Easter 2015 is upon us. But who’s ‘us’ and is it really right around the corner? Well, Christians consider Easter to be their most important religious holiday and this year they’ll celebrate it 5-6 April. Not all of them though, as the Eastern Orthodox Church uses a different calendar and will hold the festivities a week later, that is 12-13 April. And then, there are billions of people all around the world not celebrating Easter at all, yes BILLIONS. If you manage a company doing business with people coming from various cultural backgrounds, you may want to take that into consideration. Read on to learn how to handle corporate communication and provide customer support during holidays.
Being there for your customers when they need assistance is an important aspect of any business. Be it in person, over the telephone or on social media, people expect you to address their issues promptly. And that, maybe except from some extreme situations, is a justified approach.
On the other hand, it may not be that easy to be able to deliver 24/7/365 support, especially if you’re company isn’t a multinational conglomerate but you still have business partners in different parts of the globe. This is especially true for companies providing products and services in the IT industry, used worldwide.
They have to be present online pretty much round-the-clock to provide support to their clients contacting them using various communication channels. And yes, this means keeping watch on holidays too, as the ones you celebrate may be unknown in your customer’s country.
Easter time 101
Certain religious holidays may be a little troublesome for companies with multicultural client bases. One of them is Easter, which to make things a bit more complicated, isn’t even celebrated by all Christians at the same time.
The good thing is that the main event takes place on Sunday, which is widely (however, not everywhere) considered to be a day off work. Then, there’s the second day, Easter Monday, which is a public holiday in many European and North American countries, with a little more religious feel in Slavic countries than, say, the United States.
Thus, while you’re trying to enjoy a day off with your family or friends, you’re clients may not be having any of it. Think of countries like China and India, which constitute nearly one-third of Earth’s population, add members of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, which are predominantly Orthodox, and you’ve got yourself another 300 million people who don’t celebrate Easter when you are.
Don’t turn your customer into a rotten egg
As you can see, providing continuous support to your clients may be a little tricky. Obviously, no one wants to work ALL the time, even if they love their job, as keeping a good work-life balance is important for physical and mental health. Moreover, you can’t expect your employees to come in at each and every holiday, when they want to spend some time with their close ones.
How are you supposed to take care of a client, then, and at the same time be able to enjoy some time off the grid? Especially if you provide some cloud-based solution, social app or a streaming service, all of which can, and probably are used for business.
Customer support during holidays
Being prepared and taking steps to ensure proper communication during a holiday like Easter works both ways. Depending on how much time you can actually spend away from keyboard, it’s good to let your customers know in advance at what hours you will be at their disposal, or that there might be some time you’ll be unavailable at all.
Preparing for an Easter break or wind-down, take a look below at some of the measures you can take to make your business communication during this period as painless as possible. Whichever you choose, and you should go for more than one, try to explain briefly the significance of the holiday to you and that you’ll take steps to be available for emergency situations.
A total disconnect isn’t the best idea. Just put yourself in the shoes of Mikhail in Saint Petersburg or Aryan in New Delhi, who are using your web app which unfortunately crashed during Easter Monday. For them it’s a regular working day and they need the program up and running, as otherwise they’re losing money.
With that being said, check out the ways to inform customers about your availability during Easter or any other holiday for that matter.
Right off the bat, one of the best ways to interact with your customers is through social media. Send a couple tweets out in advance, to inform about the hours you’ll be available at during Easter. Twitter timeline is a very dynamic environment, so if you post only once, your followers can easily miss it. Make sure you let your audience know two to three times that you’ll not be fully operational in terms of customer support.
Use Facebook too. Draw up a simple list of dates and times, when you’ll be answering inquiries during the holiday. Facebook wall is a little less fast-paced than Twitter and people seem to visit your page more often so pin the post at the top of your page to make sure everyone who drops by sees it.
As a business, you most likely have a database of clients who you contact on a regular basis with things like newsletter or promotional offers. The former is an excellent opportunity to inform people about your limited availability during Easter.
You can even consider an email blast as the last line of defense in case of emergency like sudden increase of sick leaves among support team members, or if you’ve forgotten to let your clients know that you’re planning to slow down during the holiday and, for example, you don’t have a strong presence on social media with few fans/followers.
Clear information on the website
Doing business online has become such a staple of our lives that it seems the Internet was created solely for this purpose. Corporate websites have become office lobbies, where you can learn more about the company, view prospects or ask questions.
Even though they’re a lot about upholding a professional image, such websites don’t have to be static. They’re a great medium to communicate important information to your existing and potential clients. So, when it comes to letting the visitors know that you won’t be online 100% of the time during Easter, or any other holiday, you can design a banner or create a pop up box informing people about your scheduled office hours.
Obviously, this is the communication channel that your clients are likely to go for if you offer it, so if there’s a time like Easter coming up, and you won’t be able to staff the chat as much as you’d like to, make sure to at least set up a chat status informing its user when you will be available.
One way to earn a loyal readership for your company blog is by providing useful and interesting information to your readers, and not blatantly shoving your product down their throats. For businesses, of course, a blog is a marketing tool as well but the key is to run it smoothly.
If you’re planning a significant decrease in support for the time of Easter, post a short note similar to the one I suggested for Facebook to let people know when and how will you be answering their inquiries. Keep it brief and drop in a “Happy …” if you feel it’s appropriate.
If your company website has an online forum, take a minute to create a thread informing about the fact you won’t be providing round-the-clock support during Easter or any other holiday ahead.
Just as with the Facebook post, pin the thread up top, so it won’t drop among others created in the meantime. What you can also do is encourage your community to provide help to each other within the topic during the time of wind-down. Ask them to be understanding and become their fellow customer keeper!
Any holiday season is a time we’d like to devote to family and friends, and not necessarily be at every customer beck and call. This becomes increasingly difficult though, as the global village is spreading, and companies, especially in the IT industry, are offering products and services used worldwide.
Leaving your customers with no support whatsoever, even during the time traditionally off in your culture, isn’t a business practice anyone would recommend. As always, the key is to find a balance and communicate.
Make prior arrangements necessary to minimize the risk of any failures, take care of proper staffing and consider incentives for being ready to work, and finally, communicate to make your clients aware and understanding of the fact you’ll need some time off but will do your best to help them, should there be a crisis. Remember to let the people know exactly how they will be able to reach you.
Take a look at this holiday calendar with upcoming festivities and particular countries listed.