Blog»

Holiday Scheduling for Customer Support Teams

Kristen Craft | December 19, 2018
Holidays are an important time for employees to recharge

This past Thanksgiving, I found myself sitting in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, having the most lovely chat conversation with one of my favorite Tettra customers. Why, you might ask? Well, I’d set a goal of keeping our first response time to less than 24 hours for all support questions from the Wednesday-Sunday stretch of Thanksgiving. Many of our customers are based outside the U.S., so their teams were hard at work while we gorged on turkey and pie. Furthermore, we’ve noticed a correlation between customer happiness and first response time, and we place a lot of value on giving customers a terrific experience.

One might imagine that answering support tickets on a Thanksgiving would be a drag, but in fact, it was kind of wonderful. The support load was light, everyone I chatted with was in a good mood, and it gave me a few minutes to myself amid the family chaos. Plus, I enjoyed the friendly and uplifting conversation with this particular customer, (who was very grateful for the unexpectedly fast reply!) It took our relationship from purely professional to a bit more personal, as we exchanged anecdotes about holiday norms in our respective countries.

Balancing Customer Needs and Employee Needs

Most teams strive to give their customers an excellent experience. This often means answering support questions quickly, but in our age of instant gratification, “quickly” can mean “near immediate” to some customers. Most customers seem to expect a reply in under 24 hours.

The problem is that many teams can’t (or don’t want to) engage in support over the holidays. Which is perfectly reasonable, of course. In many cases, the support team is entirely (or at least predominantly) out of the office. This “disconnected time” is critical to keeping the team happy and healthy.

So, how do we effectively balance customer needs and employee needs? What’s the best strategy for maintaining timely responses and fostering team well-being? Ultimately, it comes down to good documentation and clear communication.

Well-documented Issues are Easier Issues

If your support team plans to be available in some capacity over the holidays, they likely want to be as efficient as possible, so they can get back to being with friends and family. Therefore, it behooves your team to have clear documentation about how to handle commonly-occurring situations. For example, if there’s a standard operating procedure you use when processing a refund, make sure it’s well documented internally with explicit instructions, (and ideally, screenshots or a video of the process.)

You should also document which issues can be handled by the support team and which require assistance from other teams. If, for example, there are certain issues that require help from the engineering team or the sales team, make those details explicit. This allows the support team to focus on the issues they can solve quickly and clarifies if and where they’ll need additional help.

Furthermore, public-facing documentation can help reduce or even eliminate support questions. By drafting clear support pages, you’ll help customers help themselves. When new support issues arise, create new public documentation or edit existing documentation to eliminate support gaps.

Communicate Expectations with Customers and Employees

Most people hate waiting. But did you know that what people hate most isn’t actually the wait? People are most disgruntled and anxious when they don’t know how long they’ll have to wait. This is why so many amusement parks and customer phone trees now offer detail on the expected wait time. By clarifying what the customer should expect, you can reduce anxiety and customer dissatisfaction.

If you use a customer support platform like Zendesk, Help Scout, or Intercom, consider setting up an auto-response with info on support availability. Even letting people know that much of the team is out of office can help mitigate uncertainty. This is especially pertinent if you have international customers who don’t celebrate the same holidays as you and therefore, don’t know why they’re experiencing long response times.

Communicating expectations internally is just as important. Just as customers feel anxiety over uncertainty, employees can feel anxious when they don’t know what’s expected. Make sure the entire team can easily access details on your holiday protocol and scheduling. Make this info easily accessible in a place like Tettra, and don’t forget to include info on why you approach things in the way you do.

Optimize for the Long Haul

The goal here is to make life pleasant for customers and employees alike. By documenting things well – both internally and externally – you’ll allow customers to more easily get the info they need. You’ll also reduce the support load for your team or, at a minimum, allow them to handle issues faster. When done well, these strategies increase the likelihood that your customers, as well as teammates, remain with you for a long time.