Scaling for Support Request Spikes: 5 Ways to Thrive During Peak Season

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As customer expectations continue to rapidly evolve in a digital world, support strategies and technologies are finally catching up. Here’s how to scale for support spikes in the holiday season with the most recent advancements in mind.

"Oh, the joyful holidays, we’re really looking forward to them this year!" Said no customer service department ever. That’s because for the vast majority of support teams, dealing with the peak season support surge can involve staffing woes, too much work to handle, and huge drops in customer satisfaction. Which is a problem for everyone, because customers will bail on a brand that's not providing the stellar, speedy support they expect: 32% of customers will switch to another brand after just one bad experience, according to PwC.

But you don't have to dread the holiday season. Here are 5 ways to prep for peak season with the most up-to-date trends and tools. 

1. Compare ROI for outsourcing vs. automating vs. doing nothing

Support centers usually mull over three strategies to weather the holiday season: Outsourcing or temporarily growing their support team, trying to make do with extra effort and no extra resources, or relying on support automation tools. Which one of the three makes the most sense for your business depends on a range of factors. They can include  your industry, markets served, support team size, annual volumes, agent salaries, and channels served.

But all companies can compare ROI for each strategy based on a few simple parameters. 

For example, if you know your annual CRM costs and support volumes, you can calculate your current cost per ticket. Compare that with the cost per ticket if you recruited and trained seasonal temps (higher staffing costs), outsourced your support entirely (higher operational costs), or automated a certain percentage of your requests (investment costs). Then, compare that with the potential revenue loss from customer churn if you decide to skip the extra investment and risk backlogs and unanswered tickets instead.

You can also plug your annual volumes and agent hours into cost savings calculations to find out if outsourcing, staffing temps, automating, or doing nothing, would save the most money for your business. 

Curious about calculating automation ROI? Watch our free webinar on measuring automation results on-demand here.

But remember: with customer expectations higher than ever, short-term cost-cutting shouldn't be your only concern — especially if that means CSAT will suffer. Read on for ways to make support interactions between your team and your customers a joy for everyone involved.

2. Leverage your past support data to anticipate your customers’ needs

Effectively managing only a handful of similar requests can make or break your support strategy around the holidays. And since this probably isn’t your company’s first rodeo, it makes sense to look at the types of requests that have been popular in the past, and prioritize them. This may include questions around completing a purchase, shipping status or locations, or around returning an item. Pro tip: Use AI-powered software to analyze and classify your support data in any languages you serve to speed up this step.

3. Use proactive messaging to set expectations

Combine this with the step above for optimal results. For example, if you know from your customers’ past shopping behavior that certain products tend to quickly run out of stock (smart speakers around Black Friday, USB fans in the summer months), you could work on proactive messaging around that – and alternative product suggestions while you're at it!

For example, when they experienced an issue with recognizing their customers' IP addresses, B2B SaaS platform ActiveCampaign proactively sent out verification emails, as well as building a corresponding chat flow that led their customers through the verification process. This helped them soften the blow of a disruption to their service for customers while also deflecting 24% of inquiries related to the issue.

Hear it straight from ActiveCampaign's Director of Global Enablement, who shared their success story at our recent event.

Managing expectations works both ways: If you give your customers a heads up that it might take a bit longer for your team to reply or process their order in these few weeks, they might be more forgiving. 

4. Minimize stress on your support team. Really.

Research has shown a clear link between agent satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and increased revenue: In an industry notorious for its high turnover rates, making sure employees are happy and engaged benefits everyone, especially during holiday season. In the longterm, offering regular training and setting up paths for career development can do wonders for agent morale and productivity. And particularly around peak season, it's important to focus on short-term relief, whether that's making sure to have an extra open ear for any issues that arise, or automating mundane & repetitive CS support tasks like ticket routing.

Whichever additional strategy you choose to face increased volumes – having a team on board that’s able to think clearly and support each other will pay dividends in more ways than one. 

5. Avoid duplicate tickets by rapidly routing requests to the right rep 

One of the biggest challenges support teams face during sudden support spikes is ticket duplicates: When impatient customers don’t immediately get an answer on one channel, they might ask the same question on another one, creating two separate tickets, or cases, for the same issue.

The easiest way to avoid ticket duplicates is to make sure that no matter what, customers receive instant first responses to their question. One way to do this is to level up your manual triaging game: if questions immediately reach the right rep, you save time otherwise spent moving that ticket from department to department. An even more bullet-proof way to avoid duplicate tickets is to install a ticket automation tool, which can not only route requests to the right department using AI, but can also create, auto-populate, solve, and close tickets within seconds. It’s how Finland’s flagship carrier airline Finnair managed to bundle and route all covid-related questions to the right rep after the pandemic hit in 2019. 

Everyone loves the holidays, but not if they mean losing control of your brands’ customer experience. With the right strategy, a proactive approach, and the necessary CS and automation tools in hand, your team no longer needs to dread that special time of the year – and your bottom line will thank you for it, too. 

Don’t dread the holidays

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