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The holiday season is upon us, and while that may mean family gatherings and hot chocolate for some, for those of us who are client success, it may mean high-intensity and understaffed teams. The last two months of the year are usually insane. In the run-up to holiday vacations, clients rush to finish projects before they get out of the office, organizations want to use the remaining budget for the year, and even those who don’t take vacations rush to finish projects because they know that so many others will not be available.
This can put a lot of pressure on your customer experience teams as these employees move into this season – not only because your teams will need to deftly assist customers under stress, but because your teams may also be trying to prepare for their own holiday vacations or work with a smaller workforce than usual if the holidays have already started. This means that both customers and employees can become dissatisfied.
But it’s not too late to be proactive and make sure your customer success team has a great holiday season. Here are some practical tips to help you succeed:
Related: 6 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged During the Holiday Season
Before the season starts
Start early: While talking about the September holidays may sound crazy, in my company we start long before they arrive. This is part of our strategy to go into the season with our eyes wide open at every level of the organization. We learned this the hard way two years ago when we under-prepared and our customer success team ended up with a huge backlog and frustrated customers.
Bringing it up early gives us time to reflect on the challenges from the previous year, brainstorm solutions, and then actually build the systems needed to implement them. Employees and managers have the opportunity to share what went well and what didn’t so they can prepare on a team and individual level.
Talking openly about expected staffing needs also gives team members the opportunity to share their vacation plans early. This in turn helps us to more accurately anticipate the size of our workforce and plan accordingly.
Use data to plan: Two years ago, we didn’t have solid data for this period, making it challenging to be prepared both now and next year. This led to poor staffing, resulting in a poor customer experience. Since then, we have put a lot of effort into creating data analytics and collecting and using data from previous years to understand peak and down times, which in turn helps us optimize staffing.
Related: Get ready now so your team can enjoy the holiday season and still be productive
During the season
Inside the organisation: Once the holidays start, the crowds can still be overwhelming no matter how much you have plans and people prepared. We focus on keeping abreast of our employees’ feelings and morale to ensure we can intervene if someone needs a boost or a break.
In addition, we try to be proactive, not only to compensate people who work non-standard hours fairly, but also to give everyone credit for their hard work. It’s true that this is always a priority for us, but especially during the holiday season, it goes an extra long way.
To make sure the support team has the resources they need, we have on-call contacts in other key teams so that even when people are out of the office there is always someone to turn to, whether IT problems, sales inquiries or development emergencies. This helps things run smoothly when the support team is dependent on other departments in the organization.
Outside the organization: During the holiday season, we are open to customers about the fact that responses may be slower than usual between certain dates. Usually we display banners on our site with this notification. Letting customers and users know what to expect over the course of a few weeks helps them better plan their own work and minimizes frustration over time.
Related: The Best Leadership Skills for the Holidays
After the season
Right after the season is over, it’s time to start preparing for the next year. This means taking notes of everything that went right and everything that went wrong while it is still fresh in our minds. Employees may have had a different experience than our leadership, so we debrief with the teams to get their input on how things went and include that information in our notes as well. If there is feedback that is directly relevant, we work to implement it right away. Otherwise, we’ll keep our notes in a place that’s easy to find next year.
The holidays can be challenging, but if you and your team are prepared before, during and after the season, they can also be a great opportunity to delight both customers and staff. So use these tips to make your team successful this year.