3 Ways to Prep Your Customer Support Squad Before the Holidays

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Oct 13, 2021

We’ve all been there. Too many irresistible deals, too many presents, too little time, and too many shipping worries. 

While the holiday season is meant to be full of relaxation, joy, and loved ones, the ecommerce world is overworked and overstressed. Sure, your sales skyrocket this time of year. But a surplus of sales also means a jump in customer inquiries, hours in the office, and the mounting pressure you and your team face to deliver a seamless, world-class customer experience. 

Want to make this year different, kick support burnout to the curb, and get ahead of the holiday rush? Here are three practical ways to whittle down your support needs and be prepared before the holiday blowout (plus, a bonus tip if you make it to the end 🎁).

1. Prepare your support team for holiday volume

Customer support teams become inundated with holiday customer inquiries faster than a dreidel spins throughout Hanukkah. Questions range from “where is my order?!” to “will this get here on time?” to “this snowglobe is shattered and how do I get a replacement STAT?!”

No brand wants to be blamed for The Great Broken Snow Globe Christmas of 2021, so it’s crucial to ensure your squad is prepared to handle whatever comes their way in the months ahead. Part of this prep includes understanding what needs to be done before, during, and after the holidays.

Before the holidays, ecommerce service teams should be thinking about smashing any and all tickets in their queue. Holiday urgency is no joke, and the last thing you want to do is keep pushing a customer’s non-holiday issue or inquiry to the back-burner as you answer more pressing questions. 

If your team heads into the holidays with an existing heap of support needs, it won’t be long before you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle.

Too many customer inquiries > overwhelmed team > increased delays > customer dissatisfaction > angrier customer inquiries > repeat 

Don’t get stuck in the loop (because each time a customer has to come back and ask again about an unresolved issue, the more frustrated and impatient they get). This cycle takes a long time to dig out of, so doing whatever you can to clear the queue beforehand and start the holiday season with a clear slate is wise. 

Short support queues, instant answers, genuinely caring support—these are facets of a premium customer experience that will keep customers coming back long after your dried out trees hit the curb.   

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season is when the ecommerce rush is truly revving at full speed. Be prepared for anxious customers needing reorders, replacements, and all the help they can get to ensure their own holidays hit their unique goals. Gifts, decorations, stocking-stuffers, holiday cheer, and the tools to make it all possible are in high-demand and also time-sensitive. 

Despite the rush, it’s imperative to create boundaries for the sake of your team’s spirit. Setting workload and volume expectations and caps not only mentally prepares your team for what’s ahead, but it also saves them from early burnout that ultimately hurts your customers. 

If you’re lucky enough to have data from years prior, dip into that intel and stagger schedules, set expectations based on experience, and hire temporary help if the numbers say so. And if the spirit moves you, treats or a boost in pay don’t hurt morale in the least. A happy support team leads to satisfied customers, so working to foster a positive environment is key. 

After the holidays might seem like a good time to slow the pace and catch your breath, but don’t be surprised if the rush takes a while to taper down. Online sellers will start seeing post-holiday returns, a jump in questions about goods or services, exchanges for different sizes or colors, and more. 

2. Set up proactive channels of communications

One of factors that can throw even well-laid plans off the tracks is confusing (or missing) communication channels between your brand and the customer. If a customer has a hard time reaching you through chat, email, phone, or beyond, the relationship is already on the wrong foot. 

It’s also important to remember that communication isn’t only for post-delivery confirmation. Open channels of communication are especially critical while items are in transit. Any time a purchase is shipped out to an anxious customer, they usually have one question on their mind: “Where is my order?” (or WISMO for those in the biz).

This question crops up even more frequently during the holiday season when timelines are tight and gifts need to be in-hand before the next big holiday party. While answering this question provides a lot of relief and peace of mind for customers, it’s also one that can quickly bog down support teams and become a bottleneck to bigger initiatives or high-ROI answers. 

gif of Route Track in the app

Luckily, there are steps you can take to virtually eliminate WISMO from clogging support tickets and eating up resources, and it starts with frequent and proactive communication where your customers are looking. 

Implementing a post-purchase tool like Route Track provides a direct connection between your store and your customers from the moment of conversion through delivery. With real-time tracking and proactive updates through a variety of channels, you can give customers as much information as possible and nip questions in the bud. Providing clear insight into delivery status details:

  1. Helps customers know the level of care and support your store provides during the holidays and beyond.
  2. Empowers customers to self-resolve the most common questions lingering in their mind.

A premium tracking solution works well in tandem with things like an FAQ page or landing pages that provide details around promotions or offers, too. The more information you can give customers about their shopping journey with your store, the better. With fewer WISMO questions coming in, your team can spend more time resolving higher-value issues or even taking some extra time to enjoy the holiday cheer.

3. Give customers the power to help themselves

One of the quickest paths to filling up support queues is limiting what customers can do to help themselves. When stores don’t have elements like an “About” page with mission statements and values, a “Return Policy” landing page, or even an FAQ in the footer, customers are limited in how many questions they can answer without seeking help from support. 

chart showing year-over-year ecommerce growth rate.

This issue only grows bigger during busy shopping seasons, like back-to-school, Labor Day, and the weeks-long span between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve. Over the past 5 years, the share of Q4 ecommerce sales have doubled, hitting 14% in 2020. And despite the coronavirus pandemic and economic uncertainty, the 2020 holiday shopping season saw US consumers spending $188.2 billion online—or year-over-year growth of 32%

The 2021 holiday season is projected to be just as—if not more—momentous. Carriers are already battening down the hatches as delivery demand is expected to exceed capacity by 5 millions packages per day

In a nutshell: The 2021 holiday shopping season is projected to see more orders than ever.

Even if your store is well-armed with a surplus of inventory, informative web pages, well-documented return policies, and beyond, there’s no way to adequately prepare for the delivery bottleneck. And when packages get lost, delayed, or stolen before the customer ever gets them, tickets will inevitably start rolling in and your brand will start getting blamed.

However, it’s possible for ecommerce sellers to empower customers with tools that give insight into package delivery and ready-to-use help when something goes wrong. With Route, shoppers can see where all of their online orders are in one app. Using Route enables merchants to automatically deploy updates through multiple channels, like in the app, emails, or through push notifications. 

screenshot of self-resolve center in Route app.

This level of insight provides peace of mind and lets customers take control of the level of information they want to consume. If someone wants daily updates about a package’s whereabouts, they have the power to see real-time data (and dodge asking your team another question about it). 

And when tracking shows something off, like a long delay or a “delivered” package that isn’t actually by the front door, take customer empowerment a step further with Route Protect. Instead of driving customers toward dealing with third-party carriers or sitting in support purgatory. Throughout the holidays, customers are already experiencing increased anxiety, and you don’t want your brand to be another contributor. 

Helping customers self-serve their order issues allows you and your team to crush that backlog and help customers get their order issues resolved in no time. Route Protect is an example of premium order protection that gives customers a way to submit a problem in as few as five clicks with a resolution provided instantly. 

No two-week lag time. No tenuous back-and-forth with carriers or support teams. No sour experiences that’ll have people bad-mouthing your store on Twitter. Just a post-purchase experience that creates genuine care and support for customers during the most stressful shopping season of the year.

2021 is the time to bag smart, supportive tools for a more seamless holiday customer experience

Modern customer expectations for online shopping experiences are simple: They want stuff, they buy stuff, they get stuff. But the reality is often a more complicated headache: They want stuff, they buy stuff, they wonder where their stuff is, and sometimes never get the stuff, then have to jump through hoops for replacement stuff. 

It’s an unpleasant experience that can leave a lasting impact far beyond the holidays. When communication is cloudy and tracking is subpar, customers rely on your support team, which ends up eating into your bottom line and their happiness. However, a little bit of prepwork—making a list and checking it twice, eh?— can set up your support team and customers for successful deliveries and good vibes. 

This season, dodge the vicious cycle of long support times, mounting inquiries, and increasingly frustrated shoppers. Instead, create a connected buyer experience through key (free) tools in the Route for Merchants post-purchase platform. It was built to evolve your customer journey from brand discovery to delivery all while taking a load off your support team’s shoulders. 

Save your shoppers from frustration and anxiety. Save your store’s revenue and resources. And save the holidays with a loyalty-building, mind-blowingly seamless and simple tracking and protection experience. Trust us, your support squad will thank you (and so will your customers). 

Want to learn more? Our Route for Merchants webinar series is kicking off and we’d love to keep you in the loop. Each webinar will stuff you fuller thank a Thanksgiving turkey with post-purchase tips and tricks from our very own in-house Route experts.

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