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Surviving the holiday service rush in five easy steps

The holidays can be a stressful time for your customers: they’ve got gifts to buy, lights to string up, and people to fight off before they grab the last half-price flat screen TV. If you work in customer service, you’re well-versed in the frantic frenzy during the holidays. And, with business booming during the winter months, you’ve also got more to do and less time than you can shake a candy cane at.

Unfortunately, this is the time of year that customers need service the most and usually receive it the least. But yours can be the business that makes customers’ wishes come true, and lands at the top of their nice list by following these five tips:

Treat customers like people

Each customer in the support queue really cares about what they’re buying, so much so that they’re calling or texting in for help. Reciprocate that care when dealing with customers: greet them by name, know the last time they contacted you and why, and make an effort to create a connection. Even if you’ve dealt with 100 customers before noon, treat each person as an individual. A personal touch goes a long way.

Offer multiple channels

During the holidays, customers are going to reach out to your company for several different reasons. Depending on their time or stress level, they might need to ask a simple question, or they may decide they need to air all their grievances. Use the right channel based on how and why they’re contacting you, and keep that in mind during the holiday craze. If a customer texts your company, they probably want to get things done quickly. If a customer reaches out over the phone, they might might have more complex questions that require a longer conversation. Know what kind of experience each channel will throw at you and be prepared to answer the call—literally.

Make service fast

These days, people are in a hurry in general, but during the holidays they want to move at hyperspeed. They’ve got a million things to do and not enough time to get it all done. That’s where your service team can swoop in to save the day. Using easy-to-implement technology, you can leverage screen pops to display relevant customer information for each incoming call. They’ll be flattered that you know them so well and fascinated that you got their questions answered so quickly. Or, if customers are waiting on hold, help speed the process along, send a text to let them know there’s a service agent ready to help. You can even respond to multiple customers at a time with live text chat. The more helpful you can be, the happier everyone is! Going fast doesn’t mean doing a bad job, though—it means helping them with whatever they need in a timeframe that fits them.

Help customers help themselves

A lot of customers are going to call in with routine questions, like what a store’s hours are or whether they still have any Frozen dolls in stock. Rock self-service this holiday season by making sure there’s a quick answer to their question. You’ll save yourself and customers a headache, not to mention a lot of time. You can head off common questions by: posting a big sign in front with store hours, making store hours one of the first options in your IVR, offering the option to text you with questions, highlighting the link to your FAQ page, creating a self-help forum, etc.

Go above and beyond

Customers usually expect less-than-stellar service during the holidays, so now’s the time to completely exceed their expectations. Anticipate their needs, then address the ones they don’t even know they have. Before you finish a conversation, ask if there’s anything else you can do to help. For example, if they bought a brand new computer, ask if they need any additional help with setup, or if they need it shipped by a certain date. You might also send a follow-up text after a call to make sure the customer is happy. If you want to make them really happy, surprise them with a shipping upgrade or by finding them an additional discount. The goal is to create such a great experience that they’ll have to come back to your brand after the holidays are over.

Most holiday shopping makes customers want to shout “Bah humbug!” from the rooftops, but providing stellar customer service using the tips listed here can make it the most wonderful time of the year.

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