A Support Team’s Survival Kit for the Peak Season

The peak season is the best and at the same time the most dreaded time of the year. Customers keep coming and buying your product. Business is on the rise, and money is coming in. While on the other side of the fence, you and your support team are desperately trying to deal with the growing number of queries.

Some industries enjoy a relatively short period of radical increase in revenue and customer requests. For some businesses this is the holiday season, others would face a peak season at the end of the year. Either way, the income growth sounds great up to the point when you realize the number of support tickets, phone calls, live chats, and emails that will come along.

When the peak season is knocking on the door

Typically, peak seasons are short, but very exciting and stressful times for customer support teams. That’s why you should prepare your agents and provide them with a kind of a survival guide. Ideally, your support team should be ready for scaling the service they provide and dealing with a ginormous ticket volume. But let’s get down to earth and ready to learn from the previously made mistakes in order to figure out how to avoid them during the future peak season.

To provide “the right” customer support is a demanding task (even when business is slow). So no doubt, you need to find out what to focus on. There is no revolutionary approach or a secret ingredient that’ll make outstanding customer experience easy peasy. Instead of checking the tools, it pays to look at your team. The people who provide the service make it great.

Despite streamlined business processes, everything can fall apart if the support agents are demotivated and burned out or they don’t work well as a team. The more customer queries are received, the more stressed, tired, and uninspired your team can become. Talent alone is not enough to address these challenges. Only happy employees will make customers happy.

Some or all of the peak season shortcomings identified in your case may be the same as most companies face the following issues:

  • preserving the first and average response time the same as usual
  • keeping customer satisfaction level at the same point.
  • ensuring that team and operations are leaning.

When all circumstances are against you, it may seem that really efficient customer support during the peak season is too high a mountain to climb. In response to these challenges, you need a game plan. Here is the three-tactics kit to survive and succeed during the peak season.

Where to start: plan, predict, and automate

To kick things off, be aware that seasonal customers show less patience, get edgy faster and want their problem solved immediately. Work out the action plan in advance and ensure that your team is prepared morally and technically and equipped with exhaustive knowledge about product/s. Now, everything is set to create an outstanding customer experience.

The value of communication and training

At the heart of any successful preparation, there are communication, training, and team empowering. Within a short time frame, you need to provide your team with all the information and tools necessary, as well as additional training (if needed). Give some actionable pieces of advice on how to deal with an overwhelming number of tickets, objections, impatient clients, etc.

Consider the following tips:

  • double-check if each member of the support service team has hands-on experience with all products and is aware of every function, feature, and benefit.
  • create an internal knowledge base with FAQs, detailed manuals, troubleshooting guides, and product photos (or make sure your agents use it if you already have one).

Try out your forecasting skills

Use your prediction potential and analyze the message volume to figure out the busiest hours. Also, define the most popular channels. That will help to identify the ultimate speed of the first reply and the average response time. Once the busiest time and channel of customer contact are defined, your support agents can prepare and tackle them by building smart workflows.

Use automation wisely

Automation comes as a lifeline for most common support requests at the peak seasons. A template written once can be then used multiple times, personalized for specific customer support queries to accelerate individual messaging.

Also, updating self-service information is essential. Why? Nearly 80% of customers will try to find the answer themselves before getting in touch with a support agent.

In case you need more hands to deal with an increased customer volume, consider hiring temps for the peak seasons. Many companies also practice outsourcing the frontline of their customer support. Either option requires time, so plan ahead what solution you are going to implement.

Scale the heights of customer service

The peak season is going to capture your attention entirely. Before it happens, it’s high time you turned from theory to practice and thought how you can impress clients with impeccable service to gain more loyal customers. How to make it real? Be personal, transparent, and cut down on the number of steps a customer has to take to fix their issue.

Treat customers as individuals

As a matter of fact, it is incredibly hard to add a human touch to every step you take. It isn’t news that customers perceive your brand as people on the other side of the screen, not a faceless organization. Accordingly, they want to be treated as a person, not a number.

A simple trick is in how you address your clients. Take the old faithful Dale Carnegie’s advice to refer to a customer by name since “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

During the peak season, you may automate some processes to free up time, but make sure your automated responses are personalized at the highest possible level. It will help you reduce the number of switching customers.

Facing urgent issues

So, automation and self-service portal help to enhance the support team performance and improve service quality. But during the peak season, the number of complicated issues grows. So, support agents should be able to resolve the issues that software failed to fix.

Route your team in the right direction - they should be concentrated to deal with the most complicated requests. Make sure that the support staff get training on the most challenging tickets and are aware of how to find the solution quickly, or at least of where to find the guides and step-by-step instructions on similar problems.

If you are a support team leader, be ready to join the field work. Apart from monitoring the processes, you may need to iterate those working not as planned. At the peak season, the clear in-house communication becomes even more critical. The team should be informed about any updates on the product or its features in order to prevent problems.

Analyze the process and detect its weak spots

Wise planning and real-world decision making are difficult tasks. Still, don’t focus just on pulling the strings. When the peak season is over, ask your team for feedback: what was good? What was bad? What could have been done better? What should be done next time?

To tackle the identified roadblocks during the future peak season, you can visualize the key outcomes on a poster. It may help with future planning.

Expand your peak season takeaways across the company - it may serve as a background for some strategic decisions related to all departments. Such aspects as (a) identifying and creating new opportunities, (b) understanding customers, and (c) employee satisfaction level have a great impact on product development.

Final note

You may think that the key is to embrace the chaos. But the secret of the peak season success is how the support team are prepared. So, make sure your service team members are always ready for whatever might happen. That means, of course, a lot of work. But it will pay off.

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