With Black Friday right around the corner, shoppers are bracing themselves for the flash sales, mall mayhem and 4:00 am wake up calls that have become synonymous with the holiday. Often overlooked is what happens after consumers make their $4.5 billion worth of purchases. The days following Black Friday are notorious for customer-service breakdowns such as hold times of upward of one hour and abandoned help desk requests.
Given that 86 percent of consumers will cease doing business with a company after just one negative experience, according to the “Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact Report,” savvy brands know that an effective customer-service strategy is the key to a successful holiday spending season. Here are a few tips on how retailers can deliver superior service and drive loyalty this Black Friday and beyond.
Clearly communicate across all departments
The first step towards an effective customer-service strategy is to ensure everyone in the organization is aware of the initiatives taking place over the spending season. Customers are won and lost based on the knowledge of front-line staff. Whether it is an associate who works the floor of a big-box retailer or a sales assistant with an e-commerce brand, all staff should be able to answer any question that relates to holiday specials.
For example, if a retailer will be rolling out a promotion of a $200 television set, every team member should be given a thorough FAQ that contains product info and details on the sale.
Take a strategic approach to staffing
Customer service is often the last thing retail executives think about when planning for the holidays, when it should be the first. This mentality is often transferred onto the hiring of seasonal team members; many major brands will wait until Black Friday is only a few days away to bring on additional customer-service agents. While this approach may seem more fiscally responsible, it is important to keep in mind that these agents will be interacting with customers who may be engaging with the brand for the very first (and possibly only) time.
If a retailer cannot afford to bring on staff in the weeks leading up to the Black Friday, to ensure ample time for training, it should consider dividing up its representatives based on the company’s holiday sales strategy. For example, phone agents and online support staff can be trained and mobilized to only receive inquiries relating to “Where’s my order” or to a specific promotion. This strategy offers customers a better quality experience while minimizing costs for the brand.
Give customer-service reps autonomy
Retailers will commonly say that they do not want their agents to sound like robots, and then turn around and treat them like robots. Customer-service representatives need to have the ability to resolve basic inquiries on the first interaction. Agents should be given thresholds in regards to how much they are authorized to refund consumers who are dissatisfied with a product. Staff should also be allotted a set amount of credit that they can offer to customers when a complaint needs to be made right.
Empowering staff to work through customer issues with authority will create deeper, more personal interactions and spare consumers the frustration of being bounced around between different people.
Incentivize customers to “help themselves”
Self-service is a much-talked about “new frontier” of customer service. It is becoming more and more common for retailers to rely on mobile apps, social media chatbots and live co-browsing to reduce their overhead and customer hold times. However, if brands want their customers to gravitate towards these tools, they need to come up with creative ways to make it worth it for them.
For example, offering a special code that can only be used online or making certain sales available exclusively on a mobile app are all effective ways to drive customers towards self-service.
The holiday spending season presents retailers with a fantastic opportunity to build relationships with new customers. By ensuring that every interaction is engaging and effective, retailers are positioning themselves for growth and year-round success.
Summer Dennis is president and COO of Inktel Contact Center Solutions, one of the country’s largest privately owned providers of third-party customer-service solutions. The company provides support services in the form of online chat, social media, U.S.-based call centers, email response and marketing data analysis to some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 brands.