6 Steps You Can Take Now If You’re Not
Ready or not, the holiday season is here. For many brands, “the holidays” – that stretch of time between mid-November and early January – is the most critical time of the entire year. For customers, purchasing decisions made now carry higher stakes than those made at just about any other time of the year usual. From travel and hospitality decisions to choosing just-right gifts for multiple recipients, buying decisions made now carry enormous financial and emotional significance.
When a customer tries to reach you about one of those major purchases, the last thing you can afford to do is let them down.
Are you ready? If you are, good for you. Your customers — and your employees and shareholders – will thank you. But if you’re not quite sure, don’t panic. Instead, take these 6 steps to keep up the good will with your holiday customers.
1. Look to last year’s numbers and this year’s pre-season data
You don’t have a crystal ball. But you do have your own numbers. What do they tell you? Where were your call spikes? How big were they, relative to the months preceding and following the holidays? And – this is a big one – how well did you accommodate those calls? Did handling time stay steady or balloon with increasing volumes? Did your CSAT scores falter, plateau or spike with holiday cheer? (And yes, this is possible — and the right goal for this time of year.) You can use this information to determine project how ready you are for this year’s callers and still make adjustments to staffing, shifts, and messaging.
2. Be ready to course correct, repeatedly
Even if you’ve forecasted beautifully, the truth is, your customers still have minds of their own. And your competition might have a few tricks up their sleeves that alter your customers’ behaviors. So their inbound calls – and their needs – might not match your projections. The best way to prepare for these real life unknowns is make sure your entire team – including front line agents and their supervisors – are prepared for the unknowns.
3. In all things, demonstrate flexibility
You probably already use some form of scalable staffing. A successful holiday season often calls for extreme scalability and flawless flexibility. As you pull together shift plans, hiring and training, remember to consider multiple what-if’s: what if sales are slow and you decide to announce a short-term sale? What if a product defect is discovered and the phones blow up with angry calls? What if a weather event creates a transportation nightmare? Consider the scenarios that are within the realm of possibility and keep in mind that a robust plan to deal with them will include staffing, scripting, training and mega coaching.
4. Hug your customers
Frantic shoppers can be difficult callers. Frustrated, disappointed or confused customers can make a call even worse. But remember: their purchase was likely an emotional one and your inbound call center agents are the human voice that connects your customers to your brand. If that call is a negative experience, they’ll carry that with them for the rest of the year (if they stick with you that long). But they’re the reason you’re in business at all. When the going gets rough, the best thing you can do is remind everyone on your team to treat each customer like the gift that they are.
5. Keep the holiday cheer alive in the call center
No matter how prepared (or unprepared) you feel on steps 1-4, here’s something you can do, starting today, that will help. Make a real commitment to showing every agent and every supervisor that you know how hard they’re working, that you appreciate their efforts and that you’re all in this together. It’s the holiday season for your team members, too. Invest the time, energy and yes, dollars, to make sure your team feels valued. Scripts and escalation protocols are necessary. But so is major cheerleading and support for your phone agents.
6. Plan now for next year: consider outsourcing
Build a better process, starting now, for collecting call data and agent feedback so next year at this time, you’re ready, no matter what. And if you haven’t started a conversation with an outsource call center yet, now is a great time to start planning for it. At Skybridge Americas, we specialize in delivering a superior customer experience, every day of the year and especially during the holidays. If you would like to learn more how we can help you, please reach out. We would love to talk!
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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