How to Stay on Top of Customer Service Demands This Holiday Season
All signs point to this being yet another challenging holiday shopping season for both customers and retailers.
Amid shipping delays and labor shortages, retailers are facing a series of operational challenges that are certain to impact their ability to fulfill customer demand. All of this means more stress for support teams, which will undoubtedly deal with a flood of customer calls and requests. Here are three ways that retailers can handle this increase in customer inquiries.
1. Communicate more proactively with customers.
From changes in product availability and shipping times to enabling a multichannel shopping experience, the retail customer experience is complex. Key to providing a great customer experience is the ability to proactively solve problems and communicate with customers at every stage of their buying journey.
The bottom line: consumers want retailers to communicate with them — both transparently and proactively. And they want it to be in the channel of their choice, whether it’s voice, email or text. This can also be an effective sales tactic. If retailers can leverage their customer data to better understand shopping habits and preferred engagement channels, they can also proactively notify shoppers when items are back in stock or nudge them to purchase something in an abandoned cart.
Retailers that prioritize improved proactive communication, while also finding ways to proactively solve problems, can drive stronger customer loyalty while minimizing the number of inbound requests agents need to handle.
2. Increase investment in automation and self-service.
Of course, not even the most proactive retailer can preempt every customer issue.
The role that automation and artificial intelligence (AI), particularly chatbots and self-service, will play in retailers’ customer experience stack is becoming increasingly important. As retailers deal with the coming surge in holiday questions, self-service options and chatbots will help customers find answers and get help while not overwhelming a retailer’s human support staff.
Over the past few years, customers have grown increasingly comfortable interacting with technology for basic product and shipping issues. Nearly 40 percent of internet users now prefer chatbots, according to Insider Intelligence.
Consider crystal retailer Swarovski. With customers unable to shop in person because of COVID-19 lockdown measures, the retailer saw a surge in digital traffic — and customer support requests. Many of these questions were as simple as “Where is my purchase?” By implementing a chatbot to handle this and other simple questions, Swarovski was able to reduce its customer support caseload by an average of 55 percent.
3. Bring it all together.
However, the customer experience goes beyond the way retailers interact with shoppers. While stellar customer engagement is essential, it’s not enough. What happens behind the scenes is equally, if not more, important. To effectively solve both simple and complex customer problems, retailers must ensure that their front-, back- and middle-office teams are fully connected. This includes everything from customer service and logistics to social media and finance.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many retailers, where silos are still the norm. This must change. By effectively connecting the different parts of the organization that may be responsible for answering customers’ questions, businesses can ensure customers get issues resolved quickly and have the latest information. This also helps the retailer’s employee experience. When teams can stay focused on work that matters most, they're happier, which in turn enables them to provide better customer service.
This won’t pay off just this holiday shopping season, but in many more to come.
Michael Ramsey is vice president of customer workflows at ServiceNow, a company that delivers digital workflows that create great experiences and unlock productivity.