Launch This Holiday Season With Outstanding Customer Service

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.

Plan Ahead

Review met­rics from pre­vi­ous hol­i­day sea­sons and take time to fore­cast what will be needed for suc­cess this year.

Ÿ Look at past work­flows and sched­ules. Were there enough per­son­nel to gen­er­ate a happy out­come for each customer?

Ÿ 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.

Ÿ 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?

Ÿ 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
    1. Neg­a­tive: “We can’t ship that item until after Christmas.”
    2. 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.

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