5 ways to prepare customer care agents for this holiday season

September 27, 2018 | Customer Experience | Blog


women holding shopping bags

Seasonal spikes are the worst time to let customers down.

Frustrated customer after dealing with painful experience with phone support

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner and competition for consumer dollars is increasingly aggressive. Although customer care is typically regarded as a cost center, savvy brands know that 80% of their shoppers will return after a positive customer experience.

That’s why customer care teams must work hard to deliver service on par with what customers are promised. As brands push the envelope to create value, customer care teams need a plan in place for providing high-touch service while handling an inordinate amount of high volume.

“Today’s customers are nimble, moving in and out of channels simultaneously, and they expect brands to deliver an experience that revolves around them and their needs,” according to a July article about holiday shopping in Customer Think.

In short, we all have to deliver seamless consumer experiences.

5 key areas of your customer service that matter most during the shopping process

If your brand hasn’t become fully omnipresent or is still just figuring out what omnichannel is, not to worry. Focusing on these five areas will lead to a heightened customer experience:

1. Accelerate training readiness.

Many contact centers train agents on location (all the while paying agents to sit in classrooms), which results in a slower and less flexible learning process, as material must be geared to the slowest learners.

Instead, ensure your agents are trained on both product and promotional program details in a format that enables rapid delivery of new content.

2. Seek special skills and brand affinity.

Would you rather have contact center seats assigned based on the available local workforce or connect customers with a national pool of people who love and know your brand? By thinking beyond the contact center cubicle to source a virtual workforce, you have a greater opportunity to find better brand ambassadors.

3. Mobile is where it’s at.

Nearly half of holiday shoppers (46 percent) are likely to browse or purchase products on their smartphone, according to Survey Monkey.

Retailers “have to be ready for whatever part of the customer journey consumers want to execute on their phones. They need to think about mobile not just as a place where transactions occur, but a place to serve customers stock information, pricing information, and detailed comparison information,” said Adobe Digital Insights director Taylor Schreiner.

By closing the technology gap, retailers are giving customers ways to access a certain degree of information they’ll use to make confident buying decisions but can only go so far. At a certain point of complexity, they will want to talk to a human agent with product and service expertise. That agent will need to be ready to pick up where mobile and web information drops off as seamlessly as possible.

4. Digital must be shored up with social.

Not only is it a given that your social channels must now be treated as an equal avenue for customer interaction, but it is also the top choice among Millennials.

One caveat: A strong supporting social media strategy is ideal but only when it points to equally stellar digital shopping and service experiences. When customer care and digital/social channels aren’t aligned, service issues arise and brand affinity takes a hit.

Customers with critical issues may start their sales and service experience on social or digital but uplevel to contacting support directly as issues progress. Make sure each touch point is consistent with information and upholding the set standards of excellent customer service.

5. Design a workforce that flexes.

Whether driven by time of day, sales promotions, media buys or holidays, be sure you can rapidly ramp up the number of agents available to handle customer interactions. Now is when to reinforce your teams that are key for customer experience. Waiting until the shopping season is closer could prove disastrous, given the tight labor market.

Pro tip: Hiring for seasonal ebbs and flows doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice talent. Download 3 Strategies to improve customer service flexibility so, when demand hits, you have a plan to scale:

Where to look for service talent this holiday season

For retailers that put a high priority on customer care but find themselves running into the same notorious challenges with shopper experience, the virtual model can help.

What is a virtual customer service model?

In a nutshell, going virtual gives brands the ability to source and retain talent based on skill and experience instead of geographic location. When deployed correctly, remote agents consistently perform above market averages and report higher levels of job satisfaction.

Along with the higher caliber of talent you can get with a dispersed model, looking beyond sourcing geographically creates flexibility to complement the peaks and lulls inherent to retail.

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Nicolas Gutierrez

Nicolas Gutierrez leads new business efforts for retail accounts at Liveops. Nicolas has spent over 20 years working with major retail brands, immersing himself in their business objectives and defining effective, on-brand solutions.

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