Reducing customer service stress at Christmas

Published on: December 21, 2016
Author: Anne-Merete Jensen - Senior Business Consultant

Christmas is a stressful time. It is stressful for consumers buying last minute presents or chasing up a missing delivery, but it is also stressful for the staff in stores and contact centers with the many customer enquiries that follow the season. The number of queries companies receive is enormous, and every single one matters to the consumer that sent it – they want a fast answer and a meaningful conversation with a brand if they are to stay engaged and loyal. Fail to deliver this and not only will you lose customers to rivals, but they are likely to share their experiences on social media, damaging your broader brand reputation.

How can companies reduce stress for customers and staff and ensure that Christmas is the season of goodwill to all?

1. Build empathy
The vast majority of interactions between customers and brands are now digital, through channels such as email. By removing the visual and verbal clues of face-to-face or telephone contact, digital makes it difficult for staff to understand the tone of the conversation or in some cases even what the customer needs. This gap means it can be hard to respond effectively or to build empathy with the consumer. In turn, customers become frustrated as they feel they are not being listened to or treated as an individual.

To overcome this, and to drive engagement, companies should invest in technology to help bridge the understanding gap. For example, linguistics can be used to analyze incoming messages and identify the tone and subject and automatically forward it to the best available person in the organization to answer it. By linking this to a centralized knowledge base, agents can be provided with a template answer that they can personalize to deepen empathy with the consumer. This way agent time is freed up to add value by better understanding what the customer actually wants.

2. Provide sufficient resources 
Christmas is the busiest time of the year, but actual peaks can be hard to predict. When it comes to resourcing, companies therefore need to plan as much as possible, based on figures from previous years, but also be flexible enough to deliver a seamless service across every channel, all the time. As well as employing extra agents, companies need to look at deploying multi-skilled teams who are able to switch between channels as necessary, ensuring that all customers benefit from fast, informed answers. Bring all digital interactions into a single queue and workflow, built around a centralized knowledge base, to empower staff with the tools and information they need to do their job successfully and with the minimum of stress. And don’t forget that queries don’t stop on Christmas Eve – people will have questions when they unwrap presents on the day itself, so you’ll need to have resources in place all the way through the holidays.

3. Make support seamless
Shopping is stressful enough without having to switch channel to call or email a company to find out more information. Therefore ensure that your website can provide the answers to consumer queries through self-service systems that mean shoppers don’t need to change channel to find the answers to their questions. Embed proactive chat into the customer journey, offering help at key points (such as checkout) to ensure that browsers convert into actual sales. This seamless support will reduce stress for consumers while deflecting more basic queries from your customer service team, reducing their workload and at the same time giving them more time to focus on more complex requests.

Christmas only comes once a year – building empathy and delivering great service is therefore vital for all retailers if they want to strengthen engagement with their customers and win their loyalty for the long term.  

Tags: Christmas, stress, contact center, agents, Customer experience, Customer Service, retail, engagement
Categories: Best Practice

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