There's no doubt that now is a tough time for retail businesses. In 2021, global retail growth fell by 5.7%, and 84% of customers changed their shopping behaviors because of COVID-19.
Naturally, acing customer service during this coming holiday season is crucial for many businesses, as providing good service can keep loyal customers coming back. So, to help you enhance your customer service during this year's holiday rush, we'll share five tips to nail customer expectations in this article.
Embrace customer service trends
Leveraging popular customer service trends can help you give customers an experience they'll remember, as it will set you apart from your competitors.
To identify trends you could use, gather a list of customer service trends you've noticed in your business, your competitors, or online resources like this 'Strategies for SMB owners to stay ahead this holiday season' article.
Once you've gathered your list of trends, separate them into three categories:
- Effective trends
- Trends that have the potential to be effective
- Ineffective trends
Using your list of effective and potentially effective trends, make a shortlist of ideas that could work this coming season. You may also want to include "evergreen" holiday trends that never die out, including:
- Gift wrapping
- Free shipping
- Holidays cards
- Holiday sales
- Festive decorations
Then, take your shortlist and brainstorm ways to implement the trend into your business with a fresh spin. For example, 40% of businesses gave customers curbside service last year. You could give this trend a fresh spin by adding festive decorations to your curbside spot, asking your staff to dress up, and giving out festive cards to customers.
Set customer expectations
Research from Salesforce shows that 92% of customers are more likely to make a repeat purchase from a brand that provides a positive customer service experience. However, only 30% of customers are willing to purchase from a company with wait times.
This tells you one thing: if you don't meet your customer's service standards, they may not repurchase from you.
You can meet customer standards during the holiday season by setting clear expectations. This means telling customers upfront:
- How COVID-19 will impact their order
- How your exchange and return policies work
- What are your estimated shipping times for out-of-stock items are
- About any potential stock delays
- How your customer feedback process works
- What couriers do you use
You can make these things clear by including them in the 'Frequently Asked Questions section of your website, putting them on the back of your receipts, and posting notices about them in your store.
Use automated workflows
According to data from SuperOffice, 75% of customers believe that fast response times are the most crucial customer service attribute.
And as the holiday season is hectic for many stores, you may want to put automated workflow tools in place to deliver a fast response time to customers. Automated workflow tools allow you to outsource essential integration and filing tasks to a machine, freeing up your customer service representatives to respond to customers quickly.
You can add automated workflow software into your business by signing up for a tool like Zapier or one of its cheaper alternatives. Then, simply integrate it with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Point of Sale (POS) systems.
Keep your team morale high
Keeping your staff morale high can make your store perform better during the holidays, as people are more productive when they work in a positive environment.
To keep your employee morale high, try these teamwork effectiveness ideas:
- Set goals for staff to work towards (and reward them once they get there)
- Clearly define each staff member's responsibilities to avoid scope creep
- Set standard processes for tasks
- Integrate fun activities into the workweek to build bonds between staff
- Foster an environment of transparency
Use customer self-service
Self-service is becoming increasingly popular with consumers, as research from 2019 shows that 73% of consumers like self-service technologies in retail stores. This is up 10.6% from 2018.
While you may associate self-service with checkouts, you don't need a fully autonomous checkout system to embrace self-service. Instead, you could embrace it by:
- Adding a knowledge base to your website to answer common product questions
- Supplementing in-person and phone-based customer service with email and social media-based customer service
- Adding an automated task management platform to your website to let customers file return and warranty requests themselves
- Adding live chat software and a voice assistant to your website
Alternatively, you could try some of the ideas covered in this 'Small business customer retention strategies 101' eBook from InvoiceBerry.
How to enhance your customer service during the holidays
The Christmas season is usually a busy time for retail stores, as sales increase by an average of 3.6% - 5.2% during November and December. Naturally, it can be a tricky period for customer service, as your staff often need to work hard to keep up with customers.
To keep your customer service practices strong these holidays, embrace new trends, set your customer's expectations, try automated workflow software, boost your team's morale, and consider self-service options for your store.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.