Scaling up for Christmas: Our top tips to help prepare your Customer Services team

Scaling up for Christmas

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It’s already that time of year where the dreaded festive “C word” starts creeping into our everyday lives.

But for retailers and service teams that experience a seasonal winter peak, it’s never too early to begin planning for the Christmas campaigns.

A season of good cheer…or chilling fear?

Do you plan your next Christmas campaign among the New Year tinsel and turkey sandwiches of the last one? Does your Christmas customer contact strategy run like clockwork every year?

If the answer to both is ‘yes’, then congratulations – it may be time to ask for that pay rise.

If the answer is ‘no’, and you find yourself battling to plan or execute your strategy successfully, read on! WeAnswer Operations Manager Matt Naudi is on hand to provide his tips on how to stay one step ahead of the Christmas peak this year.

1. Forecast accurately (going beyond the obvious)

Forecasting accurately seems like a bit of an obvious one, right? But did you know a 1% improvement in your sales forecasting accuracy can seriously affect your bottom line?

Using your past sales figures, and understanding when adjustments need to be made, is the foundation of getting your forecasts correct. But although your sales forecast from last year is a good starting point, there is more to do to forecast accurately.

  • Begin with reviewing your process and whether this suits the numbers you’re trying to forecast. The same process is unlikely to fit all forecasts.
  • Set aside time to focus on the forecasts and help find ways to drive actual results from these.
  • Try using a forecasting program or app. This will give you an audit trail, forecast history and any changes which have occurred, as well as the ability to align the data with your CRM.
  • Include any assumptions of what could happen, or has gone wrong in the past.

2. Create contingency plans alongside your sales assumptions

Sales assumptions are the changing circumstances which could affect your sales. These can influence everything from expected sales to staff numbers.

Documenting your assumptions, along with related contingency plans, can help you prepare for a range of scenarios and respond to unfavourable situations more quickly.

For example, your assumptions about staff sickness levels in your customer service team may mean you expect 15% shrinkage. This would mean you would need to rota 23 people to cover a 20 person requirement. But how might you respond if you staff sickness rate was significantly higher – or indeed lower – than anticipated?

Drafting a rough ‘playbook’ of responses ahead of time will help you respond more effectively should the unexpected occur. It will also give your team confidence, and minimise the time and energy that can be wasted by panicking under pressure.

3. Factor in skilled management resource

Making sure you have enough man power to cover your Christmas campaign is hugely important – but it isn’t only about ‘bums on seats’.

Given the significant recruitment costs involved with upscaling your team, identifying and selecting the best candidates will become more import than ever, as will staff retention activities.

If you’re likely to be interviewing more candidates than usual, make sure you have enough skilled recruiters available. Delegating interviews to more junior colleagues may help you tackle the volume, but could compromise quality.

It’s also important to have enough team leaders and managers relative to the number of new starters. New recruits require closer supervision and will benefit from regular feedback and support after joining. A failure to provide this could lead to demotivation and higher attrition rates.

Finally, make sure you scale up employee engagement and motivation to help retain your employees. Not only will this save money on recruitment it could even help you improve your profitability.

4. Ensure infrastructure is in place

Not only will you need to upscale your team, you’ll also need to have the space and infrastructure in place to support the growth.

If a customer is dealing with a slow website, for example, or a slow payment processing system then they’re unlikely to wait around for your system to catch up. In fact a slow website contributes to a bad user experience and Huffington Post states that “67% of consumer’s site bad experience as a reason for churn”.

Space is a tricky one, you don’t want an office which is too big, nor do you want to be paying for something which is redundant throughout the year. On the other hand you will need the space to upscale when your peak periods, such as Christmas, hit.

If you don’t have space or capacity to invest in temporary workstations, you may choose to look for a campaign partner to support you.

Engaging with external partners

Christmas is a stressful period for any customer service team, and sometimes a little extra outside help can go a long way.

A customer service partner can help take away the stress whilst also limiting your exposure to contact variables that are out of your control.

What’s more, their operational model means they can usually offer the flexibility that an internal service team can’t, allowing you to flex agent resource in line with customer demand.

To find out how we could help with your next seasonal campaign, please get in touch.

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