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Small Business at the Holidays: How to Rock Multiple Customer Service Channels

Customer Support eCommerce and Retail

Small Business at the Holidays: How to Rock Multiple Customer Service Channels

Kerry Vineberg

No question, the holidays are big for your business. Those sales can make up 20-30% of annual revenue. But that spike in business, as you know, comes with a spike in customer service requests! 

And today’s customer wants to reach you in multiple ways. (Top methods are phone, email, and live chat.) For smaller businesses, this often means covering a wide range of channels with just one or two customer service representatives. So, how do you prep your small team to crush it, multi-channel-style? 

We’ve got your back. Here are 3 ways to get on top of your customer service channels this season. Hint: the key is to prioritize—and prep resources—wisely.

Let Last Year’s Notes Be Your Guide

If you’ve been using any help desk or live chat software, you likely have some juicy insights (a.k.a. report data) from last year at this time. Here’s an example of Help Scout’s reporting, and if you're an Olark customer, you can find data on chat volume, ratings, and response times in your agent activity report

We recommend looking at:

Which channels were popular? Figure out your volume by channel: email, phone, live chat, any social media you’re using, in-person. What were the peak times and days? This helps you predict/estimate the support you’ll need for each channel type.

Who used what channel when? Can you can draw any conclusions about why people used particular channels over others? Did certain issues come up over and over, say, on the phone? Use those insights to prep your agents with excellent FAQ docs by channel.

Who were your all-star agents by channel? Did certain agents rock the live chat support and get consistently great times and feedback there? Did others excel via email? Assign your agents to the channels where they shine, whether because of experience, skill, or disposition. 

Not tracking customer service data yet? No worries, we won’t tell anyone! This holiday is a great time to get started (and don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first try). You can also go low-tech — just ask staff who were there last year to share their experience and suggestions. 

Here are other customer service metrics to consider collecting for the future, from our friends at Groove.

Focus on Doing a Few Channels Well

There’s a lot of pressure to be multi-channel. And we totally get that most businesses, regardless of size, will need to manage three or more channels — here at Olark, for example, we juggle email, live chat, and social media. 

But quality does trump quantity. Know your limits and don’t spread yourself too thin. 

As long as customers know where to find you, you don’t have to be on every last channel. How to choose:

If, say, Twitter and Instagram are distracting from your main channels, you may want to de-prioritize them. 

Send customers toward your focus channels by posting instructions in social profiles, on your site, and in any messages you send. 

Use Canned Responses and FAQs Where Possible

A personal touch is awesome, but ultimately (especially during the time-crunched holidays), customers value a speedy resolution. Save precious minutes by setting up some pre-written responses! 

For live chat: Most live chat platforms let you store ready-made responses that you can call up—and tweak—with just a few keystrokes. We call these Shortcuts. Using this functionality, your agents can select common replies at blazing speed, like greetings, URLs, instructions, or even a quote. Plug in what makes sense for your business!

For email: Email templates can also speed up your response times. Create a set that works for your brand, and load them into your email software. Agents can simply modify for the situation. Here are a few from Hubspot.

For a central FAQ spot: Directing customers to a knowledge base or even just a webpage for frequently asked questions (FAQs) can also save your support team’s resources. You can link to it in your chat away message, make it bold on your website, and promote it in other channels. See this post for more on knowledge bases!

 

Multi-channel support doesn’t have to be a headache. With some forethought and prioritization, you can pick your most effective channels, distribute your agents efficiently, and craft time-saving content. These strategies will help make holiday customer service less hectic and more festive for both your team and your customers!

Kerry Vineberg

Kerry Vineberg

Kerry is a B2B technology writer and content marketer. She enjoys exploring her home city (and tech hotspot), San Francisco.