Expecting higher call volume but want to maintain service levels? This holiday season, give your customers the gift of faster, more personalized customer support on their channels of choice.  

After a year unlike any other, the holidays are here.

But, if you’ve been managing or supporting contact centers for a while, you understand the holidays present their own set of unique customer service challenges. Challenges like: 

  • increased call volume
  • seasonal employees to train
  • and issues with omnichannel shopping and conversation. 

In fact, ZenDesk data shows during the holiday shopping season ticket volume normally increases an average of 42%. 

Well, this holiday season promises to be… a little different.

In 2018, Martech Today reported calls to businesses rose more than 375% over the past two holiday seasons and retailers can expect even more calls this holiday season. In fact, marketing analytics platform DialogTech found that from February 2020 to the beginning of July 2020, their retail customers saw nearly a 75% increase in inbound phone calls. 

If you’re a contact center admin or IT director who wants to prepare your call center for an influx of calls, this article will help you do just that.

Let’s dive in.

This is what the holiday shopping season looks like during the coronavirus pandemic

You may be expecting an influx of calls, but this year presents a couple other differences like having your contact center agents working from home and holiday shoppers with public health concerns.

Expect shoppers to rely on call center agents to ask questions, check inventory, and help them make purchases.

People are hesitant to shop in-store because of safety concerns with 60% of holiday shoppers planning to shop less in-store this season because of fear of COVID-19 exposure. 

Some of the shoppers who plan to buy from stores will use your call center to get information about online purchases they’ll pick up. The number of shoppers who plan to buy items online for in-store pickup during the holidays has increased to 51.7%, up 20.8% compared with 2019.

Make sure your contact center teams have the tools they need to communicate with your customers. Learn more

Is your contact center prepared for the 2020 holiday season?

As you can see, you’re going to want to get ready for holiday shopping in 2020.

Not only can you expect higher call volume but be prepared for shoppers who already think it is hard to get good support during the holidays.

A CorvisaCloud and uSamp survey found 69% of consumers said customer service during the holiday season was worse than the rest of the year.

So, how can you prepare to best serve your customers?

Two ways are to hire more support staff and to invest in technology that will help your team manage the spike in volume.

Unfortunately, only 58% of retailers invest in technology to help manage holiday spikes according to Retail Dive. The same survey, which involved over 350 senior retail decision-makers, found 53% believe they can remain competitive by simply hiring extra staff.

But hiring more people won’t provide your company with all the benefits of a cloud-based phone system with the right software integrations. Tools like live chat, customer recognition software and Intelligent Call Back allow you to communicate with your customers through a variety of channels and deliver the customer service quality they expect. 

Maybe that’s why 74% of people think shopping is more of a hassle now than at any other time of the year and 91% believe companies should be better prepared to address customer service issues that develop during the holiday shopping season.

13 simple yet effective tips that’ll give your customers some much needed holiday cheer

If you’re looking for ways to prepare your customer service agents, we’ve got you covered. Here are thirteen ways to improve the customer experience this holiday season.

  1. Give contact center agents the information they need — Update your team with the latest information (return policies, set up guides, etc.) Use an integrated solution like RingCentral to hold a video conference with your at-home contact center agents and get your whole team on the same page.
  2. Give your agents access to experts — Let them reach product experts or subject matter experts via chat and phone to help your contact center agents better serve your customers and get their issue resolved so they can get back to enjoying their holiday.
  3. Give your team props –Show your appreciation for contact center agents working on holidays. You can give anything from small perks to preferential scheduling, to a raffle ticket for a ‘big-ticket’ item.
  4. Give customers self-service options — 67% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative. Because of this, your FAQ can be a great place to address all holiday-related questions.
  5. Give customers a heads-up — If something is wrong with an order or delivery dates change, contact your customers and let them know. 82% of customers expect retailers to proactively reach out to them if there is a problem with their order.
  6. Give your customers options — Omnichannel support is critical as nearly 90% of customers are frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. 
  7. Give rewards to your teams who are working — Sometimes attendance can be an issue during the holiday season. You can run an incentive for agents with perfect attendance. Prizes could include time off (after the holidays), gift cards, or cash.
  8. Give callers a call-back option — Use an intelligent call back feature to offer your callers the choice to schedule a call back instead so that they don’t have to wait on hold during their holiday.   
  9. Get with the holiday spirit — Play some holiday music for callers who have to hold for an agent. 48% of consumers said they prefer holiday music when placed on hold. But they don’t want to have to listen to it for more than a few minutes — 32% said they would hang up if left on hold for more than five minutes.
  10. Get personal — Make personalized offers. A recent survey found 70% of consumers say they will shop exclusively with brands that demonstrate they personally understand them this holiday season. Plus, 49% of shoppers say they’re more likely to purchase from retailers that send personalized offers.
  11. Get callers to the person who can best solve their problem — Use interactive voice response (IVR) to ask callers why they’re calling, route them to the best destination based on their responses, provide answers to common questions (such as FAQs about your COVID-19 precautions and store hours), and more.
  12. Give your team the right technology — Give agents the tools they need to succeed. Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, said, “If agents are having to hunt through multiple disconnected databases to find answers, or toggle back and forth between too many screens on their desktop, they’re never going to be able to provide a good customer experience. Sure, new solutions can eat into capital (or operating expenses, in the case of cloud-based solutions). But lost customers WILL eat into profits.” 
  13. Get ready for the aftermath — You may continue to see high call volume after the holidays. According to a survey, 46% of consumers said they were more likely to call with a customer service question the week after Christmas. 

Will your customers feel you’ve treated them naughty or nice?

Research shows that 56% of customers choose where to shop during last year’s holiday season based on past experiences. 

When people interact with companies they expect a consistent experience. What experience will you deliver this year?

It’s not too late to learn more about our cloud contact center or see a demo.

Will you add to the stress shoppers feel during the holidays or take advantage of RingCentral’s cloud customer engagement solutions to make sure you have happy agents and, in turn, happy customers?