By Jan Carlo Martinez – Business Excellence Manager
As a Business Process Outsource provider, we are bound by our duty to ensure each customer experience is given a positive, meaningful interaction throughout their journey. Choosing to be in this industry and being able to provide exceptional outcomes means having the right knowledge, and at certain levels, maturity, to understand and accept that holidays, down-times, and other societal events will impact our business operations.
The December holiday season is one of the busiest—if not the busiest—seasons of the year. It is quite interesting when you understand how this impacts each business differently. Most organizations involved in the customer service industry get an influx of inquiries, requests, and even complaints from a lot of customers – particularly those working in retail, or any other professional service that is usually in high demand during the yuletide season (e.g. hotel reservations, airline ticketing, etc.). Most tech companies, on the other hand, experience a massive downtime this time of the year; while finance and accounting professionals need to rush deadlines before their clients go on a long holiday.
Regardless of industry, specialization, or customer types, each organization must prepare accordingly for what’s to come. Careful planning, strategy, experience and resourcefulness are keys to successfully handle the craze of the holiday season.
Before we prepare, we define
What is customer experience? If you were to recall the last time you had a wonderful experience, what lasting impression did it have? What aspect of the service made the experience really positive for you and how did that make you feel? That should not be very difficult to recall if the impact was meaningful.
On the flip side, when was the last time you encountered poor service? For sure, it wouldn’t take more than a few seconds to think of multiple occasions. According to studies, most consumers will tell 10 people about a poor experience compared to a only 3 if they’ve had a great experience.
If you have information from previous years, it can help you out especially if you have been in business for quite some time. Most successful service providers check work volumes and analyze trends on a yearly basis. The December/January peak season is no different. In fact, this can help in planning what steps to take.
Another thing to take note of would be customer channels: are you getting more phone inquiries during this time of year? For those working in the e-commerce space, is there a sudden spike in chat volumes during December for the past three years? These insights can help determine your strategy when it comes to scheduling and capacity forecasting.
I recommend starting this as early as October, depending on the number of employees within the organization. As management (you) should expect that everyone will want to be on leave; and from a service provider’s point of view, working on a holiday is not the most pleasant thing to do.
Find the right balance to allow, if possible, everyone to take their fair share of holiday breaks. If not, devise a schedule that is agreeable to all parties. There are a lot of criteria to choose from, e.g. highest KPIs, scorecard top-notchers, etc. Always consult with your HR team and local labor laws on what days the office may remain open, your service provider should also help advise on best practice.
Thinking outside the box
In recent years, flexibility and adaptability are two of the dominant values that most companies have (and must have). If scheduling rosters and holidays are too difficult or is causing a major conflict in the workplace, try offering work from home arrangements, In-Lieu Days Off, or Overtime / Holiday Penalty rates, think outside the box.
And this means with everyone within the organization! Most managers check for two things: first, whether another department would or would not need the help or expertise of someone from his or her team; and second, if another team is on holiday, maybe their own team can take the holiday off as well. In most cases, especially in a business with a small roster, communicating internally is the key to an efficient schedule arrangement.
Create a seamless workflow
Customer experience should not take a hit just because everyone is on holiday. Tap your process improvement and innovation champions. Sometimes the most creative and innovative ideas are borne during crunch times. Think of ways on how to simplify an approval process, how to efficiently manage ticketing queues, or even automating certain tasks that require minimal human intervention – there is a lot to explore. Who knows, this can even trigger a long-term change in organizational procedures.
Manage your customer’s expectations
During this time of the year, customers’ expectations heighten. If there are timelines that may change, response times that may take a little longer, or working hours that may be cut short, let your customers know. Most service providers make the extra effort to notify as much people as they can through different channels – email, website, social media posts, and telephone hotline’s IVR.
If you can deliver planned output or reports in advance, reach out to your customer too. This is quite common in the finance and accounting channel when they process critical tasks (e.g., payroll). Employee hours are entered in advance and the payout is programmed to release the funds on a specified date.
Never forget to under-promise and over-deliver. If it was announced that operation hours are from 8 AM to 5 PM, and you make an outgoing phone call to resolve an issue at 6 PM, customers will thank you for going the extra mile!
Take care of your holiday team!
Just how you would take care of your customers during the holidays. think of the things your team potentially gave up just to work on a holiday. This season can be equated to more work volumes and stressful inquiries. Your employees could benefit from a little holiday treat. A small gesture of gratitude can go a long way: treat them to a holiday meal, offer them Christmas candy, or hand out personalized gift cards. No need to be extravagant, it just needs to be genuine.
Why Customer Experience matters more in the holidays
The truth is, there are a lot of things to consider when preparing for the holiday season. If you want your business to grow, retain your customer base and, potentially, get new ones through word-of-mouth, and build a power brand with a great reputation, then focus on the experience. A customer-centric organization will surely help you succeed, everything shall follow.
About the author
Carlo has been in the offshoring industry for 19 years — and 10 years of that was spent working in customer service. He had worked with American and Canadian clients in improving their customer experience year on year. He translated this strategy into developing customer-centric and customer experience-driven programs for other processes such as collections and finance & accounting. He currently works as a Business Excellence Manager in hammerjack, managing Training, Quality, Process, and Customer Experience.
Have you heard of Christmas in the Philippines?
Already doing business in the Philippines, thinking about it or just want to know why the Christmas period in the Philippines is one of the most remarkable worldwide?
Here’s hammerjack’s Guide to Christmas in the Philippines! Make this festive season more meaningful for your business and your offshore team!
What you’ll find in this guide are:
✔️ Why Christmas is a big deal to Filipinos
✔️ Christmas traditions in the Philippines
✔️ Growing your team in the holidays
✔️ Treating your team
…and lots more!