How to handle customer support with no support agents?

It’s that time of the year again. Houses and shops in the neighborhood are adorned in fairy lights. Streets are covered in snow and you can literally feel the holiday cheer in the air. You just want to curl up at home, spend time with your family, and also give the week off to your deserving customer support teams. But you’ve got an ecommerce business to run. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaching and the December holidays just around the corner, handling customer support as an ecommerce business will be a feat.

As an ecommerce business, the holiday season is one of the most important periods to get new customers, increase profits, as well as retarget existing ones. But the dark side of this period is customer support. Holiday shopping means more sales. But it also means an increase in call volume, more and more requests from customers inquiring about product details, shipping and return policies, payments, and complaints.

At 74.5% — customer service is the second most-pressing holiday ecommerce concern among large online businesses.

Your support teams play a crucial part in your holiday sales strategy. But what if you decide to take the day off. What if you declare a holiday for your support teams? Your entire company? How will you handle this mad dash of customer queries?

That’s why I decided to put together a checklist of how you can run your ecommerce business even with no one around, especially during the holiday season.

Get a chat tool on your website

You’re only as effective as the tools you use. Your first step should be to get a live chat on your website.

77% of customers won’t make a purchase on a website if there’s no live chat option available.

Brick-and-mortar experiences are all about customer service. They are about using human interaction, recommendations, and guidance to take visitors from point A – the moment they walk into the store – to point B – the moment of purchase. With live chat on your website, you can mimic the experience for your visitors. Rather than leaving your customers to pursue in isolation, live chat gives you a chance to deliver a virtual brick-and-mortar experience to buyers across the globe.

With a modern messenger like Freshdesk Messaging, you can give a better support experience to your customers even during holidays when your support team is off. When there is literally no support agent around to handle customer support.

You can set up personalized greetings to welcome visitors and customers. You can offer proactive support based on the pages your users are visiting, the items they are clicking on or the countries they’re coming from. You can offer self-service within the messenger. You can set up bots to interact with customers when you’re not around, troubleshoot support queries by sharing FAQs. You can set the right response expectations with customers about your business hours.

Empower customers to self-service

Update your knowledge base and FAQs. Make sure all the information such as order tracking, shipping policy, delivery expectations based on regions, exchange/return policy, etc., are all up to date. Customers often tend to come up with the same kind of queries. For example, for an ecommerce business like yours, it could be about your return policy, or about your refund policy, etc. With Freshdesk Messaging’s In-product FAQs feature, you can set up FAQs within the Freshdesk Messaging widget to deflect such queries and combine the live chat experience with customer self-service.

It also saves you the hassle of maintaining a separate knowledge base and redirecting customers to your support documentation when they can find it right within your live chat messenger. Consider this, customers come to your ecommerce site with a query and try to initiate a conversation from the chat tool and they find the FAQs section right within the messenger. Curious, they click on the FAQs and find content pertinent to their problem. It makes them happy. You are giving them a solution to their inquiry, within a few seconds and a few clicks without having to talk to a support agent.

You can also combine these FAQs with bots so that when customers reach out using chat your bot can respond with relevant FAQ articles if there is no one around to handle customer support, especially during the holiday season.

Being an online retailer, you probably provide shipping to more than one country. If you are present globally, you can display FAQs to your customers in their native language. In Freshdesk Messaging, you can create multilingual FAQs. Based on your user’s browser language settings, the FAQs will be automatically displayed to them in their language if you have configured them. You can make your customers feel at home by breaking the language barrier. This will also make them find the information they need more easily, on their own, making them happier.

If you want to be one step forward, you can create how-to videos and post them on your YouTube channel or Wistia account and link it to the In-product FAQ articles. For example, it can be one of your top support agents talking about how to troubleshoot a payment issue. Or how long it takes to get a refund processed. Your customers can watch it right within the messenger without having to navigate outside.

Helping customers solve their own problems will not only give them a sense of accomplishment but also a renewed appreciation of your brand.

Hire a chatbot

Why go through the process of seasonal hiring, training agents from scratch, etc., when you can get a chatbot instead?

You can integrate chatbots and AI assistants with your live chat app to respond to customer queries. Setting up a chatbot is pretty simple. For example, if you don’t have a chatbot of your own, you can integrate any third-party chatbot of your preference with Freshdesk Messaging’s upcoming BYOB (Bring Your Own Bot) feature.

Combining self-service with artificial intelligence (AI) is a good way to deliver relevant information to consumers at scale as well as give them 24/7 assistance even when support agents aren’t available.  

Chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020

You can set up your bot workflow to respond to customer queries with relevant answers based on the text in the customer’s message. If a customer is inquiring about order status, you can get the bot to respond with a link to the order tracking page. If it is about a return policy, the bot can share a video that explains your return policy. But set the expectations straight, let them know they’re talking to a bot.

Bots and AI can be very helpful, but getting the experience right the first time is imperative. If you do it right, it can help you fill in the gaps that may exist in your customer service by catching patterns that humans could otherwise miss. It can automate cumbersome processes and also provide extra information to assist your support agents.

Communicate your availability with business hours

Real time expectations

Be upfront and transparent about your availability. If you’re going to be off if your business is going to be closed for a day or two during a holiday like Christmas let your customers know when they come to your ecommerce website. Imagine the plight of a customer coming to your website, trying to contact support about a concern, starting a conversation on your live chat tool, expecting a response but not getting any. It’ll only add to their frustration and they might not return for a repeat purchase.

In Freshdesk Messaging, you can use Business Hours to set the right response expectations with your website visitors and customers. With the Multiple Business Hours feature, you can set different response expectations based on the availability of your different teams. You can set up business hours for different time zones too. You can configure an away message.

It can be as simple as –

“Hi, thanks for reaching out to customer support. We are currently unavailable due to the Christmas holiday. We’ll get back to you ASAP tomorrow” or something quirky and with a human touch like this:

Automate proactive engagement with campaigns

Customer Engagement Messages

In Freshdesk Messaging, using campaigns, you can set up a warm welcome message for your visitors and customers. For example, you can create a message that says “Hi, welcome to XYZ website! Hope you find what you’re looking for! Merry Christmas ?”. It’ll make them feel important.

During the holiday off period, you can also create Triggered Messages or In-App Campaigns to let your customers know about your support availability. It’ll help set the right expectation with them right from the beginning.

You can reduce cart abandonment. How many times have your customers added something to their cart but never checked out? What if you had the means to connect with them at that instance and make the purchase happen? In Freshdesk Messaging, you can reduce cart abandonment through Triggered Messages and In-App Campaigns. You can capture user events (actions) on your ecommerce website, event attributes, and user properties to message customers at the right moment. You can reach out proactively to your customers and give them that extra nudge they need to make a purchase. The Triggered Message can be, for example, “Hello, we offer a 20% discount for orders greater than $300. Here’s the discount code DIS20.” You don’t even need a support agent to convince them to buy!

If someone stays on a specific page on your website you can send them proactive support articles/ FAQs. For example, if a customer is on the checkout page or payment page for too long, you can share payment-related FAQs with them, proactively, through campaigns. See, you don’t need a support agent to do this. You can configure all this in Freshdesk Messaging. You can empower your customers to self-service.

When a customer already has an order in progress and logs in, you can even set up a campaign message with the order tracking link. By doing trivial things like this you not only improve the customer experience and satisfaction but also provide proactive support. Plus, you don’t need a support team to do this.

Automating customer support is not easy. But when done right, it can keep you covered even when you’re not around. The customers you get during the holiday season should remember your brand in a good way. As an ecommerce business, how big of an improvement it would be if you can manage to handle the majority of cases through self-service?

P.S. Here’s a pre-holiday checklist to get you started with planning your holiday support strategy:

  • Email your customers weeks before you switch to a reduced holiday schedule so they are aware of how to reach your team
  • Get a live chat tool
  • Add a customized offline message to your chatbox
  • Add in-app notifications so every time a user logs in so that they’re reminded of your holiday hours
  • Use social media channels to remind customers on a daily basis about your support availability

Happy Holidays!

This blog was first published in December 2018. The latest changes were made in October 2o21.