Don't Leave Your Customers Out in the Cold

By Natalie Macks

Whoa! Thanksgiving is next week. Do you know which members of your team will be on hand to help customers? While you might assume that the majority of your clients will be on vacation as well, it’s important to make sure that you have a set of eyes on incoming channels throughout the holidays. You never know when a critical issue might crop up and it’s often when you least expect it. Planning ahead for the holidays ensures that your customers have a point of contact and can weather any storm the season might offer. Here are some suggestions to keep everyone merry and bright:

Lock in Holiday Schedules

Your team may groan, but you need to know who is going to be in the office and who will be taking PTO for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and around the New Year. Let them know a specific date by which they'll need to submit requests for approval. Broadcast that not all requests may be honored—don’t worry, they’ll get over it. I’ve always been impressed by team members stepping up and volunteering to cover. Don’t be afraid to sweeten the deal with comp time or a gift card if overtime or holiday pay doesn’t happen automatically. Use some combination of seniority and first to submit in the approval process to keep things fair.

Identify Internal Processes

Everyone in the company should be aware of who’s on call during the holidays. Work within your organization to establish key contacts in Customer Success, Technical Support, and IT for each holiday calendar date. Set up multiple shifts if 24-hour coverage is a business requirement. Send out an internal email or post on your company wiki with details on who should be contacted in the event of any issues, and be sure to include links to escalation processes.  

If folks will be working remotely, make sure that they have secure access to internal systems and any other equipment as needed. For onsite coverage, check with your building to make sure that your team will not only have access to their office, but heating as well! Bear in mind that the usual lunch spots will likely be closed. Holidays are the perfect excuse to order in pizza, and you can make the arrangements beforehand. 

Set up External Communication

Don’t create an emergency before it happens! It’s okay to have limited holiday coverage and you don’t need to apologize that your employees want to spend time with their loved ones. You and your team deserve some time to celebrate too. Do work with your IT team to give your customers advance warning if holiday coverage will impact response times. Look at each incoming customer channel and determine if revisions to messaging are required. 

  • Personal emails -  send your team a sample out of office greeting and make sure they provide details for emergency contacts.
  • Email queues - revise any auto replies to reference holiday hours and escalation channels.
  • Phone system and voice mail greetings - give detailed holiday hours and set expectations for when voice mails will be returned. Also set a reminder to switch back to standard greetings after the holiday has passed.
  • Customer communities and forums - post a holiday greeting with details of how you’ll be on hand to help with any issues.

Regroup and Evaluate

After the holiday season, revisit what worked and what could be improved for the next holiday.  Perhaps you’ll need to tweak coverage a bit or set up some redundancies. Acknowledge any issues that happened and highlight those folks that stepped up to deal with any problems. A company wide thank you (and perhaps a nice bottle of wine) to all those who helped will foster a continued environment of teamwork and collaboration.  

Wishing you a successful holiday full of happy customers!

Happy Holidays! The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business. Unlike traditional approaches to customer service, we transform support into success by building metrics, goals and processes that enable customer success teams to perform at their peak.

Natalie Macks - Natalie builds a culture of dedicated customer evangelists, as well as the systems and processes required for success.  Her award-winning leadership expertise coupled with integrity and passion produce increased customer retention and generate revenue.  With over 15 years in customer-facing roles, Natalie excels in bridging the gap between business technologies and the user experience.  She holds a BA in Zoology/Genetics from Michigan State University and resides in San Francisco, CA.