We’re back with more holiday prep tips for ecommerce retailers! Today, we’ll tackle one of the most critical pieces of a direct-to-consumer business’ operations, regardless of the season: customer care. Just one minor slip-up in customer service during the emotionally-charged holidays can be detrimental to your brand’s image, but a rock star moment can create a customer for life! So let’s examine five ways to get your agents in tip-top shape.

1. Make your brand more available than ever

A peak in orders will mean a rise in call, email, and chat volume. One way to avoid extended on-hold times and accommodate this spike is by expanding your center’s availability. Whether adding an extra hour or two at the beginning or end of each regularly-scheduled day, staying open 24/7, or adding another day to the mix (Saturdays are great for this!), work with your teams to decide what’s best for your business. If you can’t justify it, consider working with an outsourced call center provider to handle your overflow or after-hours support.

2. Create more contact options

Since call volume will increase, consider other options for customer contact. This may be a great time to test the waters if you don’t have live chat or automation. If you have the capacity, allow customers on hold to schedule a callback time for someone to reach out to them, then assign your best agents to do outbound callbacks.

3. Get a headstart on hiring, training

Ramp up your hiring efforts early by running job postings or hosting a career fair before the ‘holiday hiring blitz’ begins – that way, you’ll get the best applicants available, and you won’t have to do it when you’re worried about other things. Even if you don’t need them in the contact center for another month or more, bring them in to get acclimated with your company and your products. Have them test out your items, quiz them on company info, and get them talking in your brand voice now – more knowledge makes a more confident and effective agent!

4. Get social with your customers

A recent study found that most consumers will use brands’ social media channels for customer service issues. If you’re not monitoring your Facebook and Twitter feeds – at least during the holiday season, when it may be hard for customers to reach you via other methods – you’re setting yourself up for a bad customer experience that goes viral. There are tons of tools available that can help, plus entire ecommerce companies. Dedicate an agent to handle these inquiries and set up a schedule to manually monitor your pages. Ensure your contact center is in sync with your social team, and you’ll be ready to rock.

5. Give your customers access to real humans

There’s nothing worse than having a complex problem with a product or an order, and you find yourself in an endless call tree trying to reach customer support. Make it easy for your customers to reach a real human. Set your brand apart from your competition by offering prompt, knowledgeable customer support! When customers request a supervisor, ensure your agents feel comfortable passing those calls up the chain.

Now is the time to prepare your call center for the holiday season. Taking steps now to prepare your team can make for smooth sailing in the new year.