For many businesses, the focus in the run up to Christmas has been on logistics – how do we cope with the switch to online and how do we ensure packages get delivered on time.
This concern is not without merit. Many retailers are dealing with an unprecedented online boom. In the UK, retail sales volumes in October were 1.2 per cent higher than September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS revealed that sales grew for the sixth consecutive month as online purchases continue to soar.
Of course, actually delivering the goods to customers during heightened online demand is a major headache for retailers. However, the increase in online shopping creates further questions for business leaders; how can we make sure we deliver great customer service across all channels and platforms, how can we make sure customer service requests are dealt with quickly and how do we offer the same personal touches online as we would in store?
Making the online shopping experience special
For many British people, this year’s Christmas shopping experience will be more personal and important than ever. Two-thirds of people plan to make this year ‘more special’ by placing extra emphasis on giving thoughtful, personalised gifts, for example.
Some retailers have made moves already. As one analyst at Deloitte points out: “Many retailers are already applying creativity to deliver what is certain to be the most digital Christmas ever; whether it is by value and volume of online purchases or by bringing the in-store Christmas shopping experience online with virtual visits to Santa’s grotto.”
With customers re-learning how to interact with brands this year, it’s vital that businesses not only offer great deals during the Christmas period, but deliver a solid customer experience too. This means crafting personalised interactions – messages sent to a customer that have that ‘human touch,’ if you will. If you know a shopper is a morning browser, for example, why not email them during their likely shopping time with an update on their favourite products, or text them with a special, personalised offer.
While many shoppers understand the challenges retailers face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not mean they are any less demanding. In fact, Infobip research of 2,000 British people found over a third (33%) have higher expectations for customer service since the first lockdown and a third (32%) said they will not spend with a business that provides poor service again. Getting customer experience right isn’t just a question of one lost sale, it could mean a customer decides never to spend with you again.
Delivering a hybrid customer service
To add sparkle to this year’s customer service, businesses should take a ‘hybrid’ approach. This means embracing automation to deliver an immediate response, or quick answers to more simple requests, such as order tracking or store location search, then escalating complex queries to agents. This ensures customers are not left waiting on hold on the phone for responses which could be easily automated, and gives agents more time to provide a thoughtful, personalised response for those who need it.
Imagine you’re left waiting for that all important present to be delivered, but you can’t contact the brand to see what the hold-up is? The hybrid approach enables companies to deliver a quick response, while also having a human agent on hand to offer help and advice when needed.
Brands must also prepare for customers to contact them how they want, when they want – and during the most digital Christmas yet, this means over a plethora of online channels, whether that’s via phone, chatbot, social media, WhatsApp, or an app.
Embracing conversational commerce
Brands should see conversational commerce as the star on top of the tree this Christmas. Through this form of communication, chatbots and AI technology are used to answer simple questions, while also analysing a mixture of past customer behaviour and current dialogue to provide valuable, personalised suggestions. It’s ultimately about using messaging to put conversation back into the customer experience. Customers who have previously enquired about one of this year’s must-haves, the PS5, for example, could be notified about stock availability by a friendly chatbot as soon as they enter a brand’s website. This type of interaction helps create a positive CX and is likely to create brand loyalty and return custom.
The end goal is to use AI to drive conversational interactions that feel as natural as interacting with another human being. And we know that during a year where human interaction has been limited, this is more important than ever.
If businesses give the same care and attention to CX as their shoppers will to choosing presents this year, they’ll be on to a winner. An interactive, personal and relevant online experience compensates for the missing human touch and Christmas magic typical of a physical brick-and-mortar store.
In this festive period, keeping your customers happy really will be the gift that keeps on giving.
About the Author
Noel Lavery, UK Sales Director at Infobip. Infobip is a global leader in omnichannel engagement powering a broad range of messaging channels, tools and solutions for advanced customer engagement, authentication and security. We help our clients and partners overcome the complexity of consumer communications, grow their business and enhance customer experience – all in a fast, secure and reliable way.
Featured image: ©Stokkete