Autumn may have just begun, but the holiday shopping season is right around the corner. Most retailers already see the value in online sales, but it’s vital that they also see the value in online support. The holiday rush means that shoppers have a lot on their to-do list, and they don’t have time to sit around waiting on hold for help. But it’s not enough to just offer chat or email: your chat and email support needs to be efficient, effective, and effortless for the consumer. Here are four ways to ensure that your support channels fit the bill.

1. Embrace AI this Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday spending in 2016 increased 12 percent from the previous year, with a nearly $3.5 billion in sales! That’s not to say AI shouldn’t be used throughout the holiday season (and in general), but it is extra useful for these surges in sales. That’s because there’s a large portion of the customer service sphere that can be automated, which in turn frees up customer representatives to take care of issues and inquiries that are more complex and require a human touch.

There are a few ways to leverage AI for the holidays, via chat bots and even agent-facing support. Use chat bots to gather simple user information: like name, email, and order number. That way your representatives won’t have to waste any time collecting this necessary data. You can then use AI to route this information to the representative who will most be able to help! At that point, you can utilize AI to help the representative with suggested answers and tips that might be helpful, based on what the customer is asking. On that note, you can also use those same, or similar, ‘suggestions’ to help customers before even routing the issue— they might be able to self-serve entirely!

2. Don't Box Agents Into One Channel

It’s common sense that you’ll need extra bodies on the floor during the holidays. But as the percentage of online purchases continues to rise, with total online holiday sales in 2016 surpassing $90 billion, it only makes sense to staff extra web and mobile support representatives as well. It’s not just about quantity though.

Businesses can make a good guess at how many issues will come in through email, web, and mobile customer support channels respectively. However, they will most likely not be right on the money. Ensuring that support representatives have the flexibility to work on different incoming issues, regardless of channel, is a great way to most efficiently use resources.

Instead of siloing dedicated representatives for email and live chat, for instance, cross-train agents and use a platform that encourages and seamlessly incorporates multi-channel. That way you won’t have email representatives sitting idly by while the chat queue backlog builds. Utilizing intelligent routing to decrease backlog in general, while effectively sorting issues to the right representatives can add huge value as well.

3. Prioritize Mobile, It's More Important Now Than Ever Before

One of the first things people do when they wake up in the morning is check their phones. Naturally on Black Friday, they’ll specifically be checking their phones for deals. Google found that Black Friday shopping via mobile phones begins on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) at 6am, well before stores even open! Last year, 30 percent of holiday sales were purchased via mobile, and that number is only expected to rise.

As more and more shoppers try to avoid Black Friday crowds, mobile shopping is increasingly on the rise. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce and re-engage shoppers with a store-specific mobile app, as they’ll be more invested in spending time at a specific store and the potential deals and savings can effectively combat any hesitation to download or open an app. This is a key opportunity to showcase a seamless mobile shopping experience, and having native in-app support to optimize this experience is such a crucial component. In-app chat is the first step towards this user experience optimization, as your mobile shoppers will be able to connect directly with an agent, like they would with an in-store representative.  

4. Beef Up Your Knolwedge Base

No matter how many extra resources you are dedicating towards customer support this holiday season, your organization can always benefit from reducing the number of overall conversations, regardless of communication channel. One great way to preemptively deflect shopper issues is to empower shoppers to find all the answers to their questions on their own.

By taking time to consider potential new issues that may arise during the holidays, such as questions on specific deals, inventory, or special return policies, your support team can add relevant knowledge articles to your database or revise existing articles. Your online and mobile shoppers won’t have to wait around for answers to these questions, and will be much quicker to hit ‘purchase’ as a result!

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A proactive approach is the best approach. Make sure to get ahead of the holiday rush, and start ramping up your support operations with Helpshift’s intelligent digital customer service platform!

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