How to Prepare Your Customer Success Teams for the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us, and while that might mean family celebrations and hot chocolate for some, for those of us involved in customer success it can mean high-intensity and understaffed teams. The last two months of the year are usually hectic. Before the holidays, clients rush to complete projects before they’re out of the office, organizations want to use the remaining budget for the year, and even those who don’t take vacations rush to complete projects because they know they are many others will not be available.

This can create a lot of pressure on your customer experience teams who those employees turn to this season – not only because your teams need to be adept at helping customers under stress, but because your teams may also be trying to prepare for their own vacation, or with one fewer employees than usual when the holidays have already started. This means that both customers and employees can end up unhappy.

But it’s not too late to be proactive and make sure your customer success team has a great holiday season. Here are some best practices to help you succeed:

Also see: 6 ways to keep employees busy during the holiday season

Before the season starts

Start early: While it might feel silly to talk about the September holidays, at my company we start talking about them long before they arrive. This is part of our strategy to go into the season with open eyes at all levels of the organisation. We learned this the hard way two years ago when we underprepared and our customer success team ended up with a huge backlog and frustrated customers.

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Addressing it early gives us time to reflect on the challenges of the past year, design solutions, and then actually build the systems needed to implement them. Employees and managers have the opportunity to share what went well and what didn’t so they can prepare on both a team and individual level.

Being open about anticipated staffing needs also gives team members an opportunity to communicate vacation plans ahead of time. This then helps us to estimate our workforce more precisely and to plan accordingly.

Use data to plan: Two years ago we didn’t have solid data from that period, making it difficult to be prepared both now and in the year to come. This led to poor staffing, resulting in a poor customer experience. Since then we have put a lot of effort into creating data analysis and collecting and using data from previous years to understand peak and downtime, which in turn helps us to optimize staff deployment.

Related Topics: Prepare now so your team can enjoy the holidays while still being productive

During the season

Within the organization: Once the holidays start, the rush can still be overwhelming no matter how many plans and people you have prepared. We focus on staying in tune with the feelings and morale of our employees to ensure we can step in when someone needs a boost or a break.

In addition, we try to be proactive by not only rewarding people who work extra hours fairly, but also by giving everyone credit for their hard work. This is always a priority for us – but it is particularly long during the holiday season.

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To ensure the support team has the resources it needs, we have on-call contacts on other key teams, so employees who are away from the office always have someone to turn to, whether it’s IT issues, sales questions or development emergencies. This helps ensure smooth operations when the support team is dependent on other departments in the organization.

Outside the organization: During the holidays, we advise our customers that responses may be slower than usual between certain dates. We typically display banners on our website with this notification. Letting customers and users know what to expect over the course of a few weeks helps them plan their own work and minimize frustration down the line.

Related: Best Leadership Skills for the Holidays

After the season

Immediately after the end of the season, it’s time to start preparing for next year. That means writing down everything that went well and everything that went wrong while it’s still fresh in our minds. Employees may have had different experiences than our leaders, so we discuss this with teams to get their input on how things are going and include that information in our notes as well. If there is feedback that is immediately relevant, we work to implement it immediately. Otherwise, we keep our notes somewhere easy to find next year.

The holidays can be challenging, but if you and your team are well prepared before, during and after the season, they can also be a great opportunity to delight customers and employees. So use these tips to set your team up for success this year.

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