Holiday shoppers are already making their list, checking against online reviews and looking to make even more purchases online this year. According to the 2017 Walker-Sands Future of Retail report, 41 percent of consumers completed all or the majority of their holiday shopping online in 2016 and 46 percent of consumers now prefer to shop online via desktop, mobile or voice ordering. The primary reason is that new and emerging technology make it simpler. However, the expectations of consumers are that the experience will be friction-free, and they will receive great service, even if the retailer’s team is at maximum capacity.
Fortunately, retailers can achieve a high-touch, premier-level service without breaking the bank. Humach’s Senior Vice President of Customer Engagement, Tom Asher, provided these quick wins that retailers can adopt to improve their customer satisfaction.
“Because boosting customer satisfaction and sales are intertwined, one of the first things retailers should consider is to maximize staff on all channels. This will ensure you can respond more quickly, which provides a positive impact to customer satisfaction and revenue.”
Taking into account that many retailers make as much as three-quarters of their revenue in the fourth quarter, augmenting the contact center team to ensure that all channels are well-covered makes sense.
“By ensuring proper numbers of agents, it’s prudent to then increase all service level agreements so that they are appropriately aggressive for the holidays,” said Asher. “Consider that having quicker response times online, over the phone, for emails and texts actually impacts your bottom line.”
While these may seem like basic tips, the reality is that they are often overlooked. Other quick wins a retailer can implement include:
- Updating the IVR – add language to convey a sense of urgency to deliver excellence for the customer.
- Add a holiday ordering express queue – for those who want to order online or over the phone, adding an express queue shows a commitment to delivering on quality and will help create a happy customer.
- Conduct additional training – because you are adding new agents, and to ensure your seasoned agents are prepared, there is no better time to refresh everyone on all the systems and protocols. If you have an outsource partner, fly to their facility and conduct the training onsite.
- Update knowledge bases – if you have not reviewed your KB or FAQs on the website, now is the time. Make sure that all the messages are aligned to ensure smooth, friction-free service.
- Stress test systems – while this is an ongoing protocol, ensuring that everything is running smoothly before the holiday rush is crucial.
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Agents Front and Center
Rather than thinking of contact center agents as troubleshooters or order takers, consider making them front and center as part of the overall holiday strategy. The team will make a major impact in your omni-channel results and ensure that high-touch experiences occur when most needed.
“Review policies to ensure that everything about a purchase is easy. If the customer purchases online and wants to return to the brick and mortar location, that should be easy. If the reverse is true, then make it simple for the return to happen and credit or refunds to be received in a timely fashion,” said Asher. “Too often retailers silo their in-store versus online experiences. They should be seamless.”
Another way agents can provide great customer experiences is to improve the sales process.
“Technology is great when a customer knows what he or she wants. But what about those times where they are on the fence or need a little assistance? The agent can provide consultative selling in a way that technology simply cannot,” said Asher.
Agents can listen, reason and ask questions that support the customer through an entire buying cycle. Whether it’s helping with a return and suggesting a replacement item or asking questions about whom the gift is for and providing ideas, agents can easily improve the shopping experience, particularly during the holidays when stress runs high.
“Agents can and should be cross-trained on both the sales and support side of the equation. Additionally, both the sales and support representatives should be incented so that everyone is highly motivated to perform,” said Asher. “Because customer experience is so crucial, incenting everyone shows how important the overall process is, and reinforces the type of customer focused behavior every retailer should desire.”
Make It Easy
Beyond staffing to increase SLAs, there are a few other areas to consider when preparing for the holidays.
“Self-service is important, and customers expect it. Amazon sets the bar high in this area, which is all the more reason retailers must consider it as part of the mix,” said Asher. “Map out use cases to understand how your holiday shoppers behave so you will know what to expect.”
Many shoppers, holiday season or not, will hit their smart phones when they don’t find what they want in the store. Understanding that this behavior exists will help in keeping their business by making it easy for them to find what they want.
“Some stores have adopted in-store kiosks to allow customers to look for items online they cannot find in the store,” said Asher. “Without some type of vehicle to keep the customer focused on you as the solution, they will go somewhere else.”
The same mentality applies to reaching out for assistance. Shoppers will both call and initiate a chat to see who shows up first.
“By staffing up all channels, you will alleviate some of the impact of this behavior because the customer receives service quickly. It makes them happy, and they will both shop with your brand again and tell their friends about the great service,” said Asher.
Test Your Ideas
The technology is available to improve many retail experiences, but when margins are slim and competition is high, how do you know where to focus your efforts? Even with a proper use case, there are many variables to consider.
“One of the ways we serve our clients is to provide a test environment, using our agents, to try out various types of technology, process and procedure changes,” said Asher. “It’s part of our culture to support our clients in innovating in a positive and rapid fashion to get those quick wins.”
By choosing to deploy the Humach Labs incubator, clients can test technology or process changes over a three- to six-month period using the Humach team as the test bed.
“Humach Labs is an incubator that creates a controlled environment for select clients to rapidly test new solutions to increase their pace of innovation,” said Asher. “It allows the client to test ideas without reallocating precious internal resources while receiving valuable insights from which to make a decision.”