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5 Tips to Prepare Your Customer Service Team for the Holidays

Hello Autumn! As the leaves begin to change, and the smell of Pumpkin Spice Lattes spill out the doors of your local Starbucks, we’re beginning to think of the impending holiday season. Spoiler alert - total retail sales are expected to grow from 2016, with retailers ramping up to support their customers during the busiest shopping time of the year.

Before we get into our tips and tricks to surviving the holiday ramp, let’s recap 2016:

Retail sales in November and December of 2016 grew by 4.8%, representing the strongest growth in the past five years. Although overall retail growth was strong, spending varied across categories. While online sales channels reported an increase in holiday spend, traditional department and discount stores continued to experience declines. This trend towards ecommerce shopping was spurned on by millennials, where 52% plan to do their holiday shopping online.

Holiday 2017 forecast:

Total retail sales are predicted to grow 3.7% in 2017, up from 2.9% in the fourth quarter of 2016 (FierceRetail). Like 2016, this holiday season will see e-commerce sales continue to boost total retail sales. eMarketer predicts that online sales growth will rapidly increase during the holiday season, a staggering 16.6% compared with last year’s growth rate of 14.3%.

We’re preparing for the holiday rush by sharing our 5 best practices to help your customer service team exceed expectations this season.

Here’s Our 5 Best Practices to Prepare Your Customer Service Team

  1. Advertise your sales channel: As you begin to create your holiday sales campaigns, take care to advertise your sales channel on every promotional item – online banners, ads, email blasts, direct mail pieces, etc. Don’t bury your toll-free number or chat tool deep into the shopping cart process. Instead, make it easy for your customers to contact you by putting them up on every page of your website, ensuring your customers can contact you at their convenience.
  1. Ramp up your coverage: Similar to how you prepare your retail stores, you must also ramp up your online staff during the holiday season. Your customer service team should be available 24/7 to cover overnight shoppers, and the varying time zones of international customers.
  1. Make use of your IVR: Using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology can be very beneficial in smoothing consumer demands during the holiday sales season. You can use IVR to efficiently route calls and collect caller information in advance, reducing the average cost per call. An IVR also provides a self-serve  experience, reducing the number of callers that need to be serviced by a live representative. 
         Related - Case Study: White Glove Service
  1. Take advantage of omnichannel support: In days gone by, brands could use one channel, such as voice, to support their customers. However, consumers are continuing to connect with brands on more channels than ever. An omnichannel approach combining voice, live chat, email, social media, etc. provides a consistent and agile solution, ensuring that brands are present in all of the spaces their customers are.
  1. Don’t forget about the post-sales rush: Retailers cannot overlook the importance of customer service AFTER the holiday season. Due to the rise in gift card sales and the popularity of end-of-season clearances, post-holiday revenues are on the rise. Retailers should use this opportunity to sell end-of-season stock and try to make or exceed their year end revenue targets. Customer inquiries also tend to also increase as questions arise for returns, shipping status, and technical support. Customer care after December 25th is just as critical as driving revenue prior to it, and by continuing to fulfill customer needs and provide service after the holidays you will establish brand loyalty and strengthen the probability of repeat purchases.

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