Getting ready for Christmas – 5 areas for retailers to focus on
It may seem like a long time in the future for consumers, but as every retailer knows Christmas is coming – fast. Now is the period for finalizing plans and ensuring that the vital holiday season goes as well as possible. Customer service and the experience you offer consumers is a critical part of this, so what should companies be doing NOW to ready themselves?
Based on my experience working with retailers of all sizes, here are five things to focus on ahead of the busiest time of the year:
1. Ensure you have the right capacity plans
Most companies hire extra staff to work in their contact centers answering questions over the holidays and have already put their recruitment plans in place. However, you also need to ensure you have the technology available that allows them to work productively – have you got enough software licenses to enable everyone to work simultaneously on your customer service platform, for example? Otherwise you risk having staff that cannot do their job properly – or even worse are flying blind, giving information out that could be inconsistent or just plain wrong.
2. Update your knowledge base
Information quickly goes out of date, so make sure that you thoroughly overhaul your knowledge base ahead of the holidays. Talk to your existing agents to pinpoint any areas that need improvement, and ensure you are learning from customers by analyzing the questions they ask and adding the answers to your knowledge base. Having a single, updated source of information is vital to deliver the consistent, fast service that customers demand come Christmas.
3. Plan across the organization
Customer service is a team effort, and everyone in the organization needs to work together. Talk to marketing to find out when your Christmas ad campaign is scheduled to launch, liaise with sales to pinpoint periods of high demand around Black Friday, Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday and work with product teams so that you are fully up to speed on expected best sellers, so that you can better serve those consumers that make contact, whatever channel they use.
4. Test your systems
Your website might have been good enough last year, but consumers are continually demanding more – and competitors are always investing in the experience they offer. Carry out your own mystery shopper tests. Can you easily find the right information on your website? How long does it take to get a response to an email or social media message? Compare your performance with your competitors – you still have time to learn and improve.
5. Ensure you are deflecting what you can
Interaction volumes rocket over the holiday season – but many digital enquiries are actually basic questions that could be answered faster, and more productively online. Forcing consumers to email you about routine matters such as last delivery dates is counter-productive – it annoys them as it delays their shopping journey, and adds to agent workload unnecessarily. This pushes up costs and increases the number of queries you need to answer. If you have web self-service in place ensure your knowledge base is up to date, and make sure that the information customers want to access is clearly displayed on your website. For example, don’t make them go all the way through to purchase to find out shipping costs.
There are many other ways of improving the customer experience, from introducing chat, to integrating back office systems to make sure that agents have a complete picture of the customer. If you don’t feel confident getting these larger projects completed before the holiday season starts, focus on what you can do – starting with the five areas above. That way you can improve efficiency and customer service, making it a Happy Christmas for your customers and yourself.