Prepping for the Holiday Rush: Customer Support Never Sleeps

Although the holiday support rush is still months away, improving your team starts now. We recently talked to a few support thought leaders who provided us with some game-changing insights about increasing the productivity both existing reps and seasonal hires alike.

Embrace productivity hacks

If a process or task is difficult or convoluted, people naturally try to find an easier way to get it done. Reps—particularly new ones—are no different. Sometimes, such “hacks” are the wrong way to solve a problem; but oftentimes, new reps bring a different perspective to the situation at hand. David Tull suggests being open to these hacks, because there’s often an underlying issue with existing processes or tools:

“It’s so easy to be corrective of seasonal hires during peak season, thinking ‘well these guys are new… they’re still learning the ropes.’ But, even at the part-time seasonal associate level, they can be the person that comes in and tells you that your tools and processes are not as helpful as you thought they might be. We tried to embrace that kind of thinking, rather than trying to put them back into the inefficient task they were doing.” David Tull

David recalls a past associate who found a back channel to the warehouse to expedite orders for customers. Instead of shutting it down, David adopted the practice and even integrated it into the system for future customer support reps. This made their team more efficient and delivered greater value to their customers.

Utilize a knowledge base

One of the biggest boosts to productivity in support center is a well-populated knowledge base. This type of software is made to provide quick answers to questions that come up in typical customer conversations. When looking for a knowledge base, look for a solution that integrates the searchable features of a knowledge base into the onboarding and training solution that employees are already familiar with.  This keeps essential information at a rep’s fingertips, allowing them to serve customers with speed and ease.

“The importance of knowledge management has been undervalued in the contact center space. As you head into the season, making sure you have an updated and current knowledge management system is going to help reps be more productive.” – Sheila McGee

Empower rep autonomy

In today’s world, it seems the only thing between a normal business day and a viral media meltdown about awful customer service is the team of front-line support reps. United Airlines is the latest brand to experience this after company policy sided with forcibly dragging someone from a flight instead of resolving the situation another way. This exact situation might not have come up for United’s support managers, but you can be sure it’s in their training program now. Thankfully, you can learn from this example and work to ensure your front-line reps have what they need to avoid unpleasant situations with customers:

“You have to empower your reps to take care of the customer. If, in the training phase, the support rep cannot say ‘yes’ to the customer, or doesn’t think they can, then they should go to their supervisor and find out how to resolve the issue. However, that should be the last time the support rep should ever have to ask permission to do something or learn how to take care of a similar situation.” – Shep Hyken

Prepare for customer demands

To maximize the productivity of your team, anticipate customer needs and prepare your team those needs before they even reach your support center. For example, companies with products that customers interact with should review past data to identify where the most customer interactions occur.  

“ 80% of your business and phone calls are going to be about 20% of the product that you carry. Really know your business—and customers—to the point that you can narrow your team’s focus.” – Matt Burnaford

This level of specificity allows peak season employees to focus on the information that matters most. The three-year-old product still on the website probably shouldn’t get much training focus compared to the new line of widgets launching this year.

Understand new hire limitations

Omnichannel support was the biggest support trend of 2016, and has changed the way support teams interact with customers. Giving front-line support reps more information and access to different touch points in the customer journey has significant effects on metrics like resolution times and customer satisfaction. However, be sure to decide if your seasonal hires are up to the managing this new level of customer context in their support interactions.

“You can’t just give a laundry list of ‘these are the last 10 interactions we’ve had with this customer.’ Companies have to do a better job of providing Customer Journey Management systems that give reps information that they can easily digest.” – Sheila McGee

Avoid overwhelming your new hires by using Customer Journey Management software to direct customers to specific reps. This helps mitigate difficulty for newer employees, and these software solutions can also do a great job of providing the relevant customer context needed to get seasonal reps versed in the ways of omnichannel support.   

Take advantage of rep downtime

Downtime between phone calls or emails are precious minutes that can be utilized to make reps and support teams more productive. Emphasize this from the top down. During peak season, there will be fewer downtime opportunities for reps with the increase in customers, but every little bit counts:   

“For the most part, we’ve found that people are just anxious to help when they’re not on the phone. No one really likes to sit there and not be working. Take advantage of people’s drive to work and find productive work that can help the team when they aren’t on the phone.” – Matt Burnaford

A better support team, with Lessonly

A more productive team means more satisfied customers, more calls answered, and a better bottom line. These marginal increases in productivity combine to make a huge impact that can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Learn how Lessonly can help your support team thrive, and take a tour today. 

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