Holiday sales are projected to grow by at least 7% this upcoming peak season, according to CNBC. The news outlet also noted that shopper disappointment is likely to be a common theme as staffing issues and supply chain-related delays abound. A continuing trend is an increase in online shopping which can complicate the buyer journey and drive customer frustration.
While top retailers will work through it, everyone – especially customer support staff – must be adequately prepared. There are some big challenges to be considered like hiring a flood of seasonal agents who have a short training period, extended working hours for some frontline staff and potentially heavier workloads across the seasonal peak. As we draw closer to Black Friday and prime shopping season, here are seven steps to prepare your customer care team:
1. Deploy Omnichannel Technology
Omnichannel support is in high demand for busy consumers. Fortunately, these technologies are an excellent way to improve the customer experience and reduce strain on your frontline staff. Digital options like text, email, social and chat are perfect augments to traditional phone. Webchat and text communication are especially popular with modern customers. Investing early in technologies that facilitate omnichannel interactions is highly effective at easing seasonal demands on limited resources.
2. Forecast Accurately
Given the upheaval of the last two years, sales data from fourth quarter of last year is likely to be at least partially skewed. Consider using data from the first three quarters of this year, in addition to fourth quarter last year, to create more accurate projections. Use this information to get ahead of hiring and ramp periods to ensure staff are prepared for volume spikes.
3. Hire Ahead
The sooner you start preparing for the seasonal ebbs and flows of buying behaviors, the better. The last thing that you want to do is wait until the last minute. Companies that take a wait-and-see approach will be scrambling to hire, onboard and train new talent. Even staff that complete new agent training in time provide a short runway for agents to gain experience serving customers. Rushing can quickly, and negatively, impact your brand reputation.
4. Train Early
During busy periods, more experienced agents can’t afford to be taken out of service for training purposes. When planning for peak coverage, be sure to include a balance of experienced agents plus new agents. Wherever possible, conduct a training schedule that predates the seasonal spike so annual training courses, new hire onboarding and other educational processes are complete before the increased volume begins.
5. Upgrade Your Tech Stack
Customer support agents are not the only ones to be put to the test this peak season. Your tech stack and IT resources also will be strained. If these technologies cannot handle volume surges, your company is likely to experience downtime or even outages. By investing in system redundancies, cloud-based networks and omnichannel customer service software you’ll be better positioned to endure the rigors of seasonal shopping cycles.
6. Consider Outsourcing
Preparing your organization for peak season requires a multifaceted approach that includes leveraging new technologies and hiring qualified agents. However, carrying out these tasks can be challenging especially with the height of the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching. If you need assistance gearing up for peak season, an outsourced partner can help. Organizations that offer a variety of support solutions including omnichannel support, inbound call center augmentation, presales support and much more can be a big relief if you’re unprepared in advance.
7. Think about Next Year, Now
As soon as this season concludes, start compiling data and assessing your performance. Identify what went well and what you can improve upon in the future. It’s never too soon to start planning for next year’s seasonal peaks.
Contact us today to learn how Goodbay can help you succeed this holiday season, and all year round, with our innovative suite of services.