The holidays bring a lot of stress for both businesses and customers alike. Customers are worried about getting the perfect gift while managing large crowds, busy shopping centres, and making plans with friends and family.
Businesses worry about similar things — ensuring they offer the in-demand products or services, managing increased foot traffic, and planning ahead to ensure customer service remains top-tier despite the holiday rush.
Customers often expect the same level of customer service from a business even knowing the business is under additional pressure during the holidays. These expectations create a problem — how can a business maintain their standard of service during seasonal volume increases?
COVID-19 will also affect the dynamic of a typical holiday season. Many businesses may have to restrict or otherwise alter their usual game plan for the end of the year rush. Supply chain challenges in 2021 could also change the way consumers shop.
WIth these considerations in mind, small businesses need to implement a greater sense of urgency when planning their upcoming customer service strategies.
How have you prepared for the upcoming holiday season?
Let’s examine a few key trends that we believe will impact the way people shop at the end of 2021 and how you can leverage customer service strategies to increase your business.
1. More People are Shopping Online
According to Forbes, online sales increased by an incredible 24% in 2020, while in-store purchases decreased by 7% — and this trend is expected to continue.
Consumers have become more familiar with online shopping channels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many physical store fronts will have lighter pandemic restrictions when compared to last year, small businesses must continue to improve their online shopping experience to capitalize on the increase in online shoppers.
The online shopping experience is similar to visiting a physical store in many ways. Customers still expect a high-level of customer service which can be difficult to provide if a business has a limited online presence.
Implementing tools like chatbots can significantly reduce the workload of your team in-store while simultaneously providing the customer service desired by online shoppers.
These bots can answer routine questions (“What time are you open today?” “Where are you located?”) without clogging up your phone lines or store front. For more complicated questions, chatbots can also redirect customers to a live agent — giving your team more time to devote to selling.
Email is an equally important factor to consider. Businesses often experience a rise in email communication over the holidays and it can be difficult to get back to everyone in a timely manner — and timing is key. Ensuring a team member responds to an email within 24 hours can make the difference between a sale or a lost customer.
Chatbots and email are just two factors of an omnichannel customer service strategy — it can also include voice, self-help, social media and more. Read more about omnichannel customer service here.
Expanding your online presence ahead of the holiday season will boost your Customer Satisfaction Score and help you stand out from your competitors.
2. Customers Have Higher Expectations
Customers have more options than ever before — they can easily look up nearby or online businesses selling the product or service they seek. In seconds, they can also compare pricing, quality, reviews, and availability.
As a result, customer service is becoming more of a focal point. Every small business should invest resources into a customer-focused and knowledgeable team to set themselves apart leading into the end of the year.
Regardless of how a customer interacts with a business, it is usually seen as a single conversation — whether they are physically in-store, sending an email, or speaking to a representative on the phone.
The digital and physical worlds have started to blend and they are difficult to separate for many consumers. When a customer reaches out online, they expect the same level of service as if they were face to face with an employee.
By aligning your brand across all of your customer service channels, you can manage customer expectations more effectively. It also allows you to see potential gaps in your customer service experience and course correct for following years.
Although shopping in-store and shopping online may seem like completely different experiences, consumers experience your brand first and foremost. Aligning your brand both online and in-store is a powerful strategy to increase your revenues across the board.
3. Customers Are Still Willing to Spend
People around the world had to miss out on holidays with friends and family last year due to the pandemic. This year, while restrictions are still in place, people are eager to celebrate the holidays like years before.
With people being allowed to travel to see loved ones again, businesses should anticipate a rise in gift giving and consumer spending over December. More people are returning to work — which means they may have more disposable income when compared to last year.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shopping increased by 8% in 2020 and that number is expected to rise during 2021.
2020’s holiday experience also means that consumers will likely be shopping earlier than they normally do. After experiencing delays, shipping issues, and stockouts in 2020, customers may be inclined to get their holiday shopping done sooner rather than later.
Small businesses should capitalize on these trends by ensuring their customers can reach them through multiple channels — especially digital. Although it seems we’re getting close to the end of this pandemic, online trends and a greater focus on customer service will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
Omnie Integrated Services
For small businesses, the holiday season creates a lot of opportunity but it can be overwhelming. Preparing to scale your business to accommodate an increase in volume is crucial to maximize revenues and reduce stress on your team.
Aligning your in-store and online presence can significantly increase customer satisfaction, long-term loyalty, and generate profits.
Omnie offers unique and customizable customer service solutions to reduce your business’ workload. Our friendly and professional team takes a proactive approach to customer service so you can focus on core business activities.
How have you prepared for the upcoming holiday season? Omnie can help you and your team plan for seasonal changes in volume and increase customer satisfaction through 2022.