How Contact Centers Can Fire Up Their Holiday Customer Service Strategies - Without Burning Out

Chris Tranquill, Chief of Strategy, Khoros
Chris Tranquill, Chief of Strategy, <a href='' rel='nofollow' target='_blank' >Khoros</a>

Chris Tranquill, Chief of Strategy, Khoros

It’s the most wonderful time of year—with “teams to keep happy and phones that keep ringing, and customers not showing good cheer! It’s the bis-, busiest time of the year!” Isn’t that how the song goes? For anyone who spends this time trying to create demand, deliver products, and support their customers during the frenetic, final weeks of the holiday season, it’s a familiar tune. 

Brands could shrug their shoulders and resign themselves to knowing it will all be over in January. Or, they could look for optimal ways to get their business and employees through the holidays successfully—and sanely.

Holiday issues are starting earlier this year

The supply chain woes plaguing 2021 seem to have no end in sight. 60% of shoppers have said they were unable to get a product they wanted because of supply chain shortages. Holiday shoppers will need to put in orders earlier than ever, and the potential is greater for delays or mishaps along the way. 

Beyond physical gifts, some people will also give the gift of their presence. But flights are already being changed months in advance, leading to more re-bookings, cancellations, or other service requests.

These challenges come on the heels of already-changing consumer tastes and behaviors. Consumers around the world expect a smooth digital experience and have less patience for clunky customer experience than they did pre-pandemic.

The supply-chain-pocalypse, on top of the usual frantic demands of cyber deals and holiday sales, mean that contact centers can expect record call volume. 

Keeping customer experience top of mind

With 59% of consumers now caring more about customer experience than they did pre-pandemic, brands must be on top of their game from the get-go. In fact, 83% of people said they’d stop purchasing from a brand after a bad customer experience. The rise in call volume and support requests already puts brands behind the eight ball, and the competition from other companies only complicates matters.

Take these steps to ensure your customers aren’t left disappointed: 

  • Make your contact info easily accessible. Why frustrate your customers before they’re even able to get in touch with you? Your website and Google Business listings should have your contact information clearly available—ideally in multiple, easy-to-access and up-to-date spots. Additionally, more brands are finding success with social and SMS support and utilizing communities to take advantage of common customer questions. Instead of having your agents spend hours on the phone, an online community combined with a social response tree can facilitate more frequent responses.

  • Offer AI-powered self-service solutions such as chatbots and IVR. 58% of customers want another way to reach support without calling. Take advantage of AI and machine learning—if a chatbot or interactive voice response (IVR) automation can handle the most basic, common inquiries, it frees up an agent’s time for more complex issues. That human touch helps deliver a better experience for customers. 

  • Listen across all channels. Not knowing the root cause of why your customers feel the way they do is a missed opportunity—and 90% of CX professionals claim to lack deep insights or the ability to explain why customers take certain actions. Having omnichannel data provides information across teams, giving you a holistic picture of how your customers feel about the end-to-end customer experience, and highlighting any major concerns or areas of praise.

  • Analyze and take action with your data. With an omnichannel solution, you’re getting data from multiple sources, so quickly take action on small wins. Once you’ve made immediate changes, find opportunities for long-term improvements. This also encompasses how you report metrics, which should tie back to each decision’s financial impact.

How to avoid contact center burnout

While customer experience is essential for any brand, there’s a growing focus on the experience within contact centers, too. Frustrated employees lead to significant impacts on the bottom line—34% of an employee’s annual salary is lost to burnout—and burnout strains employee health.

First, know what burnout is and how to spot it. According to the World Health Organization: “it’s a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout includes feelings of depletion or exhaustion, feelings of mental distance from or negativity about one’s job, and reduced effectiveness at work.

Burnout can also lead to turnover, and that’s only increased since the pandemic began. More than half of North American workers are looking for a new job this year.

Dealing with contact center burnout is an ongoing battle, but it starts with a strong foundation. Here’s how you can build a strategy against burnout: 

  • Improve contact center training. A common reason for burnout: agents not feeling like they have the proper training to handle issues as they arise. 76% of Gen Z believe learning is the key to a successful career. Training doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out webinar—you can increase engagement through games, interactive learning, and internal podcasts.

  • Increase agent independence. No one wants to feel like their manager is always looking over their shoulder. Granting a bit more independence to agents helps increase their motivation and improve their mood. You’re still there if they need assistance, but trust they can do their day-to-day job.

  • Offer incentives. Reward your agents when they do something good for the company. The incentives can be monetary bonuses or more creative—for example, offer free tickets to a game for a big sports fan, or a gift card to a nice restaurant for an agent that’s a foodie. They’ll appreciate the morale boosts and remember your kindness down the line.

A brand’s holiday season can be full of cheer—if you adopt the right strategies. 

Ensure your customers don’t have to go out of their way to talk to your brand, and get ahead of the frustrations that naturally come during this time of year. Concurrently, keep your agents top of mind and show them how much you appreciate their hard work.  

When you perfectly combine the two, you’ll be well on your way to successful customer and agent experiences and onto a new year of opportunity.