[JOIN IN] Hang Out with Hot Chocolate: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays ☕

  • 1 December 2021
  • 79 replies
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[JOIN IN] Hang Out with Hot Chocolate: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays ☕
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Our next Coffee Chat session is happening on Tuesday, 7, December at 11 AM EST.


In keeping with the season, we’re calling our discussion Hang Out with Hot Chocolate and we’ll be discussing a topic in line with the season as well: managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 


Grab a cup and join us as we talk about five key segments:

  1. How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

  2. How has your team prepped to meet the changes in demands around customer expectations during this time?

  3. How can customer service managers prevent and address increased stress/burnout among their teams during this time?

  4. What are some lessons and insights from previous years that have helped customer service teams perform better during the holiday season? 

  5. What is key towards managing both customer and employee satisfaction during the holidays?

  6. Lastly, how can teams/individuals best take advantage of a holiday “lull” - the proverbial calm before the storm. (Tag, @manns when you answer this particular question, he’s looking forward to your responses)


79 replies

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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?



A1: As someone who has been on the frontline of customer service especially during the holidays, I would say a good few weeks are needed to plan, re-plan, and execute it. Planning ahead helps you spot gaps in your current training or format of support and gives you enough time to build or crowdsource resources needed for your support team. It also gives you ample time to organize a library of content for your team’s new and existing support reps to use.  

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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option
 

Q3: How can customer service managers prevent and address increased stress/burnout among their teams during this time?

A3: Face to face meetings are the most useful thing to deal with pressure. The agents can give feedback and talking in social mood help to understand still we are human :)

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Fourth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q4, start your answer with A4 and use the quote the option
 

Q4 What are some lessons and insights from previous years that have helped customer service teams perform better during the holiday season? 

A4: Written documents are life saving! Last year we had nothing on workflows or project maps. Now we are ready to deal with any enormous change. The only thing we have to do is updating the documents :) I think that Fresh provides very useful tools on the help desk. Dashboard announcement, solutions, forums, etc made difference!

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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1. I guess it depends on a number of factors. From an organization’s risk appetite, through the business impact of CS “failures,” to teh number of holiday rushes each year. At one end of the spectrum, there’s the “let’s plan for next month based on last year” approach. At the other, there’s a continual need to prepare for the next holiday rush that brings in improvement opportunities each time a rush is experienced. So, as a consultant would say, “It depends” ;)

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A3

Setting expectations, in advance, about what a season will bring may help prepare the team and even prevent “burn-out”. To me, the customer service role should be fun as you get to solve challenges (problems) and help others.

 

I prepare my teams with what to expect and provide role-play and training on how to handle difficult situations. When they successfully manage difficult tickets, they should feel recharged and successful. Hence, one way to avoid burn-out.

 

We discuss the types of situations and the people reach out for help and discuss what is happening in the customer’s world. Do they need help now? Do they have pressure on them to get a job done quickly but our software is slowing them down? And try to create empathy for the customers.

 

In preparation, we acknowledge that some customers are friendly, others grateful and others challenging. By providing role play and tools for each situations and helping the service team turn a challenging customer into a fan, is a great goal to set and support. And can revitalize the team.

 

We can’t be everything to everyone HOWEVER we can respond with understanding, honesty and compassion.

When tools for working with challenging customers are provided, the results can be energizing and rewarding on its own. Thus, revitalizing the representative and fending off burn-out. They can get charged and excited to help the next person.

 

At times, our team will laugh at customer situations and customer frustrations. When that happens, I feel we fell short. Instead, when challenging customer stories are shared, it would be nice to work as a team on ideas of how we could improve on that customer’s experience with us. I feel that when I speak to a representative and even when they can’t help, if they listened and shared that they understood, I still felt it was a good experience. And I am energized!

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Hey everyone! we have 15 minutes to go and I’ll start the coffee-chat. 

Who all are joining. Roll call time? :heart_eyes:

A1: We started in October this year.

Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1:  I am guessing here….but 1 month ahead?

A1: We started in October this year.

 

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A1 As we are currently in the 2021 Holiday Season, we should be observing things that work, and things that need to be re-worked to improve for 2022. Tracking, training, communications should happen throughout the year and throughout the company.

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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?



A1: As someone who has been on the frontline of customer service especially during the holidays, I would say a good few weeks are needed to plan, re-plan, and execute it. Planning ahead helps you spot gaps in your current training or format of support and gives you enough time to build or crowdsource resources needed for your support team. It also gives you ample time to organize a library of content for your team’s new and existing support reps to use.  

As the ONLY Agent/Admin running Freshdesk, how do I spot my own gaps?  LOL. I guess I need to do some more Academy training….

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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option
 

Q3: How can customer service managers prevent and address increased stress/burnout among their teams during this time?

A3: First and foremost, acknowledge that your support team had a lot on their plates during the holidays. Give them a break to rest, and recharge before resuming everyday operations. After that, revisit SLAs, close out tickets that no longer need your attention, and update FAQ’s to reflect current policies.

Lastly, record what went well and what didn’t so you can go into the next seasonal rush well-prepared.

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It was a great session today chatting away about customer service during the holidays. Feel free to keep the conversation going everyone! Thank you so much, @Lea France@finn@BrendaM@Sean.Daly@DaniCSI@Alice@n.winslow@TheresaDorr and @manns for joining us for our last coffee chat in 2021.

Shout-out to @rhea.desouza, my friend and colleague for helping me co-host this event. 

See you again with another edition next year! Until then, stay safe, take care, and happy holidays 🎉

        

If you enjoyed this, make sure to tune into to our upcoming happy hour with @manns! Sign up here and catch him live: https://www.freshworks.com/events/happy-hour-with-stephen-mann/

Userlevel 7
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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1:  I am guessing here….but 1 month ahead?

A1: I think 3 months out review training so everyone is up to speed.  1 month out ensure schedule has sufficient coverage and backup options.  But I am an overplanner! 

Valid point! 

A1: We started in October this year.

Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1:  I am guessing here….but 1 month ahead?

A1: We started in October this year.

 

That’s pretty good, Sean! Curious to know the size of your team

A1 - I feel each organization should have a plan in place for holiday closures since they happen every year at different times of the year. In my mind, that plan should be broken down into phases leading up to the holiday, and the aspects of those phases will differ depending on how long the break will be. For instance, if I am preparing for Memorial Day per my holiday plan I may have my internal team begin informing customers that we will be closed for the holiday one week in advance - informing them in conversation as well as with a blip in their support signature. If I have 3rd party support providers or depots I rely on, I will communicate with them about a month out from a single day of business closure.

If I’m preparing for two days out of the office, like over Christmas or New Years I will have my team inform customers of our closures 2 weeks out and I will have 3rd party support services prepared at 45 days out.

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A1: We started in October this year.

Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1:  I am guessing here….but 1 month ahead?

A1: We started in October this year.

 

That’s pretty good, Sean! Curious to know the size of your team

A1 - I feel each organization should have a plan in place for holiday closures since they happen every year at different times of the year. In my mind, that plan should be broken down into phases leading up to the holiday, and the aspects of those phases will differ depending on how long the break will be. For instance, if I am preparing for Memorial Day per my holiday plan I may have my internal team begin informing customers that we will be closed for the holiday one week in advance - informing them in conversation as well as with a blip in their support signature. If I have 3rd party support providers or depots I rely on, I will communicate with them about a month out from a single day of business closure.

If I’m preparing for two days out of the office, like over Christmas or New Years I will have my team inform customers of our closures 2 weeks out and I will have 3rd party support services prepared at 45 days out.

True, so important to not only have a plan in place, but also clearly communicate to your customers ahead of time.

Userlevel 4
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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1: I think two months will be good to measure different statistics on how the team deal with the issues in terms of resolution time, knowledge base, etc. Hiring a seasonal employee may slow down the workflow beacuse most of the experienced employees will work on those employees’ fails to fix it. This is time consuming process. The first month we can measure the former statistics. The second month, we can try new tools or flows. The third month (the hectic month) we can choose whether we use the former or new system.

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Second question for today is here below.

To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q2, start your answer with A2 and use the quote the option

Q2 How has your team prepped to meet the changes in demands around customer expectations during this time?

A2: Knowledge base and FAQs mostly helped us to announce updates. The basic user certificate from Freshworks Academy is obligatory for our agents. We follow up on their attendance. Thanks to the videos our agents learned how to use Fresh tools perfectly.

 

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Third question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q3, start your answer with A3 and use the quote the option
 

Q3: How can customer service managers prevent and address increased stress/burnout among their teams during this time?

A3: Ability to recognize burnout/ increased stress among employees, and act accordingly, especially during busy times. Improving communication channels between a manager and team member can definitely help.

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Second question for today is here below.

To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q2, start your answer with A2 and use the quote the option

Q2 How has your team prepped to meet the changes in demands around customer expectations during this time?

A2: Knowledge base and FAQs mostly helped us to announce updates. The basic user certificate from Freshworks Academy is obligatory for our agents. We follow up on their attendance. Thanks to the videos our agents learned how to use Fresh tools perfectly.

 

That’s amazing to hear! 

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Fifth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q5, start your answer with A5 and use the quote the option
 

Q5: What is key towards managing both customer and employee satisfaction during the holidays?

A5: Prioritize employee health, especially if the things heat up during the holiday season -- ensure that agent concerns are addressed well ahead of time, they have an open space to offer feedback, and automate where possible and feasible to save agents time. At the end of the day, do everything and anything that is right for the customer and the employee. A couple of things that can be done: 

1. If your employee is out of office, make sure auto-responders go out to emails that go the particular rep’s inbox
2. Set expectations that can be met. Under promise and over-deliver to make sure customers don’t get frustrated. 

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Hey everyone! Welcome to our coffee chat: Managing Customer Service During the Holidays. 

First question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q1, start your answer with A1 and use the quote the option
 

Q1 How far ahead should customer service teams and leads begin planning for the holiday rush?

A1. (part 2) The continued pandemic-related struggles also add to the complexity of planning right now - with uncertainty over people’s health and availability. So, for me, it’s a case of plan as early as possible and review-and-revise as we get closer to the rush. I’m sure the extra time spent planning will be less than the time and pain incurred by firefighting.

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Fourth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q4, start your answer with A4 and use the quote the option
 

Q4 What are some lessons and insights from previous years that have helped customer service teams perform better during the holiday season? 

A4. There are many - and sometimes it’s the simplest things that work. For example, having employee-centric policies on holiday working. Some employees need and want to spend time with family, while others might be keen to work extra to pay for the costs of the holidays. It might seem like a good way to balance the scheduling books but what about the personal impact on the latter employees? Not only in terms of their wellbeing but also their performance. So set caps on extra working to protect those who want to work more than they can actually take (I hope this makes sense).

Another is protecting CS staff from angry callers - maybe due to holiday-impacting issues such as delivery delays or having to wait in a queue for way too long. Here, CS staff should be empowered to call out the customer behavior (and I’m often one of those bad customers) by stating that the organization wants to protect them from abuse and that the call will be terminated if the abuse continues.

I could keep going but here’s one final one - using technology to take the strain more. Whether self-help and self-service capabilities or the use of automation (including intelligent automation) to augment CS staff capabilities. It’s hopefully the “better, faster, cheaper” than most business functions need.

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Fifth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q5, start your answer with A5 and use the quote the option
 

Q5: What is key towards managing both customer and employee satisfaction during the holidays?

A5. My quick answer is trying to make it such that everyone wins rather than one party at the expense of the other.

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Fifth question for today is here below. To answer a question, tag the answer with the corresponding number. For example, if you are answering this question Q5, start your answer with A5 and use the quote the option
 

Q5: What is key towards managing both customer and employee satisfaction during the holidays?

A5. My longer answer is:

  1. Ensuring that lessons learned from previous years have been brought into BAU operations
  2. Planning for all eventualities such that as many issues can be anticipated and fixes found before they happen (based on probability and impact of course)
  3. Using feedback - from both customers and employees - to try to course correct on the fly
  4. Empowering CS personnel by giving them some leeway when following policies and processes - this will help to get a win-win rather than one side of the engagement “losing”

I’m sure there’s more but I started late to the chat :)

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I’m looking forward to this :)

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I cannot wait until Tuesday :) This will be one of the most helpful events of coffee talks because the holiday rush is the most stressful period of the year. Hope I’ll find useful tips :)  

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