The last thing customers want to do over the holidays is sit on hold or get shuffled between departments in search of answers to their questions. It’s enough to make even the most loyal customers say, “Bah humbug!”

As the holidays rapidly approach, companies that want to avoid ending up on their customers’ naughty list are taking stock of their customer service and support departments in advance of the holiday rush. While the holidays can be taxing for businesses of all shapes and sizes, a well-prepared customer service team can be a bright spot for customers looking for fast, friendly help with their problems.

The first thing that companies need to be prepared for over the holiday season is a marked increase in the volume of contacts they can expect to receive. One Zendesk study found that overall ticket volume can increase by as much as 42 percent over the holidays. For companies that aren’t prepared for this avalanche of customer contacts, average response time can go up dramatically, which can weigh heavily on their CSAT scores.

’Tis the season for omnichannel

The best way to prepare for increased holiday volume is to add additional agents to meet the influx of contacts. Zendesk has found that retailers add between 10 and 20 percent more agents over the holidays, but those businesses may want to consider hiring even more given the nature of today’s customers, who increasingly prefer omnichannel service.

That preference for omnichannel support means customers expect to be able to connect with companies when and where they want, in the channels that are most important to them. In fact, 95 percent of customers already use three different channels to connect with companies and brands.

As a result, over the holidays companies can expect email to spike by 49 percent, chat conversations to go up 92 percent, phone conversations to more than double, and social media discussions on platforms like Facebook to triple. Companies looking to add agents to meet this demand should evaluate how their current team is structured and consider the anticipated increase in holiday ticket volume.

It’s a team sport

Smaller teams tend to have a shared or blended staffing model. Under this framework, the team is optimized for agility, and agents are fully trained to handle any request and manage conversations across multiple channels. Larger teams often lean toward a dedicated support model, where agents are more specialized and can unlock more operational efficiencies with multiple channels for escalation, capacity, and variety of tickets.

Regardless of how a team is structured, it’s important to understand ticket volume to right size the support team. There are three variables that companies should consider here—ticket volume per day, average handling time per ticket/call per day, and average time spent on calls by agents in a day.

The ideal headcount will be average handling time divided by average time spent per day, multiplied by ticket volume per day. So for example, a company that received 1,000 tickets a day, where agents spend 10 minutes on each ticket and spend 250 total minutes on tickets each day, would need 40 agents to meet the demand.

And finally, once a company has established the optimal number of agents for its support team, it’s important to make sure it has the tools in place to deliver exceptional customer service, including helpdesk software like Zendesk. Helpdesk software gives agents everything they need to provide fast, personalized support seamlessly across all channels, no matter how big or small a company is.

With omnichannel support tools like Zendesk, a well-staffed team, and a little planning, companies of all sizes can give their customers the gift of great service this holiday season.

Is your company prepared for the holidays? If not, Zendesk can help with a special Black Friday promotion to make it easy and affordable to add agents to organizations of all sizes.