With the holiday season coming up faster than a speeding reindeer, it’s important to be prepared. In no other area is this more crucial than your customer service.

According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, “two in three customers have walked out of a store due to poor customer service.” More than marketing, sales or public relations, your customer service has the potential to have the biggest impact on your holiday season.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! I sat down and interviewed several members of VerticalResponse‘s jolly award-winning support team, and have compiled a few useful tips to help you get ready for the holiday season:

Staff it Up!

Ensuring your support team is properly staffed and trained for the upcoming peak season will help reduce the stress of long lines or phone hold times. After all, no one gets their jollies from waiting on hold or standing in never-ending queues.

Take it into Overtime

Jose Escobar, Customer Support Specialist:
Consider extending your support hours. Anything from an extra hour every night, or a weekend morning. This extra time can help with answering emails, returning voicemails, or tracking down a shipment. You can even boast about your holiday “extended service hours” in your offers, coupons and e-mail marketing messages!

Maintain Motivation

Kristen Hayer, Director of Sales & Support:
It’s easy for staff to lose focus during the holiday season. Keep everyone motivated and on-task by holding team contests, but make sure the goals of the contests are consistent with the goals of your company. This way, your team will stay focused and have fun at the same time! Oh, and this time of year, wrapped gifts make great daily prizes.

Prepare for a Few Grinches

Kiz Dodds, Customer Support Team Lead:
It’s good practice to meet with your staff prior to ramping up for the busy holiday season. Touch base with them; let them know their managers/supervisors will definitely be available for extra support with any questions or concerns that arise. Keep in mind that frustration levels for customers might be higher than normal during the busy holiday rush, so don’t take it personally. Remind the team to stay calm and continue practicing the fundamentals of offering good, friendly customer support.

Look Back, then Look Forward

Chris Li, Customer Support Specialist:
Look at past trends (order volume, customer questions, weather delays, etc) to see how much business was done in previous holiday seasons. Then, schedule your staff, orders, and hours of operation accordingly. But, be audible ready because things can and do change in the blink of an eye.Create a Festival of Lighthearted Social Interactions

Lolly Dormido, Customer Support Specialist:
It’s the holidays, so get in the giving spirit: invite your customers to ask questions or place orders through Facebook or Twitter (and offer special deals and promotions via those channels). This will encourage direct interaction and keep people talking about your business/organization.Also, find creative ways to share personal holiday stories with your customers on your website or your social media channels. Customers appreciate knowing they are actually dealing with a person!

Have Yourself a Merry Breakfast

Justin Smith, Customer Relations Manager:
Being properly nourished will allow you and your support team to be patient, focused and helpful to your customers. So, eat your breakfast and start the day off right! A customer support rep that is hungry is much more likely to be irritable. And, with the heightened stress of the holidays, that irritability can become contagious in both your office and with your customers.

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