Insights: Blog

4 Easy Ways to Prepare for Holiday Customer Service Expectations

As anyone who works in retail, e-commerce, or just general B2C customer service can tell you, shoppers’ expectations of quality customer service have risen significantly since the popularization of online rating systems. Yelp, Google reviews, Glassdoor, and Uber have taken comment cards to the next level; it feels as though each customer service experience I have now, I am prompted to submit a rating. “Was this helpful, did the representative answer all your questions, do you have any feedback?”

I’d venture a guess: customer service organizations are using that feedback to learn how to improve, as they should. However, that’s not the only way you can learn how to best serve your customers. As the fourth quarter ramps up, customer service expectations rise with very little time to react and adjust accordingly. Arm your team with knowledge now, before it’s too late.

Customer Service Expectation: Instant Direct Messaging

As technology continues to ease access to information, customers have adjusted to almost-instantaneous gratification. Yes, you still have to wait two days for your Amazon Prime package to arrive, but you expect to be able to chat with someone about the process at any point in time.

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Make your customer service reps available and visible – at all times. If someone is shopping on your site and has a question, they should be able to find support in just two clicks. In the store, representatives should be strategically positioned to optimize response time (and cut down on frustrated customers asking to “see the manager”).

The solution? Bots.

customer service expectation - chatbots


Your customer service representatives cannot be everywhere, talking to everyone at once. According to Nielsen, 56% of customers would rather handle issues by chat than on the phone. Chatbots are the perfect solution to augment your team; available in those micro-moments that Google loves to reference, the ones that can make or break a purchase path. Not only can these bots respond to inquiries based on simple keywords, they simultaneously gather important data on your consumers, ultimately improving the overall customer experience through personalization.

These bots are also a great way to keep an eye on your NPS score. After a customer completes an action on your website, utilize a customer feedback tool to garner information on the quality of their experience.

This customer service expectation is easy to meet—consider placing chatbots on your website and/or linking them with social messengers.

Customer Service Expectation: Alternative Shopping Methods

A major trend you may not have been able to name last year? Showrooming: when a shopper sees something in store and purchases the same item online. An estimated 13% of shoppers engage in this practice often, and almost a fifth of Millennials and Gen Zers report doing this. You may not be surprised by this; consumers often do extensive research before purchasing, especially when it comes to big-ticket items. Though you may expect the 18-35 crowd to stick behind their laptop screens, 58% of youngsters plan to research products in store this holiday season.

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Showrooming isn’t the only alt-shopping method – 34% of Americans will buy in-store and ship to their homes, 30% will buy online and pick up at a retail location, and 14% will reserve online but pay and pick up at a physical store. Not only do you need to train reps to support alternative shopping options, you also need to make sure they are all possible components of the customer service experience.

Customer Service Expectations: Website Optimization

As we all know, online shopping is gathering strength each year—even Black Friday sales can now be accessed online. Almost 70% of Americans have made online purchases in the last six months, with 67% of those converting on smartphones. That’s a huge windfall for companies with mobile apps or mobile-friendly websites; for everyone else, not so much.

customer service expectation - graph

Let’s be upfront: if you don’t have a mobile website strategy figured out yet, you’re probably not going to get it up and running by the holidays. However, you can warn your customer service reps to be sympathetic to people browsing on their phones. Using those handy-dandy chatbots, have your reps assist with purchases in any way possible when a prospect is on a mobile device.

Customer Service Expectations: Shipping and Returns

Though I think many brands have learned their lesson when it comes to setting shipping expectations during the holidays, everyone can stand a friendly reminder. 42% of men plan to start their holiday shopping in November and 14% plan to start in December (because they’re crazy) – on top of that, a quarter of men prefer shopping online. This means at least 50% of men will be trying to ship products after purchasing online this holiday season; particularly looking at you, Amazon.

What does this all mean? Rein in those last-minute shoppers by setting a purchase deadline that will guarantee to ship in time for the holidays. And don’t stop after a customer’s package has been signed, sealed, and delivered – shipping out orders is only half the battle. 46% of Americans expect to be able to return online purchases in-store, so when that new sweater from Aunt Margaret turns out to be a bit too tight, make sure that your return policy is clearly stated for an all-around pleasant customer service experience.

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Mary Lister Mary Lister leads content marketing and demand generation programs at Fluent. She couples her passion for writing with digital marketing experience to enable creative strategy and execution.
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