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Handle the holiday headaches: How to effectively manage your customer service over the festive season

Let’s face it: some businesses just never seem to sleep. Whilst that may not be an issue for big corporates, with hundreds of employees to take turns manning the phones to ensure there is always someone on call, for smaller businesses it can be a nightmare.

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve no doubt worked your fingers to the bone all year to ensure the salaries are paid and the Christmas bonuses secured. You’ve spent long days, and often longer nights, on the job and at the beck and call of your customers, so as the year ‘winds down’ surely you deserve a holiday too? The unfortunate reality in this age of always-on service is that customers aren’t always so understanding. When something goes wrong with their product or service, they expect someone to be there to assist them, even if it’s the night before Christmas; something better be stirring, and it better not be a mouse! 

Although you may not have the luxury of switching off your phone and hibernating for the whole of December, we’ve compiled some sage advice to help you handle those holiday customer service headaches and ensure you avoid a very merry meltdown this festive.

Manage your customer expectations

Your customers are people too, and appealing to their sense of rationality is an important first course of action. Obviously, the way you handle customer service depends greatly on the product/service that you offer, but simply sending out a friendly pre-holiday communication to all those customers you have on file will help to ensure they are aware of when you won’t be available. Send out a personal email, put a notice up on your website, shout it from the rooftops, but just make sure your customers know service will be delayed during this week, and unavailable during that week.

So, when angry Allen’s recliner isn’t reclining as it should, he might not be any less angry, and you’ll still have to deal with the drama, but at least Allen knows he’ll have to wait until after the holiday hangover subsides to air his annoyance.

Create a service schedule

For some industries, there is simply no way around it, you will always need someone on call to address urgent customer issues. Although it is possible to outsource this capability, issues of cost and competency may render this unacceptable. So, if you cannot avoid having either yourself or trusted employees on hand 24-7, even during the holidays, then the best way to manage the stress, and save your sanity, is a service schedule.

Planning ahead will allow you to evenly balance the schedule to ensure you have constant coverage for emergency situations, whilst ensuring everyone still gets time off, your staff don’t feel unnecessarily overworked and your customers won’t be left in the lurch. 

Automate and stay up-to-date

Automation is a wonderful thing. If you’re involved in the tech industry you probably already have many automated systems and processes that can handle most customer issues, but even if you’re not so cyber savvy, you can pre-empt customer queries and issues and try and help solve issues before they ever require your human attention.

Simply having an up-to-date troubleshooting/FAQ page on your website may suffice, but you can also implement automatic email responses, automated return and exchange systems and so forth.

Always have a backup plan

Sometimes it all just goes wrong. The world ends and the end of days is nigh, or at least it seems that way. So, when the proverbial smashes into the fan, you need to be ready for it. You may think you have the pleasure of being able to tune out and take it easy for a few weeks, but make sure there is always an emergency plan and chain of contact in only the direst of circumstances, and that all of your employees are aware of this.

The last thing anyone wants is for your poor junior staffer to be left to handle an unprecedented customer disaster without any way to contact the boss!

After all, it’s always better to plan for the worst whilst wishing for the best.

Happy holidays!