The Holidays Are Retailers' Last Chance To Inspire Customer Loyalty

The holiday season is the most critical time of the year for retailers - they can make 40% of their revenue during these few months - and inspiring customer loyalty at this point of the year can make a huge impact. In fact, it’s your last chance.

In today’s digital age, where your competitors are only a click away, customer loyalty is one of the most vital aspects to any retail strategy. Countless studies have shown that ensuring your customers have a great buying experience leads directly to larger purchases and repeat sales.

From a customer care perspective, how do the best retailers really Wow their customers and create loyalty throughout the season?

As a result of years of Vcare survey data, we created the 4-30-30 Rule. The three highest-volume customer care channels are Email, Phone, and Live Chat, and each has a target maximum response time to maintain customer loyalty.

Email requests should be responded to within 4 hours.

Calls from customers should be answered within 30 seconds.

Live Chat should be initiated within 30 seconds.

Thus, our 4-30-30 Rule.

On the surface, these numbers may seem intuitive for retailers. However, this rule becomes especially difficult to attain when customer traffic, order, and issue volume goes from 1x to 10x, as it does during the days between Black Friday and Christmas.

The best retailers plan for this increase, and they know exactly how to maintain their 4-30-30.

Maintaining 4-30-30

In order for top-tier retailers to maintain their 4-30-30 response rate when traffic increases 10x, they need to hire customer care staff in bulk. These folks need to be of the highest caliber, and they must be able to connect and build a relationship with the target customer.

When hiring, though, retailers shouldn’t begin on-boarding too early. Sometimes traffic, orders, and issues won’t spike until just before Black Friday, creating a 4-6 week window where customer care traffic will be off the charts. Hiring too early means that support staff is sitting idle, hurting your margin. Timing is everything.

The best retailers also understand how that projected influx of staff impacts their operational process. To get to 150 new customer care seats, for example, retailers may need to interview 400-500 candidates. Retailers also may have attrition during the season, likely around 15%, and that needs to be accounted for during the interview phase.

For well-prepared retailers, team augmentation doesn’t end with customer care staff. Customer support representatives need to also have support, in the form of human resources, IT, and care analysts ready to on-board, offer technical support, and monitor your care analytics. For every 15 customer care representatives, the team should have a supervisor, a quality analyst, and a team lead.

Outside of excellent response time, there are a number of other ways to inspire customer loyalty during the holiday shopping season that can lead to big revenue numbers.

First-Touch Resolution

For one, customer issue should be resolved by the customer care representative in first interaction. Most obviously, it immediately clears any hurdle the customer has to buying, and they can finalize their transaction instantly. But there’s more to it beyond the transaction...

An instant resolution not only creates a sense of closure to the issue, but it also fosters the relationship and that feeling of collaboration between the customer and the brand carries forward into their next purchase.

Product Knowledge

It’s also critical for care representatives to be well versed on the product and service inventory so that they can answer technical questions and instill confidence in the buyer. Deep product knowledge also boosts top-line revenue through appropriate cross-sell and upsell offers during the customer care interaction.

And as it relates to first-touch issue resolution, product knowledge goes a long way. Understanding the firm’s products and services inside and out enables customer care representatives to resolve issues more quickly, and with seasonal workers, this becomes a big challenge. According to Stella Services, Issue Resolution Rate drops from around 93.2% during the year to 91.3% during December, which is attributed to a dip in average product knowledge.

Creating A Connection

Finally, customer care representatives should also be able to make a real connect with the customer. This goes beyond a friendly disposition; customers should really feel like they’re dealing with themselves on the other end of the email, phone, or live chat.

This does make the hiring process more challenging, but what is invested here is gained in customer loyalty and advocacy. Mirroring a customer care team to the target customer to generate loyalty is an area where we, at Vcare, have been recognized as industry leaders.

If any of these aspects of the customer care experience slip during the holidays, then it will be impossible to maintain the 4-30-30 formula for success. With a plan in place, though, and a partner who can help retailers scale their process with customer care services, then any retailer should be able to inspire customer loyalty this holiday season.

Additional Reading:

Customer Care Planning for the Holiday Rush

16 Omnichannel Customer Care Tips For Holiday 2015