Believe It or Not, Now Is the Time to Prep for the Holidays. Here’s How.

Believe It or Not, Now Is the Time to Prep for the Holidays. Here’s How. Stat

Many of us look forward to the holidays. We get excited about the prospect of parties, family gatherings, holiday cheer and presents galore. But the holiday season also brings a big lump of coal: an increase in needy customers reaching out to your team in need of immediate support.

According to Kustomer data, inbound customer service inquiries increased by almost 120% during the holiday season in 2019, with particularly dramatic spike in activity on Instagram, e-mail, voice and chat.

Many businesses struggle to maintain a high level of support during spikes in activity. They may need to hire a flurry of seasonal employees who have a short training period. Last year, $284 billion dollars were spent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, so the stakes are high. The question becomes, how do you handle the seasonal rush without breaking the bank or disappointing customers? Read on to learn what customers expect, and how to deliver with smart strategies and smarter technology.

Customer Expectations During the Holiday Season

Spending isn’t the only thing skyrocketing during the holiday season — so too are customer expectations. Here is what consumers expect from brands during the upcoming holiday season.

Immediate Service

During the holiday season, the turn of phrase “too much to do, too little time” hits a lot closer to home. Between normal day-to-day life, holiday celebrations, traveling and gift buying, consumers don’t want more of their time taken up by customer service.

According to recent Kustomer research, 77% of customers expect their problem to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service. Customers demand that you respect their time, especially during the busy holiday rush, and if you don’t, they are willing to leave for another retailer. In fact, 70% of consumers would not shop with a retailer again if they had to leave a chat before being helped, and 71% would do the same if they waited so long on hold that they hung up.

Available on Any Platform

Especially during the peak shopping season – Thanksgiving to Christmas — consumers are on the go. They may be traveling to spend time with family, taking a much needed vacation, or multitasking during the work day. What does this all mean? Customers are more willing and able to reach out on new platforms that are most convenient for them.

While 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer, availability on multiple platforms isn’t enough. Eighty-six percent of customers said they get frustrated when they have to repeat information to customer service agents. This means that if customers switch channels or need to be transferred, they don’t want the context of their previous interactions lost.

Most of the time, when a customer contacts a company, the team manning that channel will create a ticket. If the customer then contacts the company through a different channel about the same issue, a second ticket will be created with each team working their respective tickets. This results in a fragmented experience and the unfortunate need to repeat information.

How to Wow Your Customers During the Holiday Season (Without Breaking the Bank)

The typical strategies businesses use to please customers have one thing in common: they cost money, and aren’t scalable. What are some strategies and technology tools that you can put in place to wow your customers WITHOUT breaking the bank?

Prepare Early

There’s something to be said about beating your competition to the punch. According to research by Digital Commerce 360, 56% of customers chose where to shop during last year’s holiday season based on past experiences. In addition to common seasonal marketing strategies, delivering a stellar experience NOW can help you drive business in the future.

The companies that are practically synonymous with brand love, and have customers that are loyal to the death, have one thing in common: they have prioritized customer experience since their inception. In fact, customer experience is becoming more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty. Ensure that during busy seasons, when your inquiries and orders quadruple, you can continue to make customers feel just as valued as on the slowest day of the year. By preparing early, you can put the right tools, staff and strategies in place to not only deliver the perfect holiday gift, but also the perfect holiday customer experience.

Get a Little Help From Your Robot Friends

When resources are thin, technology can make a huge impact on your team’s efficiency. Oftentimes the most tedious tasks on an agent’s plate are manual and repetitive, and may not require human intervention. Luckily AI can handle simple tasks like tagging and routing conversations to the most appropriate agent. And consider the power of chatbots during peak shopping periods. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers. In fact, 67% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative.

Chatbots can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like changing a booking or answering an order status question. 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, chatbots 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.

Be Available Wherever Your Customers Are

Omnichannel support shifts perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building, which is incredibly valuable during the holiday season, when companies have the opportunity to attract an entirely new cohort of customers. Individuals have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels. If executed properly, omnichannel support provides a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint after acquisition.

Ensure you have the right technology in place to integrate your combination of communication channels in order to capture the free flow of conversations across platforms and display the data in a single screen. A best-in-class solution should create a unified home for all your customer data, regardless of the source, not only the data generated from customer conversations.

Download our full holiday prep guide for additional strategies and customer insights that are sure to prepare you for the upcoming holiday season.

 

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day Twitter

It’s a day of love, romance and positive feelings…. that is until white lilies are delivered instead of red roses, or a winter snow storm causes a shipping delay for that diamond necklace she’s been waiting for.

During peak shopping days, like Valentine’s Day, customer loyalty is on the line. A mistake not only means an angry customer, but could mean embarrassment and conflict due to a missing or incorrect present. The way that companies handle service inquiries during these seasonal rushes is of the utmost importance. They must treat customers with empathy, and understand that problems and questions can hold a lot more weight during stressful holidays.

The National Retail Federation reports that $27.4 billion is going to be spent this Valentine’s Day, a whopping 32% increase from last year. So follow these tips to avoid getting caught in cupid’s crossfire.

Prepare for Scale

If you’re a retailer that caters to romance, like florists and jewelers, prepare for an uptick in orders and inquiries. Your apps and websites should be able to handle an increased load, and you should have staff in place to handle the spike in customers reaching out. By leveraging technology that incorporates AI and automation, low level support tasks like business hours and shipping information, can be deflected away from your agents, freeing up their time to tackle more difficult inquiries and making sure Valentine’s Day goes off without a hitch.

Deliver On Instantaneous Conversations

As much as we all wish our significant other was planning a lavish evening months in advance, the truth of the matter is that last minute gift buying is… the norm. Customers will likely be ordering flowers or chocolates mere hours before they want them to be delivered. Make sure you’re able to manage real-time fulfillment, as well as real-time conversations.

In order to deliver truly instantaneous support, agents must be able to have the full context of every customer interaction at their fingertips, no matter the channel or issue. Did the customer just receive their order? What is the sentiment of their interaction? Did they just have a conversation about the same issue on a different platform? Being able to see this all in one view, versus opening new tickets for every new interaction, means you’re able to serve customers quicker and build relationships faster.

Be Channel Agnostic

Your customers are on the go. No matter whether they are at work, on the train, at dinner or on their couch, you need to be available to them. Make sure that your customers are able to contact you on whatever channel they’re active on, and switch between those channels seamlessly and without losing context. When time is of the essence, your customers don’t want to have to start the conversation over again.

Communicate Seamlessly with Customers and Vendors

Marketplaces may have a particularly difficult time handling seasonal rushes. Let’s say a customer is ordering a bottle of champagne to be delivered to their partner when they get home from work. To ensure a seamless process, marketplaces will have to use a system that can enable communication with customers and vendors simultaneously to solve any issues. Traditional customer service solutions force agents to switch between multiple platforms and screens, instead of connecting conversations between customers and vendors in a single view.

Your brand doesn’t want to be the reason for a break-up. Prepare properly and deliver exceptional support, and you and your customers will live happily ever after.

Learn more in the latest customer service retail report.

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