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Your Company’s Customer Support Needs Have Skyrocketed. Now What?

Your busy season may be summertime, back-to-school, or the year-end holidays. Whether you’re diligently prepping (or scrambling last minute) to bring in seasonal support, you know the importance of bringing on capable short-term support staff. Besides seasonality, there are many other reasons brands like yours face an urgent support need. Sometimes an uptick in support requests signifies greatness, and sometimes not:

  • Your product was featured on TV and is in huge demand! Great, bring on the new customers!
  • Orders are overwhelming your company, and shipping is delayed. Get ready for the phone calls!
  • You had a recall. Now you have to answer a ton of user questions without further damaging your customers’ trust in your brand. Oof!
  • Your new release is a huge hit. Fantastic! Its many adapters need help setting it up. Okay, not so bad. But the new model is so far advanced from the earlier model that your existing buyers feel slighted and are making their feelings known on social media. Oh boy.

Whatever the issue, it all boils down to the same thing: You’re about to see a huge influx of people reaching out to you for help. Now you need to make sure they come away from the experience as satisfied customers. By providing great support when incoming tickets are flooding your lines and inboxes, it’s possible to survive the crush and still ensure that your business makes the most of its customer relationships.

It’s All About the People

We live in a time when many elements in the customer support world can be automated. Artificial intelligence can scan messages for keywords and send back solutions. Phone-system menus can expedite problem solving. Bots can be deployed on social media to respond to keywords, mentions, phrases, and hashtags. But it never feels quite right. It’s missing that human touch.

That’s why it pays to invest in people. Obviously you can scale your existing team by bringing in employees from other departments or onboarding newcomers. But during rapid growth or seasonal spikes, you may not have time to source new hires and then train them, familiarizing them not only with your support environment but also with the full company experience. Not to mention their nesting period, when you’ll need additional management to supervise these new employees (which means that your best support resources are now training new employees when you desperately need them on the front lines). It’s a less-than-ideal situation.

A smarter move is to look to an external vendor to provide these services. As you identify an outsourcing partner, consider these questions:

How do you ensure these supplemental support agents provide the quality your customers deserve? Ideally, your product experts will need to take minimal time to teach the vendor’s support managers about your practices, policies, and products. Then the outsourced managers take it from there, getting their support agents up to speed while your team is freed up to do what they do best. You’ll also want a vendor that constantly performs quality checks using a standard you set. The outsourcer should provide visibility into the results through both individual interactions and overall KPIs.

How quickly can you get these agents up and running? Experienced outsourcers like ModSquad have a network of agents standing by, professionals who are proficient in the services you require and are familiar with your products. We even defer to the client’s choice of tools; given our proficiency in all major platforms, there’s no additional time needed to familiarize Mods with new software. They come into an engagement ready to hit the ground running.

What happens if you no longer need the same level of support to which you’ve committed? Ensure you won’t be stuck with a long-term contract that’s going to hamstring your business going forward. Look for a vendor that provides flexibility, one that can scale up and down with your business without penalizing you.

Finding the Right Channels

Next, identify the customer support channels you’re monitoring. Your customers will want to get in touch with you via their favorite method of communication. Start their support journey by meeting them where they want to be. At times of rapid growth or seasonal peaks, however, each channel can present its own advantages and obstacles. Here’s what we recommend.

Phone Support: This is the old customer-support standby. Traditional phone calls are great for providing a one-to-one connection between a customer and an agent. But calls are the slowest of all contact types and can be difficult to automate quickly. If you’re providing phone support, let customers know if they should expect longer than usual hold times. As they wait, recommend that they visit your online help center, where they can find self-help systems or access alternate channels of support. If they’re intent on sticking around for a phone call, offer an automated callback option so they can hang up and have the call returned when it’s their turn; it can be a better user experience.

Email: On the surface, emails seem an obvious, simple solution. Incoming messages go into a queue and agents pull those messages as they can. The expected turnaround time is much more lenient than with phone calls. But during high-volume periods, emails can become more difficult to handle, given the seemingly infinite ways users can present their information and needs. Instead, consider switching from emails to a webform built into your help center or knowledge base. You’ll be able to collect more info up front about the customer’s issue. This can help you route that ticket to the right group, or perhaps respond automatically with a pre-written response that may resolve the issue.

Live Chat: Live chat combines the real-time interaction of a phone call with the data-gathering ability and slightly relaxed response expectations of emails. Even so, you still need to provide speedy assistance. Chats are great for managing high incoming volume in your support environment — especially if you’re onboarding new agents and/or implementing new processes. It’s significantly easier to look up a solution while responding to a customer via chat than by phone — all while projecting confidence, assurance, and helpfulness. Agents are also often able to handle multiple chats at the same time; we’ve yet to see a customer support representative successfully juggle simultaneous calls.

Social Media: Your company’s adoption of social media may depend a great deal on your customer base. You may find that social media is a fantastic avenue to reach customers eager to interact with your brand. In that instance, it’s often as simple as directing them to a traditional support channel or help center article. When you’re working in this channel, however, we recommend you make sure you’re partnering with a resource that understands how to build a team that’s ready to broadcast to the world every time they reach out to a customer.

Putting it Together

In the end, you and your team have a lot to mull over. By thinking through the steps outlined above, you’ll go a long way toward finding the solution that works for you. Look for a resource that’s ready to jump in when your volume spikes, one that can provide the thought leadership, technological expertise, and workforce you need. The right partner will guide you through the process and help you develop web forms and live chats. They’ll gather data to route your customers to agents best suited to answer their questions, will ensure that those questions are answered properly, and will report back to you on how well the agents and your overall customer support environment are doing. It’s a big decision to make; your customers and your company are counting on you. Choose wisely.

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