For consumers, the most wonderful time of the year is here. For retailers, it’s the busiest time — and customer service plays a vital role in the sales process. Contact centers are the backbone of any customer service strategy, and this is never more important than during the holiday season.
Having an effective contact center strategy and infrastructure in place is critical because it serves as a direct line to consumers and enables a better customer experience. Providing excellent customer service not only enhances customer loyalty, it helps drive revenue. Contact center agents help complete sales transactions, in addition to upselling and cross-selling efforts. In fact, the recent NICE inContact CX Transformation Survey found that nearly one-fourth of all customer interactions with contact centers are initiated for the explicit purpose of completing a purchase. That figure is likely to surge during the busy holiday shopping season. Here are three tips for strengthening customer loyalty and driving revenue through the contact center during the holidays.
1. Ensure scalability and consistency across all channels.
Businesses should prepare for the holidays throughout the year by ensuring they have the scalability to handle unusually high spikes in service requests. If you're already using a cloud-native contact center platform that elastically and quickly scales up and down, relax, this is one major issue you don’t have to worry about. If you’re still using on-premises or single-tenant hosted technology, then be sure to capture historical data on performance during the busy season and compare it with data over the rest of the year to judge how best to get ahead of the rush next year. That may involve moving one or more of your business units with the greatest holiday rush to a cloud-native contact center platform next year.
Businesses should also analyze channel performance in real time once the holiday rush hits to determine which channels perform best. In doing so, they can manage customer expectations and proactively direct contacts to the channel that will provide the fastest resolution — IVR, chat, email, etc. Of consumers surveyed in the CX Transformation Survey, 87 percent stated they expect companies to point them to the channel that will resolve the situation the fastest.
To ensure consistency across channels, it’s also imperative to give agents the data they need to handle transitions from self-service interactions. NICE inContact’s recent survey found that two-thirds of self-service interactions get moved to agent-assisted. Make that transition seamless, providing the agent with all of the historical data and interaction context needed to understand the customer’s issue from the start.
2. Empower agents to be proactive, not reactive.
Contact center interactions create an invaluable opportunity to cross-sell or upsell to customers who are already engaging with your business. This presents a prime opportunity to increase return on investment during the holiday season. Contact center managers can empower agents with the tools and data they need, including integrating with CRM, to personalize interactions and capitalize on these opportunities, instead of waiting for customers to reach out to them. For example, an agent can proactively reach out via live chat before a consumer leaves a web page with relevant information and/or offers based on the customer's purchase history and what’s in their cart. Technology can provide intelligence behind these recommendations to drive context-driven interactions and increase the chances of completing a purchase. Instead of reaching out to all customers, technology can help focus on more likely buyers, such as people who are further down the purchase funnel, frequent customers or those who have the highest shopping cart value/potential.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of chat.
In addition to the earlier example of website chat to upsell or decrease shopping cart abandonment, there are many benefits to using chat as a strategic customer service channel during the busy holiday season. With intelligent chatbots, businesses can increase efficiency by automating simple front-end interactions and more frequent types of questions or service engagements. Chatbots can also direct customers to the best channel for their needs, providing historical conversation context if the customer moves to an agent-assisted channel. In the process, the company is delivering an omnichannel, personalized experience. For agent-assisted chat, it’s important to know that chat isn't the end all be all. Empower your agents to call a customer, start a co-browse or send a confirmation via email to not only increase customer satisfaction, but also result in more positive agent engagement.
The holidays may generate short-term revenue, but a great customer experience will keep them coming back for years to come, flash sales or not. Contact centers play a critical role in facilitating e-commerce and nurturing lifelong repeat customers. Focusing on providing a seamless, connected customer journey in a highly personalized way — across channels — will drive revenue during the holidays and throughout the year.
Chris Bauserman is vice president, segment and product marketing, NICE inContact, a cloud customer experience platform provider.
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