9 Tips to Increase Holiday Sales with Optimized Retail Customer Service

9 Tips to Increase Holiday Sales with Optimized Retail Customer Service

If you are wondering what brings joy to your holiday shoppers, it’s quality customer service.

Although inflation is down, 71% of CBNC’s Supply Chain Survey retailers expect consumers to reduce spending in response to inflation. Most customers say good services make them more likely to buy again, and brands that embrace that will be rewarded with repeat business and more revenue. Conversely, three negative experiences are all for a shopper to go to your competitors. Given this year’s tight purse strings, retailers must save wherever they can—and will gravitate toward retailers that make shopping fast, easy, and rewarding.

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, especially during this busy holiday season and beyond.

Improving Customer Service

9 Tips to Increase Holiday Sales with Optimized Retail Customer Service

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.

  • 64% offer customer service (live chat, phone #, email, click-to-call) during checkout
  • 38% include customer service information in the cart
  • Although SMS is becoming a more popular channel for communication, only 27% provide customer service via SMS
  • 57% gather feedback on product listings, product detail pages, or account sections

But that’s not enough—retailers must prepare self-service channels for holiday-specific needs. 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.

Maximizing Self-Service Options

9 Tips to Increase Holiday Sales with Optimized Retail Customer Service

ORI23 reveals the popularity of live chat, 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.

  • 83% have a live chat on their site.
  • Of those retailers with live chat, 48% offer live chat in the cart.
  • 72% leverage automated live chat (chatbot) responses and also enable interaction with customer service agents. However, functionality could be optimized as chatbots' limitations and inconsistencies cause frustration with customers.

Honoring 4 Best Practices for Self-Service

1-Delivering fast 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 holiday-specific guidance, such as return policies.

2-Transition easy and fast 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-Optimize digital channels: Use guided workflows so customers can create return labels quickly. Provide multiple and easy ways customers can find information fast.

4-Be transparent. 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.

Making Online Returns Simple

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. The aim this holiday season 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

Author: Rich Siefert

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.