Delivering a meaningful and memorable customer experience is crucial to your organization’s continued success. But there are certain times of year—like the holiday season—when customer demand exceeds your staff’s maximum capacity. And while bringing on seasonal reps can help, these temporary employees aren’t always provided enough training to provide the level of service your customers expect.
Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on your business and limit your potential during your busiest and typically highest-grossing season.
So, what can you do?
No matter the time of year, it’s never too early to begin planning your seasonal customer service training. Today, we’re walking through a few things you can do now to ensure you can bring seasonal reps up to speed ahead of those busy months. But first, let’s take a step back and look at why seasonal customer service training is worth investing in.
Why is Seasonal Customer Service Training So Important?
Before we delve into how you can improve seasonal training, let’s touch on why it’s so vital in the first place.
Too often, companies rush through seasonal staff training because they assume it’s not worth the investment. After all, these employees will only be with the company for a short time, and so long as you have the coverage you need, they don’t need to be perfect, right?
The truth is, failing to fully prepare any customer service rep—including a temporary one—can have significant consequences for your company. According to data from PwC, one in three customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience, while a whopping 92% would leave after two or three. Given the volume of customers you serve during your busy season, this could equate to a considerable chunk of business.
But on the other hand, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a positive customer experience, according to Walker, and many will stick with a business if their issue is resolved.
Put simply, every single member of your customer service team has a tremendous impact on your bottom line, all year long. And the effectiveness of your seasonal customer service training can either boost your revenue or increase your losses.
Now that we’ve covered some of the biggest benefits of seasonal training, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to bring new customer service reps up to speed quickly ahead of the busiest time of the year.
1. Invest in the Right Technology
One way to help make sure your seasonal employees always have the information they need to do their jobs is to give them access to a company knowledge base, or knowledge management platform.
A knowledge base is a digital platform where employees can store and search for important documents, ask and answer questions, and share complex information in a way that makes sense, whether that’s through text, images, video, or a combination of mediums. When deployed across a customer service team, it can be an essential learning tool for new hires.
Knowledge bases are designed to eliminate friction for their users: seasonal customer service employees can use a knowledge base to quickly find the information they need, eliminating potential bottlenecks and helping them respond to busy holiday shoppers faster. By taking advantage of the capabilities of a knowledge base, you can ensure newly hired customer service reps are prepared to give customers a holiday experience that meets your organization’s standards and inspires customer loyalty.
2. Break Training into Small, Digestible Chunks
Training for a new job is almost always at least a little overwhelming—but it can be especially stressful for temporary employees who usually receive less onboarding than permanent hires. One of the best ways to overcome this issue is to break training into digestible chunks.
For example, financial services firm PennyMac aims to make knowledge easy to access, understand, and apply by creating short, “snackable” content. Because the content is concise, searchable, and easier to skim, reps can find and use it without putting customers on hold. Smaller bits of knowledge are also easier to retain, which means reps can eventually solve customers’ problems without repeatedly referring to the training materials.
3. Train on Common Seasonal Issues
If you’re in a situation where you need to bring in additional customer service staff during the holidays, there’s a good chance you have recurring questions and complaints during this time of year. You may suddenly have an influx of customers asking about gift wrapping options, rush delivery during the week of Christmas, and so on.
Focus your seasonal customer service training on the most common issues to ensure your new team members are ready to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. Document those common issues and questions in your knowledge base so customer service reps can always refer back to them, rather than having to track down a more experienced employee.
If your seasonal reps have a question for which they can’t find an answer in the knowledge base, encourage them to post the question themselves. When a subject matter expert responds, the answer will be available to everyone who has access to the knowledge base, helping future customer service employees who might run into the same question.
4. Create Boilerplate Responses
In addition to documenting common holiday issues, providing boilerplate responses can help new customer service reps adapt quickly. The less they have to rely on improvising answers, the more consistent their service will be.
Add detailed and caring responses your reps can recite when dealing with common seasonal issues to your knowledge base to ensure they can appropriately address recurring issues without having to memorize them first.
As a bonus, this tip can help your customer service team respond to emails faster. Given it takes the typical customer service team more than 12 hours to respond to an email, according to CustomerThink, boosting your speed will likely delight customers and leave them with a better impression of your company.
5. Help Your Customers Help Themselves
Let’s face it, you can’t train your new customer service reps to handle every single issue when you have a short window to work with. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it easy for customers to solve simple issues on their own, so you can focus on training customer service reps on more complex cases.
In addition to having an internal knowledge base, you can also set up a customer-facing knowledge base with searchable solutions to common issues. You can even have your marketing team create seasonal graphics and content to make sure visiting customers stay in the holiday spirit.
If you think asking your customers to solve their own problems will rub them the wrong way, think again.
In a survey conducted by American Express, six out of ten U.S. customers said they prefer to search for answers on their own when the issue is minor.
Using a knowledge base to empower customers to find their own solution can provide them with the fast and easy experience they crave, while also giving your season customer service reps time to focus on the issues that deserve their attention.
6. Explain Seasonal Promotions
Promotions are a great way to drum up extra sales and attract new customers, and the holidays provide a perfect opportunity to try creative offerings. In fact, according to WordStream, a third of holiday shoppers report their purchase was influenced by a seasonal promotion. If you’re running special offers, be sure to cover them as part of your seasonal customer service training.
Just make sure your new customer service reps know the name of your holiday sales event, as well as the pricing and duration of any special offers. With a searchable knowledge base at their fingertips, your new reps can quickly review any of these details should they forget.
7. Lead with Empathy
The holidays aren’t just a busy time for your customers—it’s also a hectic season for your employees. Outside of work, your team members’ days are filled with their own holiday shopping, family time, travel plans, and a long list of obligations and potential stressors. Balancing all of these demands and enduring a barrage of customer complaints can wreak havoc on employees’ mental wellbeing.
As a team leader, it’s critical you provide your employees with the support they need to stave off burnout. Encourage all employees to take breaks throughout the day. Let them know you’re available if they need to chat through an issue and be sure to recognize their wins. For example, acknowledge when a rep solves a particularly complex problem or receives praise from a customer.
By leading with empathy, you can help keep permanent and seasonal staff members engaged and enthusiastic, so they continue delivering the best possible experiences.
8. Look at Every Temporary Employee as a Potential Permanent Hire
You may not have the budget or headcount approval to hire every one of your seasonal reps, but it’s still important to consider every temporary staff member as a permanent employee.
First, investing in all employees as though they’re permanent will ensure you provide them with the support, training, and resources they need to delight your customers. Even if you don’t have the time to onboard them as thoroughly as regular employees, it’s still essential you give them access to the tools they need to do their best work, like a knowledge management platform.
Additionally, you never know how many rockstars you’ll find among your seasonal crew. By making sure all temporary employees feel welcomed and appreciated, those exceptionally talented hires will be more willing to stick around long-term when asked.
9. Ask for Feedback
The best people to tell you whether or not your seasonal customer service training is effective are your seasonal employees. After the season ends, take time to sit down with each of your temporary hires and ask them what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what recommendations they have for future training efforts. You may also consider fielding an anonymous survey where employees may feel more comfortable sharing their raw, honest opinions.
This will help you identify areas of opportunity well ahead of the next busy season. Plus, by showing seasonal staff that you value their opinion, they’ll be more likely to come back next time you need their help.
Remember: temporary employees have just as much impact on a customer’s experience as your permanent team members, and seasonal customer service training should never be an afterthought. By following these best practices, you can ensure your seasonal hires deliver the same high-caliber experience your customers associate with your brand.
This blog post was updated and expanded in June 2022.