Seasonality is often associated with retail brands ramping up for Q4. But other industries such as education, taxes, and tourism have seasonality at varying times of the year. Whether your seasonal spikes correspond to tax season, open enrollment, summer vacations, admissions or gift shopping, you must understand how to effectively prepare for this volume.
Here’s how to prepare for your own seasonal spikes and deliver consistent, quality customer service this holiday season.
Why is the Holiday Season So Important to Businesses?
First Impressions Count
You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. The people calling during your busiest time are often new or potential customers. They don’t have any frame of reference, so if they experience very long waits or frazzled customer service reps, that’s all they know about your company.
One-third of customers will leave a company after one bad experience. 73% of customers say that the service they receive influences who they choose to do business with. The holiday season is your chance to deliver exceptional service and create loyal customers for life.
As contact volume ramps up around this time, so does the potential profit. Through carefully planned staffing and training, you can minimize missed opportunities to connect with your customers. An estimated 87% of shopping around the holiday season this year will involve mobile devices and the online experience, so being available on multiple channels is critical to taking advantage of as many opportunities as you can.
Finally, if a customer call is related to finding or using a product, timely customer support could avert customer returns. Being available decreases returns as it increases retention, average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (CLV).
What to Expect this Holiday Season
The holiday season accounts for nearly 20% of annual retail sales. In some industries, that’s much higher. Since 2009, year-over-year sales have risen. They reached $719 billion in the 2018 holiday season. An estimated 23% of these customers will have product-related questions that require outreach to holiday-time customer service.
Businesses hired over 500,000 additional employees last year to help handle that volume, and this year they expect to hire even more. About 84% of customers report frustration around trying to reach customer service during the holidays and working with agents who don’t have the data access or knowledge they need to help the customer.
How Can Call Centers Prepare for the Holiday Season?
These customer service tips will help you not only survive but thrive as a high volume call center during the holiday season.
1. Start early!
Global Response prepares year-round for seasonality. In addition to anticipating future needs, reflect on the previous season. After the season has wrapped up, document learnings for future applications.
Don’t take a “wait and see” approach. Be proactive with hiring, onboarding, and training during this critical time. Your newest team members will be better prepared and will require less attention from seasoned specialists. Customer experience will benefit from being ready in advance of volume peaks.
2. Understand Your Projections
This will allow you to prepare for hiring and for additional space. You’ll not only consider the volume of last year, but projections should also be based on this year’s data. How much have sales and support requests and tickets, among other things, increased this year over the last for Q1, Q2, and Q3? Are there any other company events or new offerings that will coincide with the holiday and drive sales? This will help you better anticipate the volume in Q4 to ensure you have the outsourced call center solutions in place before that volume increases.
The Workforce Management Team at Global Response works with our partners to forecast and create customized staffing plans so Brand Specialists are trained and empowered to succeed before volumes start to spike. In retail, Q4 volume can spike as early as Halloween, so time is of the essence.
3. Create Your Training Calendar Around Staffing Forecast
Ensure that your team is a combination of new and more experienced Brand Specialists. Avoid the need to train during peak times. Outsourced holiday support, such as Global Response, has trained customer service representatives ready to deliver a branded customer experience.
4. Develop an Expansion Plan
Determine if you need to expand your space to accommodate additional seats. If so you’ll also need the building space and technology to support your expanded team. Global Response maximizes flexibility be leveraging pop-up locations during peak season.
5. Invest in the Right Technology
Assess your network bandwidth, hardware and software needs before onboarding additional users. Ensure system redundancies are in place. If needed, evaluate if an expansion of channels or new system integration is necessary for maintaining a consistent, omnichannel customer experience across all contact methods.
6. Leverage Counter-Seasonality
Within your organization, you may have call centers that experience increased volume at different times. If you plan ahead you may be able to cross-train so that one call center team helps another during their peak.
But a more effective way to do this is to leverage counter-seasonality by contracting with a call center that has a variety of industries with a range of peak times. That means that as some industries’ volume is slowing down, yours is picking up and you perfectly complement each other. At Global Response, the systems we have built to maximize counter-seasonality allow us to ramp up and down while retaining experienced talent.
7. Implement Omnichannel Support
We’ve already mentioned the impact that mobile will have this year. The average consumer now regularly uses around four contact methods, such as:
- Social media
Customers use these channels and expect them from the brands they buy from. Investing in omnichannel customer relationship management technology helps you compete for those customers.
8. Have a Clear Quality Monitoring System in Place
During this time, you’ll likely have many new agents working with customers. It’s critical that you have a good quality assurance program in place to monitor as many calls as possible, give employees feedback and generally make sure that employees know that what they do matters and is monitored.
Preparing for Holiday Time Customer Service
The holiday season is a critical time for putting your best foot forward and making the right first impression. Getting ready for high call center volume doesn’t have to be hectic. Global Response, your outsourced holiday support already has the Brand Specialists, systems and technology in place to become a seamless part of your brand.
To learn more about how our Brand Specialists deliver a stellar brand experience to your customers at your highest volume, let’s talk.