Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Call Centers and Retailers Should Start Listening for the Sound of Jingle Bells Now

July 30, 2013

It’s late July. Can you hear the sleigh bells yet? While most people don’t ordinarily think of winter holidays while they are barbecuing burgers or taking family beach vacations, smart retailers have already begun to think of that “most wonderful time of the year.”

The end of the year holidays are perhaps the most critical time for retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers collectively earned $579.8 billion in sales in the month of December 2012. Having a bad December, to a retailer, translates directly to having a bad year in sales. So while marketing teams all over the retail world are already planning holiday promotions and sales, contact centers have a different challenge: ensuring that they have enough resources to support the retail rush that occurs (increasingly) online and over the telephone from the traditional “Black Friday,” or the day after Thanksgiving, all the way to early January.

One way to ensure that this holiday retail season runs smoother than last year is to examine last year’s problem areas, or to use benchmarking to understand how successful companies navigated the holidays with ease, according to a recent blog post by Zendesk’s Andrew Gori.

“The last thing you want is to let the quality of your customer service slide during the most important season of the year,” writes Gori. “If you want to be ready, you need to start right now. Using the Zendesk Benchmark, we took a look at retailers using Zendesk to see what might have helped our customers get high customers satisfactions ratings.”

These steps included improving self-service offerings, which can help take some of the stress off the contact center or help desk during the holiday rush. These self-service offerings can include a redesigned interactive voice response (IVR) systems that actually provides customers with answers, virtual assistant technologies to help customers find answers from “bots” with an online personality capable of searching large databases for relevant answers, or message boards that allow customers to help each other. In fact, those companies that a customer satisfaction rating of below 75 in the Zendesk benchmark had less than half the number of customers viewing self-service content than those with 75 or higher, according to Gori.

Another critical step is to improve response time. According to Zendesk, in December of 2012, companies with a customer satisfaction rating of below 75 had a significantly higher first response time than those with a rating of 75 or higher. On average, they took about 14 more hours to respond to a ticket. To improve response time, contact centers or help desks should consider hiring more employees, widening the workforce by filling in with contractors to handle overflow, or temporarily operating on a 24/7 model to ensure that customers aren’t finding a “closed” sign on a company’s customer support operations when they require them.

Of course, if you’re going to hire and train temporary employees, sign a contract with an outsourcer for extra coverage, improve your self-service technologies or expand your hours, it’s hardly prudent to wait until the first of November to begin the process. Now might be a good time to put down the beach ball and get busy.

Edited by Ryan Sartor