6 tips for creating a great customer support experience during the holidays

Main illustration: Olenka Malarecka

The holiday season is fast approaching, and for ecommerce businesses, that often results in significantly higher support volumes for your team.

This is set to further accelerate this holiday season due to global supply chain issues in the wake of COVID-19. The Conversational Support Funnel can help you stay on top of your support, without increasing your overhead.

Below, we share our favorite tips for proactively and automatically resolving queries, at scale. These tips apply broadly to many different conversational support tools, but if you’re an Intercom customer, they’re actionable today and require no engineering work. The afternoon you spend customizing your automation today can unlock happier customers and hours saved for your teammates during the holiday season.

Tip 1: Automatically answer common holiday questions

Well-crafted chatbots let you deliver fast answers 24/7 to the questions your customers are asking frequently – the ones that might be preventing them from making a purchase. For instance, studies have shown that shipping and delivery times influence 87% of shoppers’ purchase decisions. By using a chatbot like Resolution Bot, you can instantly resolve questions about delivery options and remove any hesitations they have. Resolution Bot can even help speed up self-service by offering relevant answers based on what customers are typing – before they even hit the enter key.

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

Top support questions to automate during the holidays Tip 2: Pre-emptively answer top holiday FAQs before customers have them

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

Banners are a useful and unobtrusive way to highlight essential need-to-know information as your customers navigate around your site – such as cut-off dates for guaranteed delivery and holiday return policies – so your customers don’t need to contact your team or go digging to find important information.

“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 to communicate any known issues, again preventing your support team’s inbox from filling up with the same questions. By transparently informing your customers of issues – such as increased processing times or shipping delays – before they make their order, you can help them to make more informed choices, manage their expectations, and avoid unnecessary confusion or frustration.

Tip 3: Proactively help customers on pages where they experience friction, like the checkout page

A study of more than 18 million ecommerce sessions found that nearly 74% of US online shopping carts were abandoned last holiday season. One of the best ways to help customers complete their order is by triggering a targeted, proactive message on the checkout page to pre-emptively answer their questions.

For example, if customers are on the checkout 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.

Tip 4: Empower customers to resolve their own holiday issues with self-service

Today’s customers overwhelmingly prefer self-service. In turn, this lets you reduce time spent on simple issues and improve your holiday bottom line. According to the Harvard Business Review, for a B2C business, the cost of a self-service transaction can be measured in pennies, while the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, email or web chat) totals more than $7.

Messengers and live chat are an ideal channel 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 Messenger instead of making them search for it. And, if you have customers across the world, you can even automatically serve them the help content in their preferred language to provide an enhanced global support experience.

“Customers can instantly check their order status, without having to start a conversation”

What’s more, when you integrate apps with the Intercom Messenger your customers can go beyond just chatting. They can get faster responses to transactional questions, like, “What’s my order status?” By combining Resolution Bot with the Shopify app, customers can instantly check their order status, without having to start a conversation.

Tip 5: Manage customer expectations and let them know when they’re likely to get a response

This is the easiest and perhaps the most important tip to implement from our cheat sheet. To reduce customer frustration, proactively communicate response times during the holidays. By doing so, customers can 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 make your customers aware of your team’s availability or other important support 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 a chatbot to share your office hours anytime a customer asks a question.

Tip 6: Route complex issues to the right support team ASAP

During the holiday season, both your customers’ and your support team’s stress levels are often at an all-time high. This is set to accelerate this holiday season due to the impact of COVID-19 as businesses try to navigate the compound effects of supply chain disruptions. Deloitte has forecasted a 7% to 9% increase in holiday retail sales this year, with e-commerce predicted to grow 11% to 15%.

Answers to some questions – like emotionally charged and complex queries – should never be automated. 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.

“You can set up a Custom Bot to automatically collect conversation data from your customer on what their query is about – whether that’s a technical issue or even an urgent matter”

With Intercom, you can set up a Custom Bot 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 you set the bot to 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.

Stay on top of your holiday support

The holidays are a huge opportunity to attract more customers and drive revenue, but with that often comes extra demands on your support team. Armed with the Conversational Support Funnel, you can empower your team to deliver personal, efficient support at any scale, without increasing your headcount, budget, or hours logged.

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