November 11, 2021

How to Handle Customer Service Spikes

Customer service spikes can happen in many ways. You might have some unforeseen publicity opportunities or an ad that performs better than expected, both of which can drive a lot of questions.

Jon Tucker
CEO HelpFlow
How to Handle Customer Service Spikes

Customer service spikes can happen in many ways. You might have some unforeseen publicity opportunities or an ad that performs better than expected, both of which can drive a lot of questions. On the fulfillment side, you might have order processing issues that cause an increase in the number of questions per order. And, of course, spikes can happen simply due to seasonality and holidays.

You might think spikes are just something your team has to handle, but with a few best practices in place, you can predict and handle spikes more easily.

At HelpFlow, we provide 24/7 Live Chat Customer Service teams to over 100 e-commerce stores. We help clients improve their CS operation to work more effectively and will walk through a few things you can implement to better handle volume spikes in this post.

Let's get into it.

Predict Customer Service Spikes

You might think that spikes are unpredictable, but they typically aren't. You can leverage a few metrics to forecast if a spike is about to occur so that your team can get ahead of a ticket volume.

Here are a few examples:

  • It's best practice to know your order to ticket ratio, which is the percentage of orders that turn into customer service tickets. Once you have that metric, you can track increases in website traffic that will turn in the orders, and then you can know an increase in ticket volume is coming.
  • The increase in tickets from an increase in orders typically happens at least a few days or even a week or two after the order increase happens. By predicting this increase in advance, you can prepare your customer service team or even integrate self-serve resources to handle the volume.

At HelpFlow, we constantly forecast chat and ticket volume into the future both daily and weekly to ensure we have the correct number of agents staffed to specific client accounts. You can do the same by benchmarking your order-to-ticket ratio and forecasting when orders will increase based on marketing metrics.

Leverage Templates and Batch Processing

Many customer service questions are similar and can be answered with a template. If you're careful, templates don't have to sound robotic and can enhance the brand experience. In addition, once you have templates in place, you can leverage them in your workflow to streamline the processing of the increase in tickets.

Here are a few techniques:

  • Create an autoresponder that is sent when someone creates a ticket that addresses FAQs. Make sure to acknowledge that your team will be reaching out as soon as possible, so they know they'll get personal help if the FAQs don't solve their problem.
  • Create templates for common questions, such as where is my order or return request. You can significantly improve the personalization and efficiency of templates by integrating dynamic deals such as customers' names, the last product they ordered, etc.
  • Automatically categorize certain tickets together, such as order status questions. Then batch process those tickets together with one after another, which is typically much faster for agents than processing tickets "first-in, first-out."

With our CS teams, we focus on leveraging the helpdesk the client is using and the different features available to streamline customer service processing while also keeping the customer experience strong.

Don't Manage Based on "We're Busy!!!" - Know Your #s

When customer service spikes happen, your team will feel insanely busy and may even burn out. However, some of this is simply mental based on knowing there is an increased volume of tickets to handle. If you have a target KPI's set, you can track these to know how the team is doing and help them manage their mindset. In short, they can throttle their work to simply keep hitting the target KPIs rather than maniacally trying to process all the tickets to get to inbox zero as fast as possible.

We've shared best practice customer service metrics in other posts, but here's the basic:

  • For tracking the customer experience, track first response time, resolution time, and customer satisfaction. This helps you know how quickly customers hear back on their tickets, how quickly the tickets are resolved, and how happy the customer is.
  • For tracking agents, use average handle time, capacity, and customer satisfaction. This helps you ensure agents are processing tickets within a reasonable time, they're handling the right amount of ticket volume, and that customers are happy with their work.

We set benchmark thresholds for these metrics with each client and report on them weekly typically. But during spikes, we recommend to clients that they manage their internal agents hourly or daily based on these #s so they can help agents set a pace for their work. Often, that pace is a bit slower than their mindset tells them based on the volume they see come in.

What's Next?

Customer service spikes happen, but you can manage these spikes more easily with better management of your CS operation.

If you need help managing an upcoming spike such as BFCM or a big sale, or you would benefit from having someone level up your CS operation, contact us at today. We provide 24/7 live chat and customer service teams to 100+ stores and can provide complimentary audits of your current approach.

Even if you don't work with us, you'll get a ton of takeaways from the audit process since we've worked with so many stores.

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