Guest Column | November 30, 2018

3 Ways Retailers Can Use Customer Service As A Competitive Advantage During The Holidays

By Fara Haron, Arvato

Customer Service Helps Luxury Brands Thrive

Tips for making this peak season a success for customers and staff.

Holiday shopping marks the ‘golden quarter’ for retailers, making customer service even more important than ever. And with retailers often competing to offer the most competitive prices, it is increasingly important to deliver strong customer service as a brand differentiator. By following these three steps, retailers can turn an often-overwhelming time for both customer service representatives and consumers into a positive, brand building experience, converting bargain hunters into loyal customers year-round.

Nurture Your Staff

During the holidays, you will be asking your representatives to be on their A-game. To set them up for success, provide your staff with the right training. In a survey from Arvato of over 1,200 customer service representatives, 29 percent of reps say partnering with customers is the best way to solve their problems. By arming employees with training on teamwork and collaboration, customer service success can be achieved.

With the rise of email and social media communication, it is imperative that representatives are comfortable communicating via these channels. Yet, less than 10 percent of representatives say email is their favorite channel for communicating with customers and only five percent cite social media as their favorite channel. With the increase of inquiries from holiday shoppers, make sure representatives receive best practices for how to leverage email and social media correspondence effectively.

Outside of training, boost morale during this busy time with work outings to prevent burnout. With 31 percent of reps noting their coworkers and managers as the best part of their job, offering opportunities for your staff to socialize can lead to better employee satisfaction and engagement.

Turn High Return Volumes Into A Positive Experience

For consumers, returns are usually an unwanted hassle. However, with the right customer service approach, businesses can turn this potential headache into a competitive advantage. Savvy retailers can transform a customer pain point into an opportunity for customer service to shine by:

  1. Learning from last year: Use last year as a reference for planning for call volumes, types of inquiries, resolution times, etc. Anticipate your customer service needs so you will be prepared to assist your customers efficiently and effectively.
  2. Staffing your representatives strategically: Properly positioning your staff helps to facilitate successful communication. With the increase in activity, be sure to deploy the right people to the right channels.
  3. Being where your customers are: Leverage easily accessible channels like live chat or Facebook Messenger. Make it simple for customers to get quick answers online, by clearly outlining information like your return policy on your website.
  4. Taking a single customer view: Bring every interaction into the same place so that customers do not have to repeat information over and over. Streamline the process to make it easier for customer services representatives to deliver service and eliminate work for time-strapped consumers.
  5. Practicing empathy with customers: Listening to, and understanding, customer needs can transform the experience into a positive one. Ensure customer service representatives are correctly diagnosing problems and finding the right solutions by carefully listening to customer feedback.

Leverage The Opportunity To Upsell And Cross-Sell

With consumers expected to spend 4.1 percent more than last year during the holidays, there is ample opportunity for customer service representatives to upsell and cross-sell when interacting with shoppers. Representatives should attempt to upsell and cross-sell when they have the bandwidth and customers are happy, and upselling should be encouraged only when it provides a true benefit to consumers. When appropriate, upselling and cross-selling is a way for representatives to deliver product knowledge and information to help customers make purchasing decisions and improve their experience. Particularly when purchasing gifts, customers will look for guidance. Consumers appreciate expert advice and find a benefit in being offered products with real added value.

Combining a strong sales approach with high quality customer service makes customers more receptive. By delivering exceptional customer service and identifying subtle upgrades or complimentary items for buyers, representatives can improve sales and customer satisfaction at the same time.

This holiday season, retailers can invest time in their staff, improve the return process and seize opportunities to upsell/cross-sell to deliver exceptional customer service to shoppers during this peak period. With a commitment to customer experience, businesses can leverage strong customer service as a way to win continued business throughout the year.

About The AuthorFara Haron, Arvato

Fara Haron is responsible for Arvato’s customer service business, leveraging her international experience to lead a rapidly growing team of customer service professionals.