Article

Making spirits bright: 5 ways to support your CX team during the holidays

Make the holidays merrier for your customer service staff during the busiest time of the year.

By Erin Hueffner, Staff Writer

Published December 21, 2021
Last updated March 25, 2022

It’s the holiday season, and this year is looking like one to remember. Thanks to supply-chain issues, popular items were out of stock or delayed before the shopping season even began. I bought a fancy scarf online in October, thinking I was going to beat the rush. Within a week, I had a backorder email. Two weeks later, no word—until about a month had passed, and my order was finally canceled.

It’s been a weird year, but consumers aren’t more forgiving of mishaps: they’re more likely than ever to try new brands after an annoyance like my scarf scenario. Even so, analysts predict this holiday has the potential to shatter retail records.

When spending is up and inventory is down, it puts extra pressure on busy customer service teams at a time when ticket volume is already high. How can you support your frontline team through what can be a challenging season? Here are five ways to help your team through the busiest season of the year.

1. Treat your team to some holiday cheer

spread holiday cheer

Employers need to go out of their way to show appreciation for their staff, especially during the holiday season. According to McKinsey, top employers are finding creative ways to reward their workforce during peak season. For example, you could offer a free meal for those who work through a holiday.

Frontline staff are often under enormous pressure, and it can be easy to overlook their contributions. But with employee retention at risk and customer service having famously high turnover rates, even without a pandemic, recognition needs to be a business priority. When it comes to customer experience, a happy employee is much more likely to create a positive experience than a disgruntled one.

Beyond the basics, companies need to equip customer service reps with the tools they need to do their job well. In many cases, especially now, that means the flexibility to work remotely. Consider offering a stipend for high-speed internet access, office equipment, phone service, and other work essentials for your distributed teams.

2. Get your teams connected

keep your teams connected

When your teams are talking to each other, they’re more likely to be able to anticipate potential snags. And they can take proactive steps to support the business as a whole. For example, if items are out of stock or delayed, let your ecommerce team know to update your website as soon as possible. If there’s a deadline to order in time for a holiday, your staff and marketing pieces can make sure it’s clear to customers they have to shop in advance. If things get dicey, you can put a halt to promotions for sold-out items to help reduce customer frustration. You can keep everyone connected with customer service software that triages tickets and automates workflows, and lets teams collaborate easily.

Support requests are up 20 percent since the start of the pandemic, and they’ll be even higher during the holiday season.

It’s no fun to tell a customer that something they just saw in an email is already gone, so staying on top of product availability is key—so is letting your customers know what to expect. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, support requests are up 20 percent since the start of the pandemic, and they’ll be even higher during the holiday season. Empowering your team with the right information can help them get out in front of issues.

Bringing joy to all

Learn why a positive employee experience is essential to creating a positive customer experience and how you can achieve both.

3. Support your team when things get Grinchy

support your team

Customer service burnout is real. Over the past year, we’ve heard over-the-top stories of customers taking their anger out on agents and retail employees. And with shipping issues and backorders hitting at the holidays, things might get worse before they get better.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to help. Managers need to stand up for their teams when things really get out of line. Make sure your staff knows what to do when someone goes from angry to aggressive. If a customer is truly crossing the line, tell them the behavior won’t be tolerated. Let your team know they can end a call or escalate the issue to a manager. And, above all, make sure to encourage your team to take breaks and allow for adequate time off. When employees feel supported, they’ll be better equipped to help customers and deliver great service.

4. Shine a light on what’s happening behind the scenes

behind the scenes

One of the best strategies is being proactive with your customers, according to Stephen Cizmar, CSO at Lang.ai. He advises setting up an automated reply within your ticketing system to let people know their questions were received and when you’ll respond. Many systems easily allow you to send auto-replies, but during the holidays, you may want to adjust the messaging to acknowledge that volume is higher than usual, that you appreciate your customers’ patience, and to affirm that your team will reply.

“Quick transparency and honesty is a good way of setting trust with your customer base.”
Stephen Cizmar, CSO at Lang.ai

The anxiety that results from being left in the dark leads to extra support tickets. “That quick transparency and honesty is a good way of setting trust with your customer base,” says Cizmar. “Because the alternative is being swamped with volume, your response times go down, your backlog goes up, and then you basically leave your customers in the dark.”

5. Use automations and chatbots to help answer quick questions

automation and chatbots

Customers want answers fast, especially during the holidays. In addition to using automated responses to save time and help set wait time expectations, chatbots offer another way to help triage incoming tickets and answer easy questions without needing staff to personally reply. Self-service resources, like chatbots and help centers, can help create a good customer experience when done the right way. The main thing to remember here is customers still need an easy way to chat with a human agent, so make sure your chatbot can pass them along to your team.

Great customer service puts a bow on holiday success

When people are rushing around shopping for gifts and feeling stressed, it’s a kind human touch that can make things a little better. Customer support is often the thing that makes someone loyal to a brand, and it can really help your company shine in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Research shows that 75 percent of customers will spend more to buy with companies that give them a good customer experience. On the flip side, one bad experience is enough to make them consider shopping elsewhere.

When you’re investing in your team and providing them with the tools they need to succeed, you pass the spirit on to your customers—even if, like me, they’ll have to reorder their holiday scarf.

Bringing joy to all

Learn why a positive employee experience is essential to creating a positive customer experience and how you can achieve both.

Bringing joy to all

Learn why a positive employee experience is essential to creating a positive customer experience and how you can achieve both.

Read now