The million dollar question for ecommerce and online retailers this month is how to make your business shine during the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's is the busiest time of year for retailers, bringing in almost half of their annual sales in stores and online. However with this sudden boom in sales comes an equally staggering volume of customer support cases. Every holiday season for us at HiOperator has brought its own surprises and challenges!

This begs the question, how is your support team supposed to handle double or triple their normal workload during the holidays? Sadly what we see too often is lower customer satisfaction, with the largest drops in customer satisfaction ratings in travel and retail. During the holiday season, the average customer satisfaction in the travel industry dropped 11%, which is no surprise when companies had to help 100% more users in December compared to October. When the support team is unprepared to deal with the high volume of customer support cases, the quality of customer service inevitably suffers. How can small businesses and startups keep their support team running smoothly when they don't have the time or money to hire extra staff?

First, before you can make any decisions and even start planning, you need to set the stage or context. How many sales are you expecting this year compared to last year, and for support requests? What are the most common support issues from last year?

In planning on how to handle the extra volume, the key factor for success will be how well you organize your staff and work processes. Triaging customer support is a popular method to make support teams more efficient. The increase in demand doesn't necessarily mean you need to hire more staff but you should take into account its pros and cons. Do you want your engineering team priorities for the next couple months to be support requests or funnel support cases to a third party?

Set a goal for your support response time - even if it’s to just aim to keep your base response time. It can be helpful to set expectations for your customers. Instead of promising them ridiculously fast service, level with them and tell them the expected response time, suggested channels, and extended support hours.

Lastly, encourage customers to solve the problem themselves by giving them all the tools and resources they need. Make online self-service easy for your customers, given that 39% of millennials check a company's FAQ site when they have a question. Online self-service is great for both parties by lowering support costs and giving customers the flexibility to resolve their issue on their own time. Start thinking ahead and include a holiday FAQ section with common questions from the previous years. Customers don't want to spend their precious holiday vacation dealing with customer support, but when they reach out to your company, make sure that your support team is ready to step in and spread the holiday cheer.