Customer Service during the Holiday Season

“People hate the commercialization of the holidays. They are looking for a better quality of life, not more stuff. We’ve done the survey for the past four years, and the results are fairly consistent.” – Eric Brown

The quote above clearly spells out why customer service during holiday season is so crucial. It is a highly stressful time for customers and companies alike but for customers, it is about perceiving which company knows what they want. Even after the frenzied rush of the holiday season is over, customers will remember those companies that did the best they could in making the life of their customers a lot easier. They will remember companies whose customer service during the holiday season was exemplary. This translates to repeat business and more referrals for the company even post the holiday season. Most companies make the costly mistake of believing that the holiday season is the time to rake in the profits and since customers are already in the buying mode, customer service during the holiday season will not have any significance. This is not true – customers are most likely to decide during this time whether they want to continue buying from your company or move their business elsewhere. Holiday season products and offerings will be aplenty but customer service during the holiday season is what will decide whether customers stay with a company or not.

Why is it so important to even better customer service during the holiday season? To start with, this should be the season for fun and relaxation but given the extreme commercialization and frenzy of buying during this time, it is also highly stressful. Customer service during the holiday season would translate to adding fun and pleasure to the shopping experience of customers. Companies must ensure that their employees enjoy their work and are empowered to provide customer service excellence to their customers especially during the holiday season. Doing so will enable your employees to find ways to add joy and delight to the shopping experiences of the customers and cement the path for future business too.

Ramp up your customer service during the holiday season up given that it is a very busy time for most customers and they would need more help and support. Customers will have more queries, need more information, would ask more questions regarding the products and would use every possible available channel of communication to do so and unless your customer service is ‘holiday season ready’, your company could end up with highly irate and dissatisfied customers. Conversely, if your company reduces their stress and makes their shopping hassle free, they would remember you post the madness too. Effective customer service during the holiday season will ensure that your customers feel positive and remain engaged with your company long after and will provide repeat business and great referrals. Ensure that customers know where and how to get support – clearly display all contact information on your company’s website, social media sites and every place where customers could easily access. The easier and more convenient your customer service during the holiday season, the better your company’s chances that customers will come back.

Shopping during the festival season is usually for people one cares about and therefore one would like to buy what seems most personalized. Customer service during the holiday season must reflect this sentiment. In order to add the feeling of customization and personalization, companies must ensure that the offers and products they provide must be akin to the preferences and choices of their existing customers. This will make them feel important, valued and believe that the company is truly interested in their business and would most certainly return and highly recommend the company to others. Such personalization creates a bond and connection with the customers, which in turn leads to loyalty and brand advocacy for your company. In the absence of robust customer service during the holiday season, customers would most certainly take their business elsewhere.

With the possibility of higher sales, there is also an increase in the possibility of complaints and hence the holiday season would be the time of more complaints. For companies that focus on serving the customer, these complaints would be great opportunities to improve, learn, make amends and gain loyal customers. However, those companies that view complaints as something customers just do to hassle them, they would never learn or treat these complaints as feedback and chances to do a better job. To ensure that customer service during the holiday season works well, there must be a team dedicated to managing customer complaints and feedback. This will ensure that the unhappy customers are able to vent their frustration and know that the company will make amends. Most customers do not complain but choose to walk away – this is never good for any business. If customers choose to complain, a company must remember that it is invaluable feedback and understand that the customer has chosen to remain with the company and hence the complaint ought to receive its due importance. During the festival season especially, since it is short-lived, complaints handling must be speedy and effective in order that the customer receives the value.

The effectiveness of customer service during the holiday season (and under normal circumstances) would depend largely on the employees of the company. The employees serve the customers as representatives of the company. The holiday season is as stressful for them as it is for anyone else and many employees would not get the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones during this season, making it even tougher for them. It is the onus of the company to understand its employees and treat them with respect and utmost care. By providing them with proper tools, guidance, work environment, adequate compensation, benefits and recognition, they would feel motivated to serve customers better despite the frenzy and high stress. On the other hand, if the company does not make it simpler for them to give their best, the employees will soon be demoralized and frustrated, which in turn would ensure that they provide only the most basic customer service at a time when customers expect and deserve a lot more. Tired, grumpy and disinterested service is a big turn-off for customers and you can be sure that they will take their business to a company that would be happy to serve them.

Customer service during the holiday season just has to be fast and efficient. Imagine feeling stressed out that the ‘gifts’ ordered will not be received in time for the festival – enough to drive customers insane and make them furious. To see value in doing business with your company, customers must have the confidence that their orders would reach them well within the stipulated time and in perfect condition. In addition, all queries and problems should be resolved before the actual festival such that customers can make informed decisions and buy what would be most appropriate for them.

Customer service during the holiday season ideally begins before the season ‘kicks in’. Companies must reach out to their customers and target audience well before the season to inform them of the possible offers, products and other discounts they can expect. This strategy does not only help customers to begin their decision-making but is also a great way for the company to capture the attention and mind of the target customers before their competition. Let customers know what they can expect by way of service – ‘educate’ them on the strategies and plans your company has in place to ensure that they receive great service and support during the extremely rushed and busy holiday season. The feeling of care is a great emotional boost for customers and they are sure to make a beeline for your company when the time is right. In addition, ensure that your company’s customer service plans are adequately and prominently displayed on every possible online channel – according to research, customers first make thorough checks online about companies and their products before going out to buy the products.

Customer service during the holiday season and at other times too, is about continually learning and improving. Keep a record and track whatever your company did during the holiday season to evaluate what worked and what failed – this will help to improve your service the next time round. Whatever you do, ensure that your prime focus is always the customer.

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