Customer Care Planning for the Holiday Rush

Planning for the holiday rush is one of the most critical strategic initiatives for most retail executives. According to the NRF, holiday retail sales in 2014 rose 4% to a staggering $616B.

As the web influences a larger and larger percentage of total sales, retailers are laser focused on optimizations that will impact the bottom line and customer satisfaction.

This is especially true as they near Q4, a period that can account for upwards of 50% of some retailers' annual revenues.

There are a host of considerations that retail executives must take into account, before, during, and after their customers purchase from them, both online and in-store. The customer experience today is fluid; they are quick to share both good and bad customer experiences across social media sites. And they are armed with smartphones and tablets so that their experiences can be shared, read, and re-shared with lightening speed, whether at home, at work, or standing right in one of your shopping aisles.

For these reasons, customer service expectations are also higher than they've ever been before. Your consumers expect to have their calls answered immediately, their emails responded to in minutes, their live chat experience to be seamless, and their social media questions to be answered on-demand.

That's where your customer care holiday planning can save you millions of dollars in sales. A great customer care experience leads directly to positive reviews, word-of-mouth, repeat purchases, and higher order values.

As you plan for the holiday retail rush, here are some key considerations for your teams:

For Your Customer Care Team:

Staffing Firms: Ensure that your connections and relationships with staffing firms are in place well in advance of the holiday season. You’ll need to ramp personnel up quickly, sometimes with 200 or 300 new people in the span of a month.

Job Boards: Be active on job boards, nurturing talent, and talking to potential candidates in October. Ideally, you have the team fully ramped up by the first week of November. It takes 1-2 weeks to train new hires so that they can begin to add value to the customer care experience.

IT Prep: Make sure that your IT systems are scaled up, and that you have all the necessary licenses you’ll need for the new staff members. Your Care Team may only have 50 people concurrently in the system during the first three quarters of the year, but then come October, you may have 5x that number. Cross your T’s and dot your I’s with all necessary IT assets, both physical and digital, be they licenses, computers, training manuals, software, etc.

Leadership: Make sure you’ve identified those team members who are not currently at the supervisor level, but who are ready to step it up and manage people during the fourth quarter rush. Have your talent already picked out, and give them everything they need in advance to perform and excel with their team come November.

For Your Ecommerce Team:

Traffic Tests: The Ecommerce and IT teams must collaborate to ensure that your technology and commerce platforms can scale up for massive traffic spikes. By the time Q4 rolls around, they should have gone through various phases of load testing, pushing concurrent sessions to the extreme.

A/B Tests: In addition to learnings and insights from prior years’ Q4 web data, the web team has hopefully been conducting A/B testing throughout the first three quarters, enabling any Q4 optimizations to push site performance to new heights.

Promotions: The Marketing, Ecommerce, and IT teams need to have their promotional plans set. Any promotional codes that have been lined up should have backup plans, both on the Customer Care side and the Fulfillment side. If (read: “when”) there is an issue with your promotion or promo code, it won’t be only one customer that calls, emails, or posts it to social media - it will be hundreds or thousands. How will you scale up to ensure an amazing Customer Care experience?

For The Chief Operating Officer:

Measurement: Ensure that Customer Satisfaction Rating, Net Promoter Score, and all other relevant KPIs are where they need to be as the holiday approaches. Then, work with each team lead to outline a plan that will keep those KPIs at those levels throughout the holiday rush.

Hold time, resolution time, inventory thresholds, shipping cutoffs, and every other aspect of the customer journey need to be benchmarked, holiday objectives need to be set and agreed upon, and realistic game plans drawn up to achieve your greatest holiday season yet.

How are you preparing for the holiday rush?

If you’re looking to staff up Customer Care and Customer Service for Q4, reach out to us today for a free consultation with a Customer Care Expert.