Groupon’s Guide to Holiday Support: From Backlog to Bliss With Adam Lindsey, Senior Director, Global Service Operations

november 7, 2023

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and while consumers are just beginning to think about it, many companies, like Groupon, have been planning for months. One of the most crucial ways to plan ahead for the holiday season is through optimized customer service. 

This is where Groupon excels.

In this episode, we spoke with Adam Lindsey, Senior Director, Global Service Operations at Groupon where he shared details on how his team has always managed to stay one step ahead when it comes to keeping customers happy during busy periods of the year.

Let’s dive into the most effective ways of reducing a backlog of tickets and how best to prepare and support your team both mentally and practically and more.

Preparing for Holiday Spikes

According to Forbes, customer support requests increase 5-10 times during the holiday season. On top of that, The National Retail Foundation reported that 46% of shoppers started their holiday shopping earlier than usual in 2021. As the holiday season continues to creep earlier into the year, it’s vital for businesses to prepare for holiday spikes. But, how can a global business do this?

“Over the past decade or so, what we’ve been doing is centralizing and standardizing [our customer service approach],” said Adam Lindsey, Senior Director, Global Service Operations at Groupon. “Now we have one customer service team and one workforce management function. We take the best practices from everywhere and then consolidate them. It also means from a capacity and staffing perspective, we have much more resources and we can view things more holistically.”

Translation is a huge component of this centralized approach.

“Through Unbabel, this year, we’ve also been able to move to a language agnostic setup,” Lindsey continues. “So an agent could be speaking with a Polish customer, then a French customer, then a Spanish customer – providing the same level of service through Unbabel. What that has enabled us to do is have this 24/7 setup.”

Lindsey shares that even beyond a centralized approach to customer service – the numbers are key to pay attention to.

“We never stop looking at the numbers,” Lindsey shares. “So my leadership team and I meet every single day. We check the incoming volume. We make sure the productivity and the staffing is in place. It’s about being really on top of the numbers at all times.”

Addressing Ticket Backlog

Despite being well prepared for the holiday season, ticket backlogs are inevitable. So, how does Groupon handle this increase in volume?

“The key thing, especially in peak season, is you have to expect the unexpected,” Lindsey says. “When backlogs happen, which they do, and it’s not just in peak season, the key thing is making sure you have everybody involved that needs to be involved. Ultimately a backlog is when you have too much workload for the people you have to complete the work. It’s about understanding kind of where you are with the staff you’ve got and then understanding what levers you have to pull when that happens.”

Setting Customer Expectations

The holiday season can be a time when a business makes or breaks a loyal customer base. Customer service is a huge component of customer loyalty. Setting customer expectations ahead of time can prevent an unhappy customer and ultimately, contribute to creating a loyal one.

“You should always underpromise and over-deliver,” Lindsey shares. “So if you specified that you will respond to a query within 24 hours, you should have a 12-hour internal SLA. If you use tools like Zendesk and Salesforce to have the ability to provide automated updates, build those in again as default as well. That way, at set intervals, a reminder will be sent to the customer just to reassure them.”

Even with the best customer service experience, however, there will always be frustrated customers and agents are most often on the receiving end of that experience.

“[When dealing with an upset customer], it’s about empowering the agent with all the information that they have available,” Lindsey says. “We’re also starting to generate better responses through AI. So, rather than having template responses that become very robotic and can be quite infuriating on the receiving end, each customer now receives a curated response that’s generated through AI.”

Keeping Consistency Throughout the Customer Service Experience

Messaging and personalization goes a long way in the customer journey, and creating a consistent and positive experience is fundamental to ensuring a happy customer. When translation comes into play, these nuances and personalized elements can get lost.

“It’s a whole new world with tools like Unbabel,” Lindsey says. “Historically, we would write a template in English and then we would have it translated and then you would have hundreds and thousands of template responses. With Unbabel, you can write much more customized, personalized responses by setting the tone of formal, informal, and all the rest to lead to more favorable results.”

And while Groupon has a positive experience with translation now, it wasn’t always the case.

“Going back a long time ago, we had a backlog in one of our markets that didn’t speak English,” Lindsey recalls. “So we used Google Translate, where we had folks in the London office using it, and that was a prime example of how not to do customer service. There’s always shortcuts to success and there’s always alternatives, but unless the quality is there, it’s pointless because then you drive your own problems in terms of repeat contacts and escalation.”

While messaging and translation are inarguably important, Lindsey shares that hiring and training should also be a focus for brands leading up to the holiday season.

“You need to hire to manage the capacity and manage the volumes,” Lindsey shares. “So, it’s not just dealing with your experienced staff who have been here before. It’s making sure that you consider the agents throughout, and you keep them informed wherever possible.”

The Future of Customer Service

As tools such as AI evolve, customer service will inevitably change as well. What emerging technologies and tools does Groupon see as having a significant impact on customer service?

“[With AI and ChatGPT], I look at it as the same as the same transition of chatbots a decade or so ago,” Lindsey says. “What I hope we can do for AI and ChatGPT is learn from those [chatbot] lessons and understand that the aim is not about automating 100% of everybody’s job, but it’s about taking on the repetitive tasks that can be automated. It’s about upskilling your workforce. It’s about the role of customer service becoming a much more intricate and complex job than it is even today.”

Interested in learning more about breaking down language barriers in customer service? Watch the full webinar here.

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