Braving busy holidays: Reduce customer service stress with automation and AI

Holidays are coming, and for consumer-facing businesses, that often results in a huge tide of shoppers turning to your support team for help. How can you get on top of high conversation volumes, and still provide speedy, personal support during the busiest times of the year?

You might be thinking, “Time to hire dozens of extra support reps to help us through the next couple of weeks.” But this year, providing exceptional (read: personal, efficient) support doesn’t need to mean adding extra headcount or facing burnout. Humans, automation, and AI can work hand in hand to resolve support queries proactively and automatically. Here are our top tips for providing world-class support with greater ease.

Tip 1: Provide 24/7 support with a helping hand from AI

No matter how dedicated your support team is, they can’t (and shouldn’t have to) work around the clock during busy holiday periods, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The good news? For the first year ever, AI chatbots like Fin can. One of the fastest and best ways to get on top of rising conversation volumes is to set up an AI chatbot to instantly and accurately resolve issues, 24/7.

“AI bots will provide speedy, spot-on answers even when your team is out of office or otherwise engaged”

If you have a knowledge base, you can set up an AI chatbot and point it at your help content in minutes. Then when a customer asks a question, your bot will provide speedy, spot-on answers to simple queries even when your team is out of office or otherwise engaged.

Pro tip: Look for an AI chatbot that you and your customers can trust. Fin ingests your existing support content to resolve up to 50% of queries, providing safer, more accurate answers than any AI chatbot on the market.

Tip 2: Automatically answer holiday FAQs

Answering the same questions over and over again can feel like running up an endless treadmill for your team. This is especially true during the holiday season when customers have more questions about shipping, delivery times, and holiday discounts and deals. Setting up a chatbot can instantly resolve these FAQs, reducing your conversation volume and freeing your team up to focus on other activities, such as proactive support.

“We recommend digging into data from previous years and identifying patterns in what simple, frequent queries are eating into your team’s bandwidth most”

How can you identify what questions to automate? We recommend digging into data from previous years and identifying patterns in what simple, frequent queries are eating into your team’s bandwidth most.

Want to save even more time and supercharge your support? Skip the hassle of scripting your replies by letting AI do it for you. While setting up an AI chatbot takes minutes, your team can get even more value out of it by optimizing your knowledge base content for razor-precise answers.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a list of common questions our customers leave to Fin:

With Intercom, you can also create Custom Answers to ensure Fin serves the right customers with the right tailored solutions and suggested actions at the right time. For example, if a customer asks about canceling their booking, Fin can connect to your booking system, pull in the exact booking your customer made and let them select the right one to cancel – all in the Messenger. These kinds of personal touches speed up resolutions, enhance satisfaction, and build strong customer loyalty for your brand.

Tip 3: Set customer expectations around response times

What’s one of the fastest ways to frustrate a customer? Fail to set expectations or deliver on your promises. AI chatbots reduce wait times by instantly solving simpler queries while freeing up your team to deal with more complex conversations.

For customers who do have to wait longer during the holiday rush, build trust and goodwill by proactively communicating response times. Customers can then plan their next move based on real-time information, instead of waiting around for a response that might take a few hours.

With Intercom’s Messenger, you can set clear expectations for holiday shoppers. First, tailor the Messenger intro to share your team’s availability or other important customer service issues. Second, if you’re providing extended holiday hours, you can adjust your team’s office hours and expected response times. To bring even more visibility to your team’s availability, you can use an AI chatbot to share your office hours anytime a customer asks a question.

Tip 4: Route complex issues to the right team ASAP

During the holiday season, both your customers’ and your support team’s stress levels are at an all-time high. Answers to some questions, such as emotionally charged and complex queries, should never be automated or handled by AI. These types of issues require a human touch. For example, if someone is experiencing a technical issue or is understandably angry about a misplaced delivery, you’ll want to route their issue to your support team so they can reply ASAP.

“Fin can route the right conversation to the right team so they can step in and provide the customer with a speedy, empathetic response”

With Intercom, you can set up Fin to automatically collect conversation data from your customer on what their query is about – whether that’s a purchasing question, a technical issue, or even an urgent matter. Then it can route the conversation to the right team so they can step in and provide the customer with a speedy, empathetic response.

One of the most empathetic things you can do is be mindful of your customer’s time. If you’re using Intercom’s Inbox, you’ll have lots of contextual data at your fingertips about your customer and their issue to help guide the conversation to provide a faster, more personal resolution. For example, you can see whether they’ve been in touch before with a similar issue, how many products they’ve purchased from you, what actions they’ve taken in your store, and what pages they last visited.

These personal details will help you better understand who the customer is and what their needs are, without asking lots of introductory questions. Instead, you can get right to the heart of addressing and resolving the issue at hand. For example, if you spot a duplicate query, simply acknowledge that upfront so your customers don’t have to.

Pro tip: With Intercom’s Inbox, you can use AI to help your team write answers and summarize issues right in the inbox before passing complex queries onto relevant teammates.

Tip 5: Answer top FAQs before customers even ask

What’s even better than automatically resolving frequent questions? Proactively solving issues and resolving queries before they ever become problems!

Use banners, automated pop-up messages, or whatever jumps out to your customers on your website or within your product, to provide answers to your top 10 holiday questions. Whether it’s delivery cut-off dates or return policies, make the most important information visible so customers can self-serve without talking to your support team.

“By transparently informing your customers of issues, you can help them to make more informed choices and manage their expectations”

You can also use banners, targeted messages, AI chatbots, or even Messenger apps to proactively communicate any known issues to customers. For example, you can set up the Statuspage app to show customers your website’s health status as soon as they open the Messenger. By transparently informing your customers of processing times, website bugs, or shipping delays before they make their order, you can help them make more informed choices and avoid unnecessary confusion or frustration.

Tip 6: Empower customers to resolve their own issues

Today’s customers overwhelmingly prefer self-service. So much so, that by 2030, Gartner estimates that a billion service tickets will be raised automatically by customer-led automation. In turn, providing a seamless self-service experience lets you reduce time spent on simple issues and improve your holiday bottom line.

Modern messengers and AI-powered chatbots are ideal channels for self-service. For example, if you’re creating an FAQ article to address popular holiday questions, you can highlight the content to customers in the Intercom Messenger instead of making them search for it.

And, if you have customers across the world, Fin automatically detects a customer’s language and serves them relevant answers in that language to provide an enhanced global customer service experience.

“Customers can take actions like canceling their order and getting a refund without needing to chat to your team”

What’s more, when you integrate third-party apps with Fin, your customers can go beyond just chatting. They can get faster responses to transactional questions, like, “What’s my order status?” and even take actions like canceling their order and getting a refund without needing to chat to your team.

Tip 7: Proactively help customers break past friction

The average cart abandonment rate in 2023 is a significant 70.72% according to a recent study. Cart abandonment rates typically peak during busy shopping periods, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. One of the best ways to help customers complete their order is by triggering a targeted, automated proactive message on the checkout page to preemptively answer their questions.

For example, if customers are on the shipping page for a few minutes, they might have questions about your shipping times, returns policy, or something else. You can trigger an outbound message that links to your top FAQs related to purchasing so they get the relevant information upfront and don’t feel the need to message your team.

Stay on top of your holiday customer service

The holidays are a huge opportunity to attract more customers and drive revenue, but with that often comes extra demands on your support team. At times like these, automation and AI are your secret weapons for providing personal, efficient support without battling burnout.

In order to prove the business impact your team is having during the holidays, it’s important to measure and report on the right metrics. For example, keep track of and showcase how your team is boosting efficiency metrics like automated resolution rate, first contact resolution, and time to resolution along with bottom-line metrics including customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and customer loyalty.

With a helping hand from cutting-edge support tools, you’ll win the hearts and minds of customers and they’ll keep choosing your business again and again.

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