Holiday season performance is ‘make it or break it’ for the entire year for most retailers, and Holiday 2021 is certainly no exception. Mike Myer, CEO and co-founder of Quiq looks at the challenges ahead.
Now more than any other time of year, e-Commerce becomes a more dominant force in companies’ sales, and subsequently, online customer experience.
Retailers are already feeling the effects of pandemic-related seasonal headwinds, putting pressure on consumer confidence, full-time and temporary staff, and the supply chain. In fact, 2021 is forecast to be one of the most treacherous holiday seasons since the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
The Great Resignation is also upon us. Workers are leaving their jobs in every industry — from restaurants and grocery stores to corporate offices, big-box retail and more. In August 2021 alone, 4.3 million Americans resigned — the equivalent of 2.9% of our country’s workforce. Layering on unrelenting supply chain issues, retailers must arm themselves with tools and technology that can help them post a better-than-expected season.
There’s Good News
Before we bah-humbug Holiday 2021 away, there are still many reasons to stay optimistic. There are still actions you can take to make the most of some less-than-savory seasonal predictions. Make the season a little merrier with these seven tips to help your company weather the Holiday 2021 ‘Everything Shortage.’
Tip #1: Keep It Conversational
The recommended strategy adopted by leading e-Commerce brands is to be proactive and personal with your customer experience. Try taking on a conversational approach using text messaging channels like SMS/text, WhatsApp, Instagram or web chat, so customers can interact with you just like they do with family and friends. Retailers focusing on personalized and conversational CX will stay better aligned with e-Commerce growth goals, keep their customers happy.
Tip #2: Prepare Potential Scenarios
There’s nothing companies can do about all those shipping containers waiting off the coasts. You can’t physically fulfill a backorder for a customer who’s been waiting days, weeks or even months for a product to show up at the door. But, there’s a lot we can say as customer service professionals to lessen frustrations and even enhance a buyer’s loyalty.
From shipping problems to return policies, riding the supply chain shortage storm means being more prepared than ever by anticipating customer concerns before they even happen. Audit, assess, revise and add potential scenarios to customer journey maps ahead of the holidays, so teams are ready and waiting with the right responses for any situation. For instance, if a customer’s order is delayed, proactively send them a notice and if they visit your website, greet them with a popup, “We’re sorry that your order has been delayed. It is expected to be shipped on <date>”.
Being over-prepared this season is a strong strategy.
Tip #3: Streamline Call Center Communications Technology
Chances are high that your customer experience team is still working remotely or in a hybrid situation, so efficiency is key. Look for tools that can easily integrate with your current CRM and other critical systems so your existing workflow is preserved and all your data is in one place, which will lessen the need for training.
Many newer technologies, like conversational AI chatbots and digital messaging platforms have been built to integrate with your existing CRM. These systems are easy to learn and implement in contact centers with both full-time and seasonal staff. In addition to improving the overall customer experience in contact centers, these technologies can also be implemented internally to help employees troubleshoot issues with one another. Human Resources teams are also getting on board and using SMS, for example, to improve internal communications and employee experience, which in turn can improve the motivation and energy of customer service teams.
Tip #4: Use the Same Systems Online and in Your Brick-and-Mortar Locations
A well-integrated CX center will have the same systems in place wherever employees need to interact with customers. This is critically important in our current environment where situations (like a global pandemic) are largely out of our control and can result in the need for brick-and-mortar stores to offer socially distanced ordering, pick-up and delivery services.
Essentially, the best customer service communication tools can be flexed wherever your people are.
Tip #5: Take Advantage of Technology
Growing e-Commerce means having a solid contact center in place that is prepared to handle a multitude of questions and concerns in a way that is conversational and personal. Sure, there is some level of trial and error to the process of getting it right, but if pandemic culture has taught us anything, it’s that technology is here to help.
Tip #6: Prepare Your Returns Process with Reverse-Logistics
Ten percent of retail sales in 2020 were returned, and as long as e-Commerce remains a top way to shop, the volume of returns companies will manage is likely only to increase.
Returns typically represent a significant source of inbound inquiries. As such, it’s a good idea to look into automated tech with bots that move your customer service agents away from manual returns processes.
The last thing companies need their support staff doing is processing returns when they were hired to foster engagement with customers in need of personalized assistance.
Tip #7: Plan Early for Next Year
Although we’re already in the thick of the holiday buying rush, company contact centers that lack sophisticated CX technologies like chatbots and text messaging can still benefit from tracking what works and what doesn’t work throughout this season. From there, teams should regroup early in 2022 to start planning for next year’s season and exploring options that fit their e-Commerce strategic goals.
And remember: supply chain concerns, shipping anxieties and The Great Resignation won’t last forever. Before we know it, we’ll be toasting to a new year, and with it, new goals and opportunities for a fantastic 2022.
About the Author
Mike Myer is CEO and co-founder of Quiq. Quiq combines AI and human agents to increase efficiency, drive revenue, and improve customer satisfaction.