The 2021 Holiday Season is Fast Approaching
Peak season for retail and eCommerce companies is quickly approaching and for many brands the fourth quarter is often the busiest and most lucrative time of year. Last year the COVID-19 pandemic drastically accelerated the shift towards online shopping and produced lasting changes in consumer retail behavior. According to Adobe Analytics, eCommerce purchases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday increased by 50% from 2019 to 2020 and by all measures this year will be no different with consumers having pent-up demand and consumer spending continuing to grow throughout 2021. In today's competitive digital retail environment, brands have to prioritize customer support as a key part of their customer retention strategy or they otherwise face dire consequences: a recent Microsoft report found that 61% of consumers polled have ceased to do business with a brand due to poor customer service. With what is shaping up to be another extremely busy holiday season it's critical that brands prepare their customer support processes to handle substantial increases in requests.
We sat down with Aaron Corn from Rue Gilt Groupe (Gilt.com and Rue La La) and Ben Segal from Pair Eyewear, two seasoned CX leaders within the DTC retail space, to hear how they're preparing for this upcoming busy season and what tips they have for brands to ensure that their customer service stays top-notch. Below is a summary of our conversation and the four biggest takeaways:
1. Prepare Early and Ensure that Enough Ramp for your Entire Team
Contact volume for the vast majority of brands spikes during the busy season, sometimes by 40 to 50%, and often CX leaders allocate additional headcount for seasonal staff to help with the additional volume. Aaron notes that as a best practice he makes sure that his seasonal hires have at least one month of experience within his organization prior to the busy season starting. In order to achieve this, he recommends having all hiring decisions and training complete by early fall. Ben mentioned that in today's remote working environment, CX leaders should pad in extra time for training and ramp for new hires; teams should update training materials and internal processes to accommodate distributed and remote teams.
2. Focus on Training your Seasonal Staff for Specific Types of Issues
With new staff coming on and high contact volumes, it is critical that CX organizations seamlessly scale during the busy period. Ben, in talking through his strategic approach to the holiday rush, recommended that seasonal agents are trained and well-versed on lower level sales questions and senior agents are focused on complex and multi-touch customer issues. Aaron also recommends creating special groups to handle specific types of contacts that either have high complexity or high frequency, this ensures focus on the core team and is a way to keep response times quick through specialization.
3. Be Proactive and Transparent with Customers
Proactive and simple outreach to customers informing them of high volume times is something that helps CX teams level set customer expectations and preserve trust. Ben notes that the key during the busy season is being, "transparent with the customer and level setting while being as proactive as possible." He suggests sending out emails to existing customers and level setting that support responses might be slower but recommends outlining how CX teams are addressing the volume i.e. hiring additional staff etc to establish an understanding user base.
4. Use Automation Where you Can
Both Aaron and Ben recommend leveraging automation to help deflect some of the additional volume and handle the routing and escalations to ensure that response times are held within SLA frameworks. Automation can substantially benefit teams across the following categories:
- Routing and Escalation: Having the right tools in place is crucial to effectively routing tickets to the right specialized groups during the busy season. Automated escalation of high priority tickets helps ensure faster response times and lowers the administrative burden on teams opening up more time to focus on the customer. Aaron and Ben both use Lang's routing and insights capabilities to identify customer trends in real-time and route incoming issues to the agents best equipped to handle them. As a best practice during the busy season, Ben sends simple low-level tickets to new agents and has his experienced agents handle the more complex issues.
- Automated Response: It's important to ensure to level set expectations with customers and automated replies are a very effective way of ensuring that customers know their tickets are being handled. Ben specifically notes that, "a simple response that confirms ticket receipt and outlines how teams are handling the additional volume can go a long way for maintaining customer trust and providing transparency." Brands can differentiate their overall support experience by providing clear and transparent communication with their customers; this specifically goes a long way during the busy season when a significant portion of a brand's incoming tickets are from new customers who are transacting with your business for the first time.
- Chatbots: Aaron and Ben both also deploy chatbots to handle simpler one-touch issues though both note that an effective chatbot strategy has to be balanced with personal touches from live agents. In addition to achieving a balance between people and technology, Aaron recommends that the overall effectiveness of chatbots be augmented with self-service content. Ben specifically recommended Ada as a key part of his chatbot strategy and is currently deflecting 70% of his incoming chats with the chatbot product.
Aaron mentioned that a strong automation strategy is key for scaling an effective and customer-centric CX organization but, "ultimately it comes down to having the right balance of technology and people to provide great customer experience". Not all tickets can be deflected through technology so it is important to think through what is the right balance of automated and personal touches for your specific brand and product offering.
With the holiday busy season fast approaching, it's important that CX leaders take the right actions now to prepare. Customer support is a critical differentiator for all brands and following the steps outlined above can help CX organizations effectively scale and handle the increased volumes with a customer-centric focus. It's important to achieve a balance within your busy season strategy across the four key pillars of People, Training, Communication and Automation in the coming months; this will help ensure smooth customer interactions and a successful holiday season.
Book a demo with our team to learn how the Lang Platform can help you this busy season