We’re still not sure how an uncertain economy could impact the upcoming holiday shopping season. But one thing IS certain: Retailers have spent a lot of money acquiring new customers over the past few years, and they want that investment to pay off. It’s essential you focus on keeping existing customers loyal, and retail customer service could be the game-changer.
Our research shows that 94% of consumers say good 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 to manage customer expectations and complaints efficiently and seamlessly.
Here’s how to build a better customer service experience so your shoppers stay loyal throughout the entire year.
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Tip #1: Give associates a complete view of customer data
Salesforce research shows 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. You aim 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.
To give associates that complete view, retailers are investing in customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that knit together customer data from marketing, commerce, and service. Top retailers also prioritize communication tools that nurture collaboration and deliver key data into the right hands.
Tip #2: Use generative AI for faster, personalized service
As shopper numbers surge during peak holiday shopping, service caseload volumes increase. Retailers can use generative artificial intelligence (AI) to help speed up and streamline customer service operations. And despite what you may have heard, AI-powered solutions can provide empathetic, personalized service that delights customers and quickly resolves issues.
Generative AI analyzes algorithms and patterns to generate new and original content. A natural fit for retail customer service environments, when done right, it can elevate your customer engagement and operational efficiency.
Use generative AI to:
- Enable deeper and more personalized chatbot interactions that feel more human. Rather than dictate from a script, generative AI bots draw on a customer’s personal data and history to generate rich and detailed questions and responses, so customers can accomplish more without the help of a live agent.
- Draft personalized email and text responses to customer inquiries. Rather than responding with form letters, generative AI crafts unique replies drawing on the customer’s question and history with you.
- Generate wrap-up summaries so agents can avoid reading through long call transcripts.
- Create knowledge articles in your database, based on resolved cases, for agents to access to more quickly resolve future customer issues.
- Analyze trends in social posts and customer feedback regarding your products, service, and brand to create a feedback loop.
Tip #3: Make finding answers easier with self-service
No matter the time of year, our research shows 59% of customers prefer self-service for answering questions about simple issues like order status or store locations. To make the most of your self-service portal during busy holiday shopping moments, be sure they are simple to use and information is easy to find:
- Create an easy-to-access help center: Include articles, videos with sizing or installation tips, and answers to frequently asked questions like how to start a return or manage a subscription.
- Personalize self-service with a customer portal: Allow customers to manage ordinary tasks like updating their profiles, reviewing purchase history and service interactions, and checking loyalty status.
- Guide them through the process: Connect self-service to guided workflows so customers can do things like create return labels quickly. Have an easy way to direct shoppers to your help center for more information.
Keep interactions simple, intuitive, and fast.
Tip #4: Embrace emerging communications channels
The holiday season is notorious for spikes in service interactions, and the pressure is on retailers to let consumers engage with service where and when they prefer. 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 AI to get personalized support. In fact, the number of customers overall who prefer using organizations’ dedicated mobile apps is now almost equal to those who favor messenger apps, like WeChat and Facebook Messenger.
If your bot can’t manage an issue, however, be sure you make live help readily available. Your chatbots should offer the option to transfer to live support from all website pages. Also, make it easy for shoppers to find other retail customer service options, like voice.
Tip #5: Prioritize phone communication
Self-service, live chat, and even text are growing in popularity, but 81% of service agents say customers prefer the phone for complex issues, up from 76% in 2020.
It’s critical to give agents – whether at the call center, in a store, or even at home – access to marketing, sales, and service data so they can efficiently resolve complex cases:
- Improve speed-to-serve: With a complete record of customer interactions and transactions on one screen, agents won’t have to toggle between systems, increasing their efficiency and response time.
- Empower agents with greater visibility: 83% of customers expect to solve problems by speaking to one person. With access to data across departments, agents can answer complicated questions faster — like how to redeem loyalty points on an email offer while arranging in-store pickup at the same time.
- Anticipate customer needs: With visibility into previous interactions, agents can anticipate and answer questions quickly and, more importantly, provide clear follow-up actions and next steps.
Tip # 6: Make online returns simpler and more convenient
With nearly 17.9% of purchases heading back to stores, warehouses, or landfills, merchandise returns cost retailers billions every year. Rather than scaling back your generous return policies, however, use returns as an opportunity to build brand love. After all, 95% percent of customers say a bad returns experience makes them less likely to buy from a brand again.
With the right strategy, you can streamline the returns service experience for customers, retain revenue, and save on costs.
- Help them make the right choice from the start: Enhance product pages with customer reviews, user-generated photos, and sizing charts to minimize returns.
- Encourage exchanges: When a customer requests a return online, offer personalized product recommendations to replace the initial purchase.
- Automate returns: Let customers generate their own return authorization codes and labels, and make shipping free.
- Collect returns from a centralized location: Allow customers to drop returns at a central location, whether that’s your own stores or a third-party returns provider.
- Enable instant refunds: We found 46% of customers say instant refunds make returns easier. As soon as your employee scans the return shipping label, issue the refund.
Make retail customer service a key holiday strategy
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.
Drive costs down and loyalty up this holiday season
Get our guide for cost-saving tips that engage customers all year long.