Planning, Leadership and Stellar Customer Experience Will Reap Rewards in the New Year!
The busiest retail season is on the horizon and the number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are significantly fewer than average. That means customers will be even more rushed, frazzled and emotional.
The good news? December presents a golden opportunity to deliver the kind of superior customer service that will create a loyal following in the New Year and beyond. To accomplish that, however, you’ll want to prepare.
Review metrics from previous holiday seasons and take time to forecast what will be needed for success this year.
Look at past workflows and schedules. Were there enough personnel to generate a happy outcome for each customer?
Review customer-service metrics. What contact channels did customers prefer; how many incoming cases did you experience; what was the average time to resolution; etc.
Brainstorm with staff regarding ways to improve on last year’s efforts. What was effective and what wasn’t? Would it help to invest in more and/or better technology?
What about employee burnout? If you’ll be adding more personnel for the peak season, consider hiring from within, training personnel from other departments to fill in as needed.
Train for Excellent Customer-Service Skills
Problems resolved in the shortest amount of time, in a friendly and personalized fashion, have the greatest impact on a customer’s holiday experience. Top call-center staff are those well-versed in the skills of listening, respect, positive attitude, and communication. These skills will be even more essential during the holidays.
- Listen and reflect. Active listening skills help agents sort through the conversation and ask the questions that get to the heart of the customer inquiry. And agents will want to be extra considerate this time of year – your customers will notice!
- Show empathy. A simple “thanks for being patient,” and “you sound rushed; let me take care of this for you,” can help diffuse a stressed customer. Empathy helps bring a customer out of the holiday stress mode and communicates that he or she is truly valued.
- Be flexible. One size does not fit all! Staff may have a script, but they must be empowered, through training and information, to make the decisions that will please the customer and solve the issue at hand.
- Know the product; understand the process. Customers are busy. They want their needs met quickly and graciously. If staff can’t do that—or efficiently move the caller to someone who can—they’ll lose the customer every time.
- Positive language.Emphasize what CAN be done by suggesting solutions, choices and alternatives. The message can be the same, but the impact very different. And in this example, there is a reward for staying loyal.
- Negative: “We can’t ship that item until after Christmas.”
- Positive: “This item will be available on December 28th. However, to thank you for your patience, we would be happy to ship the gift overnight at no charge to you. Meanwhile, I can send a lovely card to the recipient, notifying them of your gift.”
Excellence Starts at the Top
In addition to preemptive planning, management needs to embody the attitude they want to see in their staff. However stressful the season, you want to retain not only your customers, but your staff as well. Hiring and retraining new employees is a costly way to begin the New Year!
1. Be positive. No one likes to hear only what’s wrong. It’s wearing and detrimental to morale. Even if you’re delivering bad news, focus on what is good in the situation.
2. Recognize and reward good work. Show appreciation for a job well done. Offer incentives with a party, gift or bonus. Be generous with recognition and specific praise for both individuals and teams.
3. Show respect. Set standards for positive interactions throughout your team that preserve human dignity. Never be rude, cynical or demeaning to an employee, no matter how stressful the season.
4. Appreciate staff experience. Be open to feedback and input by those on the front lines. Ask how they would solve a problem.
5. Be flexible. Keep your eye on the twin goals of both customer satisfaction and employee retention. Even with planning, expect the unexpected. It will happen!
The gift of the season is that it provides your company an opportunity to be the shining light in your customer’s day. With pre-planning, proper training and quality leadership, you’ll make an investment in customer loyalty that will pay off throughout 2015 and beyond.