With the annual shopping season extending earlier into the year and more customers opting for the convenience of an online checkout, increasing order volumes and changing expectations can put businesses of all shapes and sizes to the test when it comes to customer service. To help businesses deal with the busiest time of the year, DHL Express Australia’s Vice President of Customer Service Fiona Evans shares five winning strategies any business can implement to deliver a superior level of service.
The rising prominence of online selling events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the traditional Christmas shopping calendar is making the season steadily busier, attracting customers to the online checkouts of websites across the globe. In Australia, these shopping events alone experienced growth of 28% in 2018 to become the biggest e-commerce week of the year. While many businesses are taking full advantage of the growth opportunity the season presents, it’s important to bolster a business’ supporting functions – such as customer service – to ensure customers get their questions answered and their problems solved promptly. Here are some simple strategies your business can put in place to make sure your contact centre advisors are well prepared for the peak holiday season ahead.
1. Analyse staffing numbers and rosters
In the lead-up to your business’ peak time, ensure you plan ahead for any new headcounts required to support the anticipated spike in customer service enquiries. Any new employees will need to undergo rigorous on boarding and training in your company’s policies and procedures, and it could take a number of weeks before a new customer advisor is well prepared to handle the business’ busiest time of the year. Additionally, take a look at your staffing rosters and adjust these to match times where you anticipate an influx of enquires, for example particular days of the week or periods immediately following a sales promotion. Look at previous data on enquiry peaks, or consult your customer service team on the trends they have observed. During the peak period, adequate staffing is critical to ensure that not only customers continue to receive the same level of service, but also that any unnecessary level of pressure or stress on customer service advisors is eased.
2. Put contingency plans in place
During standard operations, our customer contact advisors all work to uphold a set of customer driven KPIs to ensure the business is able to provide a high standard of customer service. However, at times outside influences such as weather events or traffic delays can cause an increase in calls – this is where a series of robust contingency plans come into play. Having strong, well-practised and embedded contingency plans ensure the impact of any disruptions remain minimal and service levels are maintained at all times.
3. Set up an escalation desk
During peak times, our supervisors and managers set up a special escalation process. Here, an advisor can pass an escalation from a customer to a supervisor or manager immediately for resolution. While a standard escalation desk gives customers a sense of comfort that their concerns are being heard and assessed by a supervisor, a boosted desk at peak times goes further by helping to decrease the time a customer has to wait to receive a call back, allowing the advisor to move onto the next customer call.
4. Communicate and keep functions connected
If you think you’ve communicated enough – you haven’t. That’s our mantra. During the peak season especially, communication is critical to ensure our advisors are fully updated with the right information when customers call in. Within your business, set up clear lines of communication between functions so the customer is kept up-to-date. It is necessary for customer service and operations to be in touch regularly in order to stay abreast of any service delays that may impact the standard of service a customer receives.
5. Bring in some fun
During this busy time it’s important to ensure the customer service team also have fun and feel upbeat. As mood can be easily conveyed by a speaker’s tone, happy and positive advisors ensure customers feel a sense of ease and calm during their interactions with a contact centre. During December, our managers are in charge of organising activities that aim to engage advisors, create a sense of camaraderie and provide an opportunity for relaxation. Some of the activities we run include Christmas tree decorating and Christmas sweater competitions, free coffees and lunches, Christmas-themed bingo, Kris Kringle and therapy dog visits. So even though it’s the most eventful time of the year for the contact centre, everyone – both customers and advisors – remain happy and satisfied.
Fiona Evans is the Vice President of Customer Service at DHL Express Australia and has close to 30 years’ experience leading award-winning customer service teams. Under her guidance, DHL Express Australia has been awarded the Australian Business Award for Service Excellence for two consecutive years, the 2018 Auscontact Association Award for Winner in Operations & Customer, and the 2017 Contact Centre Week Award for Best Strategy and Culture.