Having a seasonal business brings headaches to customer support teams, and to customers.
With a backlog of tickets and slower shipping times than normal, you have a real risk of losing revenue, loosing customers, and getting negative reviews.
Let’s walk through three big but practical variables that can help your team stay on track during this stressful holiday season.
Get your team right
Put the right employees at the right place
The first step in the right direction is taking stock of your team and putting them in a position to succeed. No two companies or two teams are exactly alike. So it's really important to understand and consider what makes you and your team unique.
There's no need to pretend that everything is perfect either, and building a perfect plan that your team can't realistically execute will be bad news for everybody involved. But if you acknowledge those strengths and weaknesses upfront, you can create smarter systems that work to your advantage. In addition to understanding the characteristics of your team, you need to also think about what conditions they might face.
Get a good sense of the upcoming workload
Assuming that this isn't your first time heading into peak season, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. Questions you should answer heading into any peak season are:
- How much busier was your support desk during peak season?
- What were the biggest mistakes you made and how can you avoid it this year?
- What were the lessons learned from last year?
- What insights did it give you for the coming year?
If this is your first time around, you can still get a sense of what things are going to look like. What support channels do your customers tend to prefer? What are the top three or four most common requests that they make into your team? How does your sales activity correlate to your support activity?
Once you've completed these first two exercises, it's time to connect the dots and figure out what organizational setup will give you and your team the best chance to survive the storm coming at them.
Again try to answer a few questions:
- Who's suited to be a specialist and who might be better as a generalist?
- Do you have people that are better suited for quick, rapid fire answers or people who are better at diving down into the nitty gritty to find the solutions for customers?
- When should agents escalate an issue and move on to the next one?
We want to get to a stage where we are quick on our first touch responses, even if we don't resolve the ticket immediately, and then have our first-touch responders escalate it to the specialists. So now that we have the right people in the right places, it's time to take a look into the technology that supports them.
Get the right technology
Today's customers can arrive at your support desk by dozens of different routes. It could be phone, email, live chat, chat bots, social media, SMS, self service, the list goes on. And in this multichannel world, this is only growing bigger and faster. A survey conducted at the beginning of this year stated that three out of four companies planned on adding a new support channel in 2018.
So how do you make sure you handle the increase in quantity while maintaining high quality standards? Even though the focus is to really empower your team with a better conversation at the beginning, it's still really hard to paint that full picture of the customer:
- How many times they've called in?
- What their recent interactions have been like?
- What purchases they made in the past?
- What information you've already collected on them?
There’s a real opportunity to rise above the competition if you can piece together the entire customer journey and have it in front of your support agents. If you can personalize that experience even a little bit, you win.
This is what companies like Gorgias and Aircall are designed to help you do. We push all of the contacts and history of a customer's conversation into one single actionable view. Instead of forcing customers to restart the story from chapter one, every time that they call in or chat with us, you can actually resume the conversation from where they left off.
So let's say they left the chat early and we want to pick up at the end of that chat. If they were talking about an order that they had just placed, we don't want to have to restart that conversation and say, “Oh, what's your name again?”.
Get the customer right
Now that you have your team and your tech in a good place, it's finally time to address the third variable in the equation: the customer's behavior. This might be the toughest one to deal with. Indeed, we all wish that the customers knew exactly what they need without asking any questions. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, and the reason for that is because you don't answer those questions in advance.
So part of the trick is to keep your marketing and your sales team accountable. First and foremost, you want to be sure that they aren't promising something that your business can’t deliver. This is one of the biggest pain points for customer success.
Customer support is about making sure that you're held accountable for the product you're showing your customers. You should be helping them make better decisions instead of trying to sell them on something they don't really need. Discuss the differences between products, tiers and packages and show how real customers are actually using it. You can also recommend other complimentary products if needed.
If the conversation lasts too long, make it really, really obvious where they need to go. Blaze a trail instead of leaving them in the wilderness and make their default decision, the one that works best for you and your team.
The more that you can direct customers to effectively help themselves, the more efficient your support team becomes. The best support request is the one that's never made. If they're not really chatting in, that means that all of their questions have been answered.
Everything starts with understanding your team and how to position them in the best way to have a successful season.
Then from there you want to use technology to empower your team to drive those conversations to be as valuable as possible.
Then you work to shape that customer behavior towards the strengths of your team and also your product.