Christmas is coming: How to deal with an increase in customer service activity
The average retailer experiences a 75% increase in customer service requests during the Christmas period. The uptick in enquiries over the holidays places enormous pressure on customer service teams each year.
Preparing months in advance for the festive rush ensures that your retail or eCommerce brand can hire all the customer support you need to maximise sales and win over returning customers.
But, retail businesses don’t have to hire permanent full-time employees to handle the volume of Christmas customer service requests. Outsourcing customer experience advisors can be a cost-effective solution.
With that in mind, we’ve created a handy Christmas Customer checklist (and checked it twice), so you can get a jump start on the competition by providing excellent retail customer support over the festive season.
Prepare for the increase in customer service enquiries months in advance of Christmas
The total amount of UK online Christmas sales reached a whopping £17.6 billion in 2021 –– 36% higher than 2019 eCommerce Christmas sales figures. For brick-and-mortar retailers, UK Christmas sales surpassed £44.3 billion –– a great year for both sectors, despite the setbacks of pandemic restrictions worldwide.
Christmas 2022 is set to be another busy year for shoppers. Despite the ever-growing popularity of online shopping and browsing, studies show that the average eCommerce conversion rate remains low at around 2.23%.
Smartphone shopping is a hugely popular way to buy Christmas gifts. Research shows that 67% of UK internet users shop from mobile devices. However, findings from BigCommerce show that 75% of eCommerce customers will abandon websites not optimised for mobile payments. These figures may, at least in part, demonstrate why eCommerce conversion rates remain so low.
Therefore, to get ahead of competitors, businesses must start optimising their website months before the festive season. On top of this, companies should ensure their sites can manage increased traffic. Brands can also consider hiring multichannel customer service teams to help with requests from all touchpoints in the buyer’s journey.
Outsourcing temporary customer support can help brands plug customer service personnel gaps while they’re developing websites ahead of the pre-Christmas rush. Researching customer support solutions early gives companies enough time to find the perfect customer experience partners.
Outsourcing teams like Sigma Connected can handle multichannel communication, offer multilingual support (for international Christmas shoppers), and go above and beyond to give customers the best buying experiences on all devices. .
One-two months before Christmas
Closer to October and November (ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday) examine store inventory levels and logistics to ensure supply chains can handle the seasonal spike in sales.
Business intelligence software can help optimise stock levels and lower logistics costs. The money saved in optimising production cycles, can be reinvested into improving your customer service provisions.
For example, offering free or express shipping over Christmas can help boost sales. Also, consider extending your returns policy until 31st January to help people return or exchange their unwanted gifts. Christmas customer service promotions like these and others help to foster brand loyalty over the long term.
In addition to extending customer services provisions and optimising the logistics cycle, plan brand marketing promotions a couple of months ahead of the holiday season, to ensure maximum impact on audiences.
Here are some Christmas marketing promotions to try out with customers:
- Bundle ranges of products together and apply a Christmas discount
- Set up holiday giveaways and competitions
- Create gift guides of recommended products
In the run-up to Christmas, inform customer services teams of promotional terms and conditions. Also, ensure that CRM systems integrate with external customer service teams, for efficient call handling.
One-three weeks before Christmas
At the start of December, check customer service rotas are in order and you have all the necessary human resources for this busy time of year. Outsourcing teams can help fill in for employees taking time off over the holiday period. It would help to also consider hiring extra customer service advisors for the days running up to and including Christmas Eve.
Ensure that all customer experience staff use multichannel communication tools to interact with customers shopping for the ideal Christmas gift. Whether your store visitors use email, telephone, or shop in person, train new customer service teams on product features and frequently asked questions about your brand.
At this point in the festive sales rush, advertise pre-Christmas delivery dates to ensure you can process as many successful orders as possible before the Christmas delivery cut-off deadline. Also, remember to create website pop-up ads and automated messages highlighting Christmas opening times.
It’s best to also prepare your store and customer service teams for unwanted gift returns and post-Christmas sales enquiries before Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve –– Expect an increase in customer service requests
Before the big day, expect a sudden influx of last-minute Christmas shoppers.
From a customer service perspective, Christmas Eve is a crucial day for establishing long-term loyalty with customers. Christmas is a sentimental time of year for many people. So, if one of your team members helps a customer in a hurry find the perfect gift, that customer may recommend your brand to their friends and family.
Wherever possible, encourage your team to go above and beyond to make your Christmas customer service special.
Finally, before closing your doors for the holidays, make sure to wish all your customers and staff a very Merry Christmas.
Christmas Day –– Plan for Christmas customer service support staff
Enjoy your rest on Christmas Day, and consider using outsourced teams to help you handle Christmas Day enquiries in your teams’ absence.
You may, for instance, get some requests from customers who are not celebrating the holiday. You may also receive some returns requests or enquiries about your post-Christmas sales in between your Christmas dinner courses and mince pies.
Make sure your store is equipped to handle an unexpected increase in customer service messages.
Sigma Connected makes Christmas customer service merry and bright
We’ve rounded up our Christmas customer service checklist into a handy downloadable infographic you can access here.
Keep your customers satisfied well into the New Year and beyond with experienced outsourced customer service advisors from Sigma Connected. We offer flexible end-to-end solutions attuned to the needs of retail and eCommerce brands. Our friendly and highly-experienced team can handle all types of Christmas enquiries –– from complaints handling to managing high call volumes.