Black Friday Signals the Next Wave of Seasonal Customer Experience

November 21st, 2017

The holidays are stressful. Budgets are tight, demands on time are coming from every direction, and Cousin Eddie just parked his RV in front of your house for the next month. Customers are stuffing their turkeys while looking out the window and realizing they still haven’t taken down their Halloween decorations. While the news may focus on Black Friday as the biggest retail day of the year, contact center managers know the holiday rush has already begun. And it doesn’t end on January 2nd. Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is a constant rush of calls for shopping, shipping, returns, services, travel, hotels, and more. Black Friday is the flare that goes up that lets the rest of the world know what call centers already know: customers need support. That means that call centers must prepare for seasonal customer experience.

Whether your call center specializes in retail sales, streaming services support, airline reservations, or shipping customer service, from the week before Thanksgiving through January, customers’ stress levels can be as high as the call volume. Here are five ideas to help reduce holiday stress for your customers, your agents, and even you.

Look Back to Look Forward

The best way to prepare for the future is to understand the past. Use the data from the previous year(s) to prepare for this year. Looking at the call volume from hour to hour and day to day, the time customers spend on hold, and the length of individual calls will give a very detailed picture of last year’s holiday rush. You can use this data to staff appropriately, set call routing rules, and increase agent efficiency. This critical data will help you prepare for each of the next ideas we propose.

Prepare Your IVR

Think of your IVR as the greeter at a store. It’s the first interaction a customer will have, and it’s important to make a good first impression. Look at your call data from last year’s seasonal rush. When was the call volume the heaviest? What were the most common customer needs or actions? Prepare a seasonal IVR greeting and prioritize the options your customers are seeking. Try to anticipate the commonly asked questions and simple self-service tasks that can be resolved without involving an agent. You should be proud of your IVR, but you want your customers to be able to spend as little time with it as possible if they’re looking for human contact.

Route Calls to the Best Agent

Your customers want their problems solved quickly, their questions answered correctly, and their needs met happily. Getting their call answered by the agent that will best fill these needs will not only keep your call queues shorter but will keep your customers happier. Set your call routing rules so the technical support calls go to agents with technical knowledge and ensure calls at 8 in the morning in New York get routed directly to the Atlanta call center and not San Diego, which won’t open for another two hours. Check out the many different types of routing rules for what works best for your holiday rush.

Flip the Script on Seasonal Customer Experience

There is no doubt that the way your agents present themselves to customers, and the words they use, are important. Nothing is more valuable than a well-trained agent. However, being too reliant on a script can lead to a very palpable change in customer attitude. Customers can tell when they are being triaged. If an agent doesn’t have the flexibility and trust to go off script, the well-prepared statements of even your best agent can make a customer feel unheard – or worse, unimportant. This is especially true in times of high stress like the holidays. Agents who know the message, are trained to stay on message, but given the freedom to speak naturally, can provide a feeling of comfort and understanding to a customer. A customer who feels heard and understood will be a repeat customer.

 Take Care of Your Agents

If your customers are stressed, then your agents are stressed, and then you’re stressed. Help reduce that stress for your agents by clearing their schedule of mundane tasks during these high-volume periods. Are there tasks that can be automated, so agents can focus on customers and not reports or form fields? Look into the automated functions of your CRM and call center software. Many tasks can be done automatically by setting rules in your software.

More importantly, provide an environment that keeps moods and attitudes high and positive. Decorations are nice, but an investment in small gestures of appreciation goes a long way. A tray of cookies in the breakroom or free soft drinks on heavy volume days can help agents feel appreciated and understood. A talented, relaxed, and happy agent is your best tool for excellent seasonal customer experience.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the next spike and improve your call center’s seasonal customer experience. We can help with amazing SIP service, intelligent call routing and much more. We might even be able to recommend a great bakery in your area.

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Black Friday Signals the Next Wave of Seasonal Customer Experience