It happens every year. Those holidays keep showing up just as you have attained light speed in your customer support center. It seems like everyone is more productive between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, but then there are the 6 weeks of winter holidays that are somehow all lumped together. Kinda makes you wish the pilgrims had decided to be thankful in the spring when they found out how many survived the northeastern winters.
But no, they were thankful for the autumn harvest so that’s what we have to work with. So, how to staff for holidays in the contact center is always a challenge, especially if there is no way to forecast how many calls will come in to what is likely to be a skeleton crew. Luckily we don’t live in the 20th century anymore. No flying cars yet, but customer self service over the web is maturing. It’s so mature in fact, that it has become an expected feature of the customer service and support milieu.
Now, self service really does mean that the customer should be able to help themselve, but only if you set the system up to be as user-friendly as possible and have enough information available to make it worthwhile to use.
Basic self service usually includes a list of FAQs, but that isn’t nearly enough. Your customer will need to be able to search across the entire self service center for answers: FAQs, knowledge base, forums, notices, downloads, incidents, and solutions. This implies, of course, that these items are included in the self service center. As well they should be.
The knowledge base and/or the solutions database should be able to give the customer the same information available to the customer service reps as he would get over the phone or, if the support center is advanced enough, through the integrated chat function. Consistency is the key.
Over in the forums, another customer may have already had the same question and was answered by another forum member or a customer service rep monitoring the forums. The answer may be retrieved from there.
Depending on the question, of course, the answer might be in a downloadable document or as part of a notice to users. Maybe the answer is a download of software. In any event, customer search needs to be able to reach the whole spectrum of answers. A self service center could even help them out.
Say the customer is unable to find his answer and he decides to open an incident. Before the incident can be submitted, the system will suggest one or more knowledgebase articles that may answer his question. Or maybe, he is emailing the question. Same thing: system emails back with suggested articles and answers already in the knowledge base. If the suggested answer is correct, the incident is not submitted and the customer is happy to go on his merry way.
Then there are those rascally customers that think a holiday is the perfect time to download new software and the documentation that goes with it. Et Voila! He can download from the self service center instead of trying to call the support center for the download. Or else they are completely bored and go to the self service center to download some educational white papers or case studies to read during the dull holiday in the office.
Maybe you are not going to offer human based support at all. In this case, you can publish a notice either to your whole customer base or only specific customers to let them know the holiday is going to include you too and not to try to call or email because nobody it there to answer it, please use the customer self service center.
Of course, you should be able to make the self service center look like the rest of your site. Having red, white, and blue screen design for the self service center when the rest of the site is purple and green would not reassure customers that they are on the right page.
With a customer self service center you can go right ahead and stuff yourself with turkey and pie, watch football, and decorate the Christmas Tree in peace on earth, good will to men.
The self service center will certainly go a long way in maintaining your customer’s good will and their continued patronage.