Holiday e-commerce sales are expected to grow by 12.8% to 14.3%, according to Deloitte. Although this reflects an economic slowdown, it will likely result in $260 billion and $264 billion in additional sales for the season.
While major retailers will be able to navigate these expected sales trends without too much difficulty, small and mid-sized businesses may experience more severe impacts. Regardless of size, all retailers should be prepared for the holiday surge.
Here are five tactics to maintain and maximize your peak season business flow.
Omnichannel technology is the future of customer support. Customers pressed for time love the always-on flexibility of omnichannel delivery. It allows them to seek assistance using their preferred channel – like chat, social, email, text, app, or phone – whenever they need help.
Many business leaders mistakenly believe that “omnichannel support” simply means offering customers more than one channel for communicating with service agents. True omnichannel support leverages multiple channels but allows customers to transition between communication mediums without restarting the entire support process. This in-stream flexibility makes your organization seem capable and competent in the eyes of your customers.
Omnichannel support technology enhances the user’s experience and makes life easier for your customer service agents. Instead of being hindered by a lack of data and tied to a single channel, omnichannel staff have everything they need at their fingertips to assist customers across multiple channels.
Enabling shoppers to resolve their own issues before engaging with a human resource is a win-win for everyone. Text and web-based chats are particularly popular, and most consumers are leaning into self-service options whenever they can find them. A robust and searchable knowledgebase is a key first step. Chat automation using data-driven chatbots also is growing in popularity.
A critical error is waiting too long to augment support staff ahead of peak season. If you wait until you need more headcount to start adding, it is too late. By that point, the buyer experience will already be negatively impacted, and your brand image will likely be damaged. And shoppers will be online 24/7; be sure you're providing enough coverage.
Staffing isn’t quick so plan accordingly. You need to find the right talent and new also hires need time to onboard so they have direct experience with your product and tools before jumping into the deep end during peak season.
Since peak season sales data from 2020 and 2021 was skewed higher, for forecasting leverage data from the previous three quarters of 2022. You can combine this data with expert projections to create a staffing model.
Regular training should already be a core part of your business strategy. Additionally, all seasoned staff and new hires will need preparation before they’re ready for the challenges of peak season. Now’s the time to start administering this extra employee training.
When scheduling training, book it a month or more before the start of peak season. This allows time to work out any kinks and ensure staff is firing on all cylinders when the holiday season kicks off. You also should plan for regular re-training and upskilling during the season, where it makes sense.
Which business practices helped you succeed last holiday season? Did any policies, procedures, or quality control protocols cause unexpected challenges? Should you modify current practices to prepare for this year’s influx?
Looking backward is a great way to get ready for the future. Even if your Q4 of 2021 performance was a success, there’s always room for improvement. Identifying and acting on these opportunities separates great companies from good or average ones.
Part of this reflective process should involve reviewing calls and seeking customer feedback. Ideally, you want to collect feedback when service is provided or shortly thereafter. Encouraging customer participation in your self-assessment ensures you’ve gained a 360-degree view.
Does the thought of scrambling to hire more agents and deploy leading-edge tech seem daunting? If so, then you should strongly consider outsourcing to a reputable support partner.
A great outsourced provider can augment the capabilities of your team and has built-in flexibility to manage big swings in contact volume. They’re able to quickly ramp up, and ramp down, a lot of agents in short order. And service quality often is higher because they also provide omnichannel tools, pre- and post-sale support, and business intelligence insights.
Top outsourcing partners like Goodbay Technologies also can assist with after-action analysis. The moment peak season closes, we can help determine what went well and what needs improvement for next year.
If you’re ready to alleviate customer support headaches and make the most of peak season, contact us today.