The holidays are normally a crazed time of year, particularly in the world of retail. While brands know to stock shelves, hire extra staff and ramp up marketing campaigns, preparing for the holiday rush can still be overwhelming. This year, addressing the already daunting peak season demand is further exacerbated by worldwide supply chain constraints, staffing challenges, heightened customer demands, and prolonged shopper concern over going into stores and being around droves of fellow patrons.
But let’s not underestimate the toll a bad customer service experience can have on a business. According to Microsoft, 58% of consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service. To avoid becoming one of them, consider these tips for how CX teams can overcome this holiday season’s many challenges to keep customers happy while setting the stage for sustained success into 2022.
Countering Supply Chain Disruptions
It’s important to remember that CX is holiday agnostic. Customers often ignore that supply constraints on holiday goods are out of retailers’ control and still expect a frictionless shopping experience. To offset low or delayed inventory, brands and retailers must design exceptional customer experiences that offer value in other ways.
Integrate white glove, concierge-type service into CX to ensure shoppers feel special and accounted for. This could include enhanced incentives like seasonal deals, extended return/exchange timelines, or curated product lists to replace items that may be unavailable or delayed.
Navigating Peak Demand in a Hybrid World
The retail industry is still determining the best infrastructure for a hybrid shopping world, further complicated by peak demand periods like holiday. Brands and retailers should create seamless and personalized experiences by using customization and optionality in their CX approaches, accommodating shoppers who favor buy now, pay later (BNPL); buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS); and same-day delivery.
Additionally, ensure there are enough customer assistance resources both in-store and online, service providers are accepting feedback, and that customers feel valued by providing loyalty benefits and rewards. Optionality and convenience are among the most important ways to strengthen CX this holiday season.
Leveraging Technology to Fill Service Gaps
Even when human agents can’t accommodate all customer requests, it is still essential customers feel heard. Technology can help fill in holes and ensure seamless customer care. For example, AI chatbots can provide real-time customer service and help offset long wait times that frustrate customers.
The key is to keep more complex inquiries in the hands of human agents who can deliver high-touch and personalized service while automating those interactions that are simpler and occur more frequently. If the customer needs to speak with a representative, it’s probably not the right use case for a bot.
Utilizing Data to Sustain Momentum Post-Holiday.
Most importantly, retailers need to prove that they were listening during the holidays. Allow your customers to provide feedback, good and bad, to ensure teams can better service skills when they are needed most.
Use the insights gathered during the peak season to send personalized offers that speak directly to customers’ interests. Knowing 10% of retail holiday purchases are returned, set a plan for how to turn those returns into exchanges. It’s critical to be “fully locked into” all transactions – across channels – to ensure upselling is possible. Finally, brands and retailers should set up post-mortem meetings to review lessons learned for next season.
There are many forces seemingly working against retailers today, but they are not insurmountable. If brands take the time to make customers feel special, focus on convenience, employ technology as needed, and reengage customers after the holidays, they poised to emerge from the peak season on top.