5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Lines and Customer Wait Time

October 18th, 2017 | Carla Jerez | Customer Service
5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Lines and Customer Wait Time
“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”
– William Arthur Ward

You’ve probably noticed that customers hate waiting, whether it’s in person, online or on the phone. This frustration can actually do real damage to your bottom line: according to a study conducted in the U.K., 41% of shoppers have abandoned a purchase due to long wait times, and 86% avoid shops if they perceive the queue to be too long.

But during the holiday season, an increase in wait time may be hard to avoid. While it’s great if it can translate to an increase in revenue, long customer wait times can sabotage the potential holiday gains.

Use these 5 tips to help keep wait times short for your customers this upcoming winter.

Strengthen Your Support Team

An increase in traffic means that support teams will have greater demands to meet. One of the easiest and most direct ways to lower customer wait times is to increase your support resources.

There are a number of different ways that you can fortify your support team, and what you choose will be based off of your needs and budget. Use these tips to help strengthen your customer service team:

  • Offer incentives for current agents to increase hours over holidays
  • Take on seasonal hires and implement seasonal training
  • Make sure all processes, software, and agents are ready to withstand greater demands
  • For live chat support, check that all agents know the most efficient and effective ways to use software and interfaces (For example, test your agents on relevant shortcuts)
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Enhance Self-Service Options

Customers have been turning to self-service options more frequently than ever before. And given how unpleasant a long wait time can be, who can blame them?

According to a study conducted by Forrester research, use of the help/FAQ pages on a company’s website for customer service increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014.

This is great news for you this holiday season, because if customers can answer their own questions, they may not need to go to customer service agents for answers. Ultimately, this can help keep your wait times shorter than they would otherwise be if every customer who has a question spoke to an agent to get their issue resolved.

In order to make sure that your customers are able to utilize your self-service channels, check that they are functional and up-to-date. This means managing your:

  • Social Media Channels

    Your social media channels are a great way to send holiday-specific self-service messages. For example, are you getting a lot of questions about your holiday shipping options? Share the relevant help page or information on your Facebook page to reach a wide audience.

  • FAQ and Help Pages

    Update these pages with holiday-specific information. Agents can share these with customers when needed to lower resolution times and keep queues short. Additionally, consider creating a holiday-specific FAQ or downloadable in order to address questions that specifically pertain to the holiday season (for example, a PDF that addresses terms of specific holiday sales or campaigns).

  • Customer Community

    If you have a customer community established (for example, a forum or chat room), have a dedicated agent to screen and address relevant holiday questions. You can also establish a holiday thread to organize information pertaining to the season.

Advertise Multiple Support Channels

A great way to keep lines short is to divide and conquer. To keep one channel from being entirely overwhelmed with ridiculously long queues, make sure that all your support channels are clearly advertised to visitors across your online platforms.

Additionally, focus promotion on the channel that has the most resources, or the one with the least demand. Maybe you’re getting a lot of live chat requests, but not nearly as many emails as you could theoretically handle. In this case, you may want to advertise your email channel to visitors waiting in your live chat queue.

Advertise your support channels on:

  • Site banners
  • Floating boxes
  • Pop-ups
  • Email signatures
  • Mobile site
  • Pre-recorded messages (for phone queues)
  • Chat console (for live chat)

Enhance Call and Chat Distribution Methods

An easy way to make wait times unbearably long is to have disorganized allocation methods. Do you have a solid strategy for which agents receive which call/chat requests, why, and how it’s done?

The quicker a customer gets to an agent that can answer their question or solve their problem, the quicker you get to the next person waiting in line. In order to achieve the best distribution methods, make sure your departments and distribution methods are clearly organized.

Review metrics before holiday to see how this can be improved. For example, is there an increase of requests concerning a new product feature? If so, what department should address this concern, and are all agents aware of this? Route the most difficult or technical scenarios to your best agents, and don’t waste their abilities on general inquiries that can be easily handled by entry-level or seasonal workers.

Make Wait Times Bearable

Despite your best efforts, there will likely still be an increase in wait and hold times this holiday season. As Jeff Toister points out in his course, Innovative Customer Service Techniques, “Customers hate to wait. The best solution to this problem is to reduce the time customers have to wait. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. So the next best solution is to influence how long customers perceive they have to be waiting.”

If you put some effort into making queues more bearable, it will make wait times feel shorter than they are. Take these steps to keep customers from feeling the frustration of a long queue:

  • Give customers an estimated wait time up front, and provide them with other service/support options.

    This can be done with hold messages on the phone, or directly in your live chat console (with a link directing customers to other support options). It’s important to be honest and transparent with how long the estimated wait is. The customer can decide if they want to wait or select another channel for support, giving them a sense of control over their support options.

  • Inform customers where they are in line.

    Nothing feels worse when you’re in line than standing still. Unfortunately, when you’re waiting to speak to an agent online or on the phone, it’s easy to feel like you’re going nowhere fast. Giving a customer a specific number, and updating them as they progress through the line, can simulate the movement they would otherwise experience in a traditional retail environment.

  • Entertain customers while they wait.

    Boredom can make the shortest wait seem like forever. This is why Disney dispatches characters to entertain people in ride queues, and doctors offer magazines in their waiting rooms. When you have customers waiting on the phone, use hold messages to update them on the latest holiday sales and promotions. On live chat, you can include links to educational and marketing materials within the chat console. This can help keep customers from agitation, and also further serve to promote your brand.

It might be inevitable for customers to wait during the holiday season. While reducing wait times as much as possible is the best solution, if you’re unable to cut lines any shorter, you should work to make the wait more predictable and more bearable.

With some careful planning, the increase in traffic this holiday season doesn’t have to automatically create long, insufferable wait times. How do you plan to keep queues in check this winter?

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Carla Jerez is a senior content writer at Comm100. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and has years' experience writing for the SaaS industry. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, traveling, or playing around on Photoshop. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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