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Support

5 Tips for Handling Live Chat Support During the Holiday Season

10 min read
Oct 23, 2020

There are two types of people. Those who love holiday shopping accompanied by Wham singing about “Last Christmas” and those who can’t stand that song. No matter which group you belong to, you’re probably aware that the 2020 holiday shopping season isn’t going to have a lot in common with previous years. 

COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down, and the shopping experience isn’t an exception. While online holiday shopping has been steadily on the rise for years, it’s probably going to reach new heights this year. Many people who’d typically go to overcrowded shopping malls will now likely take advantage of ecommerce websites and search for those perfect Christmas gifts online. 

The National Retail Federation expected online sales during the holiday season of 2019 to rise between 11% and 14%. It turned out online sales topped their expectations, climbing 14.6% year-over-year to $167.8 billion. Interestingly, Black Friday had more online shoppers, 93.2 million, than Cyber Monday, 83.3 million, for the first time. However, according to Adobe Digital Insights, Cyber Monday was the largest online sales day in US history, with $9.4 billion spent by the end of the day. 

I can imagine many of you are wondering about what the 2020 holiday shopping totals are going to be like. Despite the economic uncertainty and higher unemployment caused by the pandemic, 64% of consumers say they plan to spend more online than last year. However, they’ll be spending less overall.

The 2020 holiday season forecast

Deloitte predicts that overall holiday retail sales will increase between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year, which is a small increase compared to 4.1% in 2019. When it comes to ecommerce holiday sales specifically, Deloitte forecasts we’ll see them surge by 25% to 35%, which more than doubles growth if we end up at the high end of that forecast. That should generate between $182 billion and $196 billion in sales. 

On the flip side, with more consumers expected to shop online, NRF predicts that “package delivery rates could go up, delivery times could go from two days to two weeks, and items might come from stores with excess inventory rather than warehouses or distribution centers.” To tackle the likely shortcomings, Walmart will hire 20,000 seasonal employees to help pack and ship online purchases.

More demand for online shopping obviously means more work for customer service agents. Today, I’ll focus on managing customer service during the holidays and providing live chat support.

Why live chat? 

Live chat is a customer service tool that is an alternative for relatively ineffective emails and expensive phones. It lets one agent chat with a couple of customers simultaneously and provides features that are helping agents’ in their daily battle for productivity and excellent service.

Why is live chat so important for sales? It’s because your customers:

To make this information even more interesting, here’s some real data from our customers. With LiveChat:

Now that you know what live chat is and how you can benefit from using it, let’s look at the five tips on how to live chat during the holiday season.

1. Check out last year’s trends, and prepare your schedule

Every sane manager does their homework before they plan the schedule for the holiday season. Live chat support is no different. If you’ve used live chat in the last year, the first thing you can do is check your historical data.

Reports tell you how many chats you’ve had in the last year and how high customer satisfaction was. By checking that information, you’ll be able to tell how many agents you’ll need this year to deliver fantastic customer support and keep customer happiness high. Keep in mind that this year we’re going to have many more people shopping online, and it’s going to be difficult to nail down your staffing predictions. It might be a good idea to get a few more hands on deck to make sure you’ll be able to handle the increased number of chats. As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

If you didn’t use live chat last year, don’t despair. There are a lot of online benchmarks that will give you a good sense of what you can expect. Every year, we publish a Customer Service Report with last year’s insights. The 2020 edition gathered data from 25,000 companies, nearly 398 million chats, and 17 million tickets to find upcoming trends and key customer service findings. Use it to get to know how high your holiday traffic might be, how many chats your agents will have to deal with daily, and what the top results in your industry are.

2. Set up personalized greetings on your website

The holiday season is a season with a lot of competition. Thousands of users browse thousands of websites, and sometimes even a quick chat can turn a user into a customer. For that reason, you want your website visitors to chat with you and not your competitors.

To engage your website customers in chatting, you can use a feature called greetings. Greetings are automated messages that you can display to website visitors and invite them to talk. Choose between standard text greetings or rich greetings to hook your customers instantly.

Use rich greetings to offer a discount to a selected group of customers like, for example, those who have just made a purchase. Say you would like to give them a discount on their next purchase. Set the ‘Current page URL’ condition for your ‘thank you’ page.

At times, people will ask questions about product recommendations. That’s where product cards come into play. They’re a way to send engaging and visually appealing product invitations. All you need to do is create a collection of cards. Each card consists of an image, description, and a link to your product. Stop switching between software to copy and paste links. Instead, save time, and use product cards for recommendations.

3. Hire a chatbot

Chatbots are AI assistants you can integrate with your live chat app so they can chat with your website visitors. These artificial live chat agents are useful in three main scenarios:

If any of the above scenarios sound like yours, you should think about implementing a chatbot. Although it might sound complicated, setting up a chatbot is easy. All you have to do is create an account on a chatbot platform of your choice, and then integrate it with your live chat app. Import one of the chatbot scenario templates, and work on it to fit all your customer cases.

If you need more convincing, think about the fact that you’ll have to deal with a higher number of chats during the holiday season. In many cases, you’ll have to respond to the same questions over and over again.

A chatbot can speak with hundreds of customers at the same time and loves tasks that are repeated. By having a chatbot, human agents will have more time to focus on more demanding problems. Just make sure you create chatbot scenarios and test them before the holiday season is on fire.

4. Help your agents to meet their goals

During the holiday season, an average retail business has about 10% more chats than during the rest of the year. This year, we can expect even more significant growth. As I said initially, 64% of consumers say they plan to spend more online than last year. More people who buy online leads to more chats. More chats lead to more work for your agents.

If your agent handles a hundred chats daily, they will have to deal with at least ten additional conversations per day. Yet, your agents still have to meet your KPIs. It puts them under pressure. 

For that reason, you need to make sure that you’re making good use of all of the LiveChat features that make their job easier and more effective. Message sneak-peeks and handling multiple chats will help your agents out a lot. The former allows agents to see the message before a visitor sends it, and the latter allows every agent to chat with multiple customers at once.

Speaking of more advanced features, here are a few that will come in handy.

Groups

Divide your team into groups of agents handling different cases, e.g., sales, billing, or support. Create a custom pre-chat survey and ask your customers what their issue is. By doing so, they’ll be transferred to the right agent right away.

Canned responses

If you often reply to the same customer questions, consider saving those replies as canned responses. You can recall them with a couple of keystrokes and save time. There is no limit on how many canned responses you can save, so prepare as many as you need. 

Tags

Messy chats are a nightmare for team supervisors and managers. If you don’t want to drown in your chat archive, you better start tagging your chats so you can easily find them later. You can call it “billing,” “shipping,” “support,” “spam.” It’s up to you. The goal is to be able to filter your chats easily.

Ban

Speaking of spam, sometimes you will get chats from internet trolls who live to make your life more difficult. Instead of losing your cool by fighting with them, ban their IP, and enjoy the serenity.

5. Turn employee engagement into customer happiness

All support agents have a hard time during the holiday season. They work under pressure, deal with dozens of chats, meet KPIs, and they still have to keep their communication professional. I think that the key to high customer satisfaction is a happy, motivated team. To do that, you need to engage them and reward their efforts.

The best way to do that is to introduce gamification. Having all customer service statistics on hand, you can create a simple game for agents to keep their reports tight and their holiday spirits high. Agents can compete in different categories like agent of the day, most cases solved, highest chat ratings, etc. For example, every week an agent with the highest number of good ratings would win a restaurant voucher. 

Playing in the workplace? Yes, especially if you want your agents to love their work. Add some fun to their job by asking them to take holiday-themed pictures, and upload them to the live chat app. Ask them to be creative and create cheerful greeting messages. Create holiday canned responses. Your customers will love it, too.

Brace yourself for the upcoming online rush

This holiday season is going to be different. A lot different compared to what we’ve been familiar with so far. You could even say, unprecedented. We’ve all had enough of that word, but that’s the reality of 2020.

Like I said before, despite the economic uncertainty and higher unemployment caused by the pandemic, people still plan to spend their money on holiday shopping. In comparison to previous years, they’ll spend less overall but more online. Ecommerce businesses will have to bring their “A” game to stay on top of the increased demand for customer service.