1. Shopper & Customer

Inflation Could Curb Holiday Spending — Keep Shoppers Happy With Excellent Service

A labor shortage, inflation, and ongoing supply chain challenges are set to make the holiday season less festive for retailers and consumers alike. How can your business stand out when shoppers are buying fewer gifts? By providing customer service they can rely on — fast returns, an easy help center, and questions answered with one phone call.

“Customer service can be a revenue booster when done right,” says Kathy Kimple, retail executive director, OSF Digital Strategy. “It can help convert, increase average order volume, and build confidence to drive repeat purchases.”

Salesforce research confirms the close relationship between retail customer service and repeat business. For example, 94% of consumers say good customer service makes them more likely to buy again. On the flip side, 80% will abandon a brand after three bad experiences. That puts pressure on retailers who must entice and delight customers while managing their expectations and complaints, efficiently and seamlessly.

Here’s how you can build a better retail customer service experience so your shoppers stay loyal and spending, now and throughout the entire year. 

Tip #1: Give service employees the full customer view 

Packed aisles, long lines, and frenzied associates paint a conventional picture of holiday shopping. But in today’s connected world, customers have started browsing long before they walk through your door. In fact, Salesforce research found that consumers use as many as nine channels before making a purchase, blending buying journeys with online discovery, price comparison, in-person transactions, and curbside pickup. 

Your goal is to provide fast and efficient support no matter how your patrons shop, but according to 79% of service professionals, it’s impossible to provide great retail customer service without a complete view of customer interactions.

79% of service professionals say it’s impossible to provide great service without a complete view of customer interactions.

To empower associates working virtually and in stores, best-of-breed retailers are investing in customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that knit together customer data from marketing, commerce, and service. According to recent Salesforce research, 62% of service professionals say all departments, including service, sales, and marketing, use the same CRM. 

Top retailers are also prioritizing communication tools that nurture collaboration and deliver key data into the right hands. Nordstrom, for example, uses Slack to share important information with their service agents. It also relies on the platform to train employees, using team channels so employees can connect and share best practices quickly. 

Tip #2: Reduce costs and make shopping easier with self-service

Digital self-service, like customer portals or guided returns, achieves three important goals. First, it satisfies shoppers: 59% of customers prefer digital self-service tools when they have a simple question or issue. Second, it reduces case volume, giving your agents the time they need to focus on customers with urgent or complex issues — essential during the holidays, when call volume is likely to rise. Finally, it saves money: self-service costs pennies, while live assistance can reach $7 per interaction, an expense that has likely risen, given higher labor costs.

When they have a simple question or issue, 59% of customers prefer digital self-service tools. 

To deliver an excellent self-service experience, focus on your help center, customer portal, and digital communication channels: 

Create an easy-to-access help center

A help center — often the first step on the self-service journey — empowers customers to quickly find answers to common questions, like how to start a return or manage a subscription. Your help center page should include articles, answers to frequently asked questions, and videos that provide fit and sizing details or show customers how to use or install products. 

Personalize self-service with a customer portal 

Move beyond simple ecommerce capabilities and empower your customers to manage ordinary tasks. From a secure website, authenticated customers can update their customer profiles, review purchase history and service interactions, and check loyalty status. With a few clicks, an automated digital journey allows customers to track a delivery, start a return, reorder a product, or manage a subscription.

Embrace emerging communication channels 

Younger shoppers are embracing digital service channels like instant messaging, text, and social media, but shoppers of all ages are increasingly using chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to get personalized support. If the bot can’t manage it, it escalates the request to a live agent.

Tip #3: Prioritize voice communications

No one needs the added stress of a mis-delivered gift or a backordered product. Problems like these require prompt and personalized attention over the right channel, and increasingly, that means the telephone: 81% of service professionals say they prefer the phone to address complex cases, up from 76% in 2020. However, delivering efficient service on the phone isn’t always easy, with 78% of service agents saying it’s difficult to balance speed and quality.

Delivering efficient service on the phone isn’t always easy: 78% of service agents say it’s difficult to balance speed and quality — up from 63% in 2020.

To provide efficient voice service, go digital and give your agents the right technology to resolve issues faster. With digital telephony, you can automate call recording and transcribe interactions in real time, so agents can quickly search call data and automate best next actions. And for complex problems, collaboration tools reduce escalations — an essential benefit since 83% of customers expect to solve complex problems by talking to one person.

From a KPI perspective, the benefits of digital telephony are enormous. Salesforce research shows it improves agent productivity, drives customer satisfaction and retention, increases first-call resolution rates, and decreases average call-handle time. It also gives your employees opportunities to learn: You can use the transcription to coach your agents so they can offer more efficient service the next time a similar situation arises. 

Excellent retail customer service is the gift you give your shoppers

Long lines and hold times may be hallmarks of the holiday shopping experience for consumers, but retailers can still make every interaction an opportunity to increase customer loyalty. This year, make sure your service agents have the tools they need to provide prompt and proactive retail customer service — so they can encourage your customers to keep coming back for more.

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