Customers: 5 Ways to Survive the Holidays with Zero Conniption Fits

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Here we go! The holiday season is upon us, and with it, all the headaches and hassles it brings. If you’re not waiting in an endless line so your kids can squirm in Santa’s lap, you’re on hold with a retailer fuming about a delayed shipment. From Black Friday to the crowded Christmas tree lot, you’re looking forward to plenty of chaos, friction, and aspirin this holiday season.

It doesn’t help that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is six days shorter than it was last year, thanks to a late-in-the-month turkey day. With nearly a week less to get it all done, it’s going to be a rush — and not the feel-good kind.

We don’t have any advice about Santa, and we can’t make medical recommendations on the best headache relief, but we do have some tips to help you navigate customer service with more good cheer this year.

1. Be proactive with problem-solving

You don’t have to be at the mercy of overextended customer support organizations with long phone-hold times. A lot of brands offer self-service options that enable you to solve basic problems quickly. Before you dial customer support, look for website or in-app FAQs that draw from a knowledge base of common customer complaints, questions, and challenges. 

Some brands build on their knowledge base with a convenient chatbot that can drive intelligent recommendations. Answer bots can direct you to the right knowledge base articles off the bat, where you can solve your own issues quickly. 

And if your customer-support issue becomes too complex for a bot, with the right technology in place, brands can pass you off seamlessly to a  human agent who can pick right up where the bot left off. AI-powered bots do a bang-up job of issue routing so that you’re deftly transferred to the right place or person the first time. With these advances, digital self-service is becoming an increasingly common and popular way for consumers to get answers to their product and service questions. 

2. Avoid waiting on hold with messaging-based support

In your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, you’re already using messaging to keep in touch, with apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. It works well because you can send a message and then go about your day. You don’t message your Mom for her Christmas wishlist and then wait around the phone waiting for a response!

Customer service should be the same way. Save yourself from long hold times by leveraging messaging-based channels first. Many brands offer customer support via messaging on social platforms such as Twittter and Facebook. More advanced brands go a step further. For instance, Amazon.com’s messaging-based support is accessible directly on their website and in-app and leverages chatbots to extend the efficiency of their 70 thousand human agents. Amazon routes customers first through its knowledge base and then if the customer does not find an answer, to messaging or phone-based support.

Other brands that offer in-app messaging as a support channel include Vivino (if gifting wine is your thing) and Target, so you have plenty of options. After all, when you’re in the middle of baking cookies for Santa, or three eggnogs deep, you may not feel like talking with a retailer about shipping dates right away.

3. Skip the Black Friday mayhem and go straight to Cyber Monday

As the Hustle reported this week, since 2006, eleven people have died in Black Friday mishaps, and more than a hundred have been injured. Yet more than half of adult Americans will participate in this frenzied holiday-shopping phenomenon. 

You don’t have to follow the masses! Many online brands have Cyber Monday sales that are just as worthwhile, if not better. And you don’t have to leave the comfort (and safety) of your own home. While brands like Walmart invest a lot of money and effort to prep their employees for Black Friday, when you order online, you get the added advantage of premium customer service options such as live chat and mobile support. 

4. Stick with brands that get it

If you prefer to shop in person, choose brands that have put effort into elevating customer experience in a holistic way. Target, for instance, recently underwent a digital transformation and turned stores into fulfillment centers. You can order online and pick up the product in the Target near you, confident they have (and will hold) exactly what you need.

5. Take some relaxing breaths

Of course, there will be plenty of times that you won’t be able to solve holiday customer-service problems with digital technology. You might find yourself staring into the abyss of a long line for a delayed flight at the airport this week. We sincerely hope that doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, keep calm and carry on.

Oh, but there’s an app for that, too: the meditation app Calm. Something to download while the child in front of you in the Santa line (or the adult in front of you in line at the airport) has a complete meltdown.

Good luck, and may good holiday karma be with you!

Published November 26, 2019
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