messages during checkout to answer their questions preemptively.
For example, if customers are on the checkout page for a few minutes, they might have questions about your shipping times, returns policy, or something else. You can trigger an outbound message that links to your top FAQs related to purchasing so they get the relevant information upfront and do not feel the need to message your team.
4. Encourage a Self-service Mentality
Today’s customers expect to get their own answers. Gartner estimatesOpens a new window that by 2030, customer-led automation will generate one billion service tickets per year. A recent survey by Intercom conducted in partnership with Wakefield Research found that 79% of U.S. consumers said there are times and places when they prefer to talk to a bot over a live person. Half, for example, would prefer using a bot to answer a quick question, and roughly a third do not need to talk to a person to confirm a delivery time (37%) or cancel an order (30%).Â
A better self-service experience reduces your support team’s time on simple issues and improves your margins. Digital support channels like messaging and chat are some of your best opportunities for better self-service by integrating them with data from shopping histories or apps that have data on their outstanding orders.Â Â
5. Manage Customer Expectations
Letting people know when they are likely to get a response is a must to reduce customer frustration, especially during the holidays. It gives customers real-time information to plan their next move instead of waiting for a response that might take a few hours. You can set expectations upfront for holiday shoppers so they know your team’s availability or other important customer service issues. You can use a chatbot to let them know that you are providing extended holiday hours and your office hours anytime a customer asks a question.
6. Do Not Automate Complex Interactions
Stress levels are pretty high for everyone during the holiday season. Lowering the temperature during service interactions means everything. How do we do that? Use people. You do not want to automate answers to emotionally charged and complex queries. And you also do not want upset people by making them wait longer than they have to. They could be understandably angry about a misplaced delivery. Focus on the way to accurately escalate the urgent issues to your support team for an immediate inquiry and reply.
One of the most empathetic things you can do is be mindful of your customer’s time. Use contextual data to understand whether someone’s been in touch before with a similar issue, how many products they have purchased from you, what actions they have taken in your store, and what pages they last visited. Having a customer’s purchase history or order status at the ready is one of the best ways to show them you appreciate their business. In our recent survey, 66% of U.S. consumers even rated it ahead of receiving VIP treatment (52%) in making them feel valued.
The holiday season will see consumers continue to tighten their belts and make sharper choices about where and how they spend. Better support in how we show up for and help our customers can have a huge impact on retention and growth. That often comes with extra demands on your support team. But armed with modern service tools and strategies, you can empower them to deliver personal, efficient support at any scale without increasing your headcount, budget, or hours logged.
What steps have you taken to deliver delightful service experiences to your customers over the holiday season? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .
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