A Look Back at Customer Service During the 2019 Holiday Season

The holiday season has only just wrapped, and it was arguably the most important season for any retail customer service organization. When there are issues with holiday orders, you encounter the very real possibility of unhappy customers who are angry and embarrassed by missing or incorrect gifts. Customer expectations are at an all time high, and organization must over-deliver during their greatest times of need. Whether it’s handling simple product questions in real time, proactively alerting customers when there is an issue with their order, or rectifying any subsequent issues upon delivery, customer service during the holiday season could be the difference between a lifelong customer and one lost to the competition.

How Peak Season Customer Service Has Changed

The digital and direct-to-consumer shifts have had a huge impact on retail customer service. While customers now expect instantaneous service on a multitude of channels, they also expect personal and helpful interactions, similar to face-to-face interactions with in-store associates. In fact, according to a recent Kustomer survey, 75% of consumers aged 25-34 said they expected personalized communications from retailers. And that is 15% higher than those 65 and older, meaning personalization is becoming increasingly expected with younger generations.

2019 Holiday Season Developments

Last year there was a drastic increase in multichannel shopping (both online and in-store), and multichannel support inquiries are also on the rise. That means consumers may start an inquiry on one channel, and finish it on another. Whether the channel switch is because they are on the go, or they didn’t get a prompt response on their original channel, multichannel inquiries can cause duplicative work resulting in agent collision as well as the unfortunate need for customers to repeat information. It is important that retailers have a strong omnichannel support solution in place for any peak shopping period. A true omnichannel support solution can integrate your combination of communication channels in order to capture the free flow of conversations across channels and display the data in a single screen. This ensures seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next.

Peak Season Challenges

The constant struggle for customer service organizations during peak shopping periods is sheer volume. With more shopping comes more support inquiries, and businesses that don’t have a scalable strategy in place, supported by the right technology, may not be able to deliver on customer expectations. Additionally, many businesses hire “seasonal employees” to help with the busy periods that they must heavily train to ensure they provide a consistent brand experience. With software that does the heavy lifting for them, providing unified customer history in a single screen and delivering standardized responses via dynamic content, the onboarding burden during an already busy time will be lessened.

Additionally, with a high volume of inquiries, customer service organizations often have trouble prioritizing the most urgent or pressing issues, and simply stick everyone in a queue, which is often unbearably long. Retailers can use AI and automation to intelligently route the most pressing issues to the most appropriate agents, or even prioritize loyal customers.

Overwhelmed customer service organizations often fall into the unfortunate habit of delivering bare minimum support in order to complete inquiries as quickly as possible. It’s important to realize that during peak shopping seasons, your customers are also stressed out, and expect retailers to deliver on their usually stellar service just as thoroughly as they would on the slowest day of the year. That means delivering real-time support, on any channel they choose, in a personalized manner.

Overcoming Peak Season Challenges

Whether it’s Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day or Back to School season, brands should not only have a scalable strategy in place, but also technology that enables them to be more efficient and effective. AI and automation can improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, AI could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support.

To learn more about the results from the 2019 holiday shopping season, and how to properly prepare for future peak shopping periods, download the full report.

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