9 Tips to Manage Customer Support During Peak Times
At the end of each year, your customers are trying to close their wildest business goals, and your company is trying to hit its own growth targets. This means increased usage of your SaaS platform and an increased amount of contacts to support as more customers are impacted by those nasty bugs or need your urgent help to accomplish those tasks they got from their bosses.
It’s the stress from a whole year’s efforts that is creeping in, but this time it’s not only outside stress. Your own employees feel exhausted and anxious over the past year, and everyone needs a break already.
The best way to handle seasonal peaks in customer support is to have a system in place before you need it. When it comes to customer support, don't wait until things go wrong to take action. It's too late when your inbox is overflowing with inquiries, and you're scrambling to find ways to manage them.
To help you prepare for the season, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do now to handle the end of the year as well as possible.
1. Review last year
A few months before, check in on how things were last year. Being proactive can help you avoid any potential disasters. Check at least the following from your reporting:
How many tickets did you get last year during the period of X?
Were there specific reasons for contacts?
How many support reps were working at that time?
How well did you meet the main KPIs during that time?
What kind of feedback (CSAT, CES, NPS) did you get during that time?
Most likely your business has grown since this, so take a look also how much more customers there are and a general trend of ticket amounts.
2. Pause feature launches
If you have built a great relationship with the product, this is not a difficult thing to do: agree with the Product team that no new launches are done within 2 weeks before or during the holiday season - it’s too risky.
To avoid any unwanted contacts, the product should be stable and familiar to your customers as possible.
3. Extra-hands in-house
The customer support leader should be the first one to roll up their sleeves and jump in to help with the queue.
And there's nothing like a little help from your friends: make an agreement with a few engineers to jump in and help if needed! As engineers are the ones building your product, they know it very well, already. This will also help to build the trust and understanding that was mentioned in the previous blog post. If you have a customer success team, you can do a similar arrangement with them, too!
4. Take advantage of automation
Getting rid of manual tasks and actions can be the secret weapon to handle peak times.
Take a look at your ticketing system’s automation, is there anything you could temporarily implement, that could help to manage the volume?
For a bigger and long-lasting impact, automation is something you need to start implementing already a long time before. With the help of automation and AI, you can fasten ticket handling, or guide customers through a conversational chatbot.
5. Hire temporary help
It is normal to have seasonal fluctuations in customer inquiries. To always put pressure on the existing team and most likely also decrease customer experience during these peak times, might not be the best solution.
How about getting temporary staff to help with inquiries, that are easy to delegate and don't require too complicated training. You can hire from Upwork or other temp agencies if you need to fill in gaps in your team.
6. Review the ticket prioritization process
Consider if your usual prioritization system works during peak time. If not, it's time to reevaluate the way you prioritize incoming inquiries.
Also, think about implementing sentiment analysis instead so that if there are specific days when it looks like more people are having trouble with a certain issue, then those problems can be worked on first before they get worse (and more expensive).
Implementing sentiment analysis might not be something that you can do right this moment, but you can build a workaround process and use triggers and automation in your ticketing system to send alerts when a customer uses words like “urgent”, “unacceptable” etc.
7. Review canned responses
If your team needs to send similar messages several times during the day, make sure your canned responses are up-to-date and easily available for the team. Ensure also that the whole team is aware of the available templates, so they can fasten their work.
8. Supercharge your self-service
Make sure you have often asked questions/issues well documented to a customer-facing knowledge base, so that you don't end up answering them over and over again, or if you need to, you can easily send a customer a link to the knowledge base article.
9. Prepare Internal documentation
Check that internal documentation about known bugs is up-to-date, allowing team members to quickly link incoming tickets to the bugs and mass manage them when the bug is resolved.
Preventative measures are the best way to avoid customer support bottling up, but the second-best thing is to have a system in place to survive the increased amount of inquiries. I've given you some tips on how to make sure your team doesn't burn out or get overwhelmed by all this extra work. And now that you have all this information, there's nothing stopping you from helping your team to manage peak times successfully!