Holidays are the busiest time of the year. Not only for personal reasons, but many industries see increased traffic and sales due to "the most wonderful time of the year." Most businesses cannot afford to lose sales during the holidays, making every interaction vital to a companies' success. In the U.S. a poor customer service experience can cost you $41 billion per year! (Source) If you own, work, or operate a call center we cannot stress enough how important preparing for the holidays can be. Let's take a look at 5 best practices for successfully operating a call center in the holiday season.
Add Seasonal Staff-
Your products are going to be purchased as gifts and customers will have questions. Questions about the product, instructions, warranty, and return policy -meaning more phones ringing, more social media, and more marketing - at once. Even with multi-channel communications like live chat and social media, phones still handle around 68% of all contact center communications (Source). If the calls aren't being answered quickly and wait times are high, it can increase caller frustration. Frustrated callers will require more time on the phone with employees and will require extra resources to turn around the customer's experience. This cycle can continue all holiday season and can easily be prevented by hiring more employees. Though seasonal training and the hiring process can seem daunting for the future of your business it is a great investment.
Update Your IVR-
IVRs need to be constantly reviewed and updated depeneding on the caller needs and to gain as much Info as possible from callers. An IVR that is up-to-date will help to keep calls routed accurately, gain knowledge of the caller, and lessen call overflow. Updating an IVR is a process that isn't time consuming and makes a huge difference in the client's journey. If you know what callers will need, IVRs can be accuratly updated to meet the high priority needs of a caller first. One in three IVR system updated, it can get information from the caller without frustrating the caller. Think about the times when simple name spelling can turn into a 10-minute ordeal that both the caller and agent don't need. With an updated IVR system, the caller reaches a live agent who is knowledgeable and helpful which makes the entire process smooth and simple.
Use Chatbots on your website or messaging apps to point your customers where they need to be, or to simply answer thier questions. No online user wants to waste time during the holiday season by going through every product on a website. Chatbots can also cut down on other communication with your call center and provide instant responses and can even query API's for customer details like order and shipping status. They are designed to provide service to people but, keep in mind bots can't do everything. A great example of a bot to implement during the holiday season is a utility bot that is designed to answer frequently asked questions. If you know that users often have certain questions, you can create this bot and keep the user from calling or chatting with a live agent. You can learn more about building and using chatbots here.
Now that your call center is equipped for the holiday season with the additional staff and call routing solutions, what comes next? Next thing to consider is keeping the caller happy and in the holiday spirit! Holiday music and a cheerful greeting can go a long way for any business. You may not think that callers notice whether holiday music is playing on hold, but half (48 percent) of consumers prefer holiday music when placed on hold (Source). Holiday music can help to remind callers of cheerful and happy times which will take their mind away from the current experience.
The holiday Message on Hold recording shouldn't be only filled with holiday music. The holiday music can increase caller awareness to additional information. Share the return policy on hold or let callers know where they can find it. Is the return policy on the back of the receipt, or is it available online? In addition, try providing self-service options on hold to callers. A caller may hear how to register for their additional 30-day warranty and find it seems much easier. By meeting caller needs on hold it will lessen the overall waiting time for other callers in the hold queue.
On Hold Opt-Out-
Creating valuable content and answering FAQs will help to cut down the number of callers who are in the hold queue. No matter how great your Message on Hold recording is, callers won't want to be on hold too long. Of the half of consumers who enjoy hearing holiday music on hold one-third (32 percent) indicated they would hang up when on hold for more than five minutes (source). For a caller to be able to opt-out of the hold queue and leave a voicemail is a great option for them to have. You'll want to verify your phone system has this type of capability before including it in your on hold recording. Providing an opt-out option will allow callers to feel like they still have options and it will cut down on the number of people on hold. With less callers on hold agents will feel less pressure and will be able to have high value conversations.
Message on Hold recordings are not the only way to spread the holiday cheer. The main greeting on the phone system is something every caller will hear. One-third (35 percent) of survey respondents voted “Happy Holidays” as the number-one phrase that warms their heart (source). Change up the company greeting to remind callers that you want to wish them well this season. Make callers feel special and remind them how appreciated they are. In times of high stress like the holiday season it's so important for callers to feel important.
The holiday season can bring out the best of your call center, but how you handle client interactions during this stressful period, could affect a customer's experience. A customer experience is a reflection on your company. By providing a unified and friendly message it can help to relax and calm caller frustrations. Follow our above instructions, and think of the customer through every decision and you'll do great. Most importantly remind agents to be friendly and spread the holiday cheer.