Quality customer service is the key to delighting shoppers during festive seasons and special occasions.
Although inflation is down, 71% of CBNC’s Supply Chain Survey retailers are expecting shifts in consumer spending habits due to economic factors. The importance of exceptional service persists in shaping repeat purchases and fostering brand loyalty. Customers gravitate toward brands that prioritize their shopping experience, underscoring the need for retailers to streamline operations and ensure a seamless shopping journey, be it during bustling holiday periods or other special occasions throughout the year.
Turning to the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index (ORI) by OSF Digital, we can learn the latest findings on omnichannel and digital best practices through a multi-year study of commerce trends. By acting on this data, you can craft unique, value-driven retail experiences that retain existing customers and entice new ones, not only during peak holiday times but across various celebratory events.
ORI23 found customer service best practices for the majority went up this year. To help customers convert, retailers and brands provide shoppers with useful tools and help across the shopping journey.
But that’s not enough—retailers must prepare self-service options tailored for specific occasions. Salesforce research shows nearly 60% of customers prefer self-service to answer simple questions like order status or store locations. The key will be updating help centers, portals, and chatbots with the right information so customers can take advantage of promotions and special events during peak shopping.
According to ORI23 live chat continues to gain traction, especially as chatbots get integrated and offer users actual value. However, the experience of live chat and chatbot use needs work for most retailers and brands.
1-Providing swift responses: Using a landing page as a FAQ can be a quick way to answer common questions. Make sure to update this page with any event-specific guidance, such as return policies.
2-Seamless transition to live help: Chatbots can be programmed with the option to transfer to a live support agent. Ensure customers have multiple ways to find service options.
3-Optimization of digital channels: Use guided workflows so customers can create return labels quickly. Provide multiple and easy ways customers can find information fast.
4-Transparency in communication: Be clear about shipping timelines, backorders, or delays—before and after the purchase. Continually update customers by giving full visibility into their order status via SMS.
Returns cost retailers billions yearly, with almost 20% returning to stores, warehouses, or even landfills. To maximize margins, retailers are evaluating their liberal return policies by shortening the return window, establishing final sales, and even charging restocking fees. As retailers consider these changes, understanding that return and exchange policies are often a top reason a customer chooses their brand, and 95% of customers say a bad return experience makes them less likely to buy in the future.
Here are some recommendations based on Salesforce research to streamline return experiences for customers (and save on costs and retain profit margins):
1-Automate returns: Customers can generate their merchandise labels and make shipping free, an experience 64% of shoppers prefer.
2-Enhance product detail pages: Ensure your PDPs have the correct information to prevent returns and use customer reviews to help shoppers choose the correct size and color to minimize returns.
3-Provide instant refunds: 46% of customers say instant refunds make returns easier, so enable a refund as soon as an employee scans the return shipping label.
4-Opt for exchanges, not returns: Offer personalized product recommendations to replace an initial purchase—88% of consumers prefer an exchange rather than a return, at least sometimes.
5-Increase return locations: Use a central location to collect returns, whether a store or a third-party returns provider (like Amazon does with Kohl’s). It’s convenient for customers and helps you save before bulk shipping products back to a warehouse.
Service leaders can optimize customer service delivery and build brand equity using these best practices. During celebratory periods, the aim will be to maintain a high bar of excellence when questions, complaints, and requests surge. With best practices, data, and automation, customer service agents can assist more customers and increase your customer’s lifetime loyalty.
See how your company stacks up! Download the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index and sign up for your free ORI assessment to understand how you deliver on omnichannel best practices compared to the overall Index, your vertical, and your competitors.
Rich Siefert is a Senior Consultant, Practice Lead in OSF Digital´s Strategy group. He has over two decades of executive-level experience at large-scale retailers, particularly in the home categories, with a proven record in strategy, P&L management, and organizational leadership in an omnichannel environment.