Is Your Customer Support Team Ready for the Holidays?
The National Retail Federation has predicted that holiday sales this year will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over the 2017 holiday season. Deloitte's annual retail sales forecast was even more positive, putting the figure at 5.6 percent. This means retailers are looking at between $717 billion and $1.1 trillion in sales this holiday season.
Of course, with the holiday surge in sales comes a massive uptick in support requests. Is your customer support team ready?
This year, Helpshift compiled and released some proprietary data to give retailers insight into what to expect — and how to prepare — for this year’s holiday rush.
Peak Holiday Sales and Support Times Differ by Channel
The inaugural Helpshift Holiday Performance Index includes data from our retail and e-commerce customers for the 2017 holiday season, defined as the dates between Nov. 22, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2018.
The data showed, first and foremost, that peak holiday support times differed for retailers by channel: while both online-only and multichannel brands saw an increase after Thanksgiving that continued into mid-December, online-only brands saw peak customer service requests on Dec. 13. That day was 52 percent higher than the rest of the holiday season and 129 percent higher than the remainder of 2017.
Meanwhile, multichannel brands saw peak customer service requests on Nov. 27 (Cyber Monday). This was 65 percent higher than the rest of the holiday season and 393 percent higher than the remainder of 2017.
Ticket Volume Went Way Up, But Resolution Time Went Down
The large increases in ticket volume did increase the time to response for some brands during the holiday shopping season, but time to resolution actually decreased by 15 percent.
This can be attributed to the support automations these retailers used as well as to the seasonal additions they made to their support staff, which had a larger overall impact. Online-only brands were able to manage 129 percent more requests with just 25 percent more agents, while multichannel brands were able to manage 393 percent more requests with just 85 percent more agents.
These faster resolution times amid higher ticket volume reflect effective strategy and planning on the retailers part. They staffed appropriately ahead of the holiday season, and they equipped their teams with a conversational platform that allowed them to respond to multiple issues at once and handle repeat questions more efficiently.
Tensions run high during holiday shopping, and brands must think not just about how to handle the influx of support requests, but also how to exceed customer expectations in the process.
You’ll need to beef up your support staff, of course. In addition, a messaging-based support platform — with tools like self-service, routing optimizations, chatbots and artificial intelligence — will save your agents and customers hundreds of hours of frustration, making the holidays the cheerful and relaxing time of year they’re meant to be.
Linda Crawford is the CEO of Helpshift, a customer service platform designed to improve customer satisfaction, optimize service operations and maximize ROI.
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