Optimizing call volumes for improved retail customer experience

Startek Editorial
Startek Editorial

Mar 19, 2024 | 6 min read

The recent pandemic drove a massive shift in retail customer service and contact center operations. In many ways, the retail industry was permanently reinvented and digital customer experience has been elevated to equal — if not greater — importance in enhancing the overall retail customer experience. Digital transformation was fast-tracked, leading to significant growth in online sales and digital commerce, forever changing the retail customer experience. 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online retail sales increased dramatically during the pandemic and it’s steadily growing. Total e-commerce sales for 2023 were estimated at $1,118.7 billion, an increase of 7.6 percent (±1.2%) from 2022. Total retail sales in 2023 increased 2.1 percent (±0.4%) from 2022. (E-commerce sales in 2023 accounted for 15.4 percent of total sales. E-commerce sales in 2022 accounted for 14.7 percent of total sales.) With the rise and popularity of e-commerce, long waits, busy lines and an increased workload for agents and the customer support team became all too common, putting the digital customer experience at risk. The digital customer experience is at risk.  

As sales continue to move out of brick-and-mortar stores, there is a greater need for contact centers to effectively handle high interaction volumes during peak times and proactively devise new strategies based on seasonality, resource planning, agent coaching and automation. Promoting customer self-service options through digital channels can also help alleviate the burden on contact centers and improve the overall retail customer experience. 

Learn how self-service customer experience tools can streamline your customer support processes.

Challenges of high call volumes on the retail customer experience

High call volumes at contact centers may harm customer experience (CX).

Long wait times
Due to high call volumes, customers often experience long wait periods which can negatively impact Net Promoter Score (NPS) and the overall retail customer experience.

Abandoned calls
With high volumes and long waiting times, customers may end up abandoning the calls, leading to dissatisfaction, lost sales and a poor digital customer experience.

Customer churn and agent attrition
It is difficult to engage agents or elite customers when teams are handling customers who experience long wait times or when they are rushing to connect with the next customer in a busy call queue. Consistently high call volumes that are poorly managed can increase customer churn and agent attrition, further impacting the retail customer experience.

Understand your customer and their needs

Whether it's voice or non-voice interactions — digital or conventional —  it is imperative to understand your customers and their requirements to enhance the retail customer experience. It’s even more important to manage high call volume during peak times when patience is limited and needs are often more urgent. By understanding your customers, you’ll be prepared to anticipate the type of questions they have, as well as issues they may experience and the moments when they are most likely to reach out. Armed with insights about their typical behaviors, you can determine where there are opportunities to deliver faster, more effective solutions through automation and customer self-service options, and the times when only a live agent can meet their needs. 

Interaction analytics analyzes and uncovers insights locked in your unstructured data, such as call recordings, email transcripts, social media and chat messages. 

  • Identify skills gaps– by analyzing 100% of contacts, you will identify instances where agents are unable to assist the customer, share incorrect information or require the customer to reach out to another department or team. This information is useful for enhancing agents' training and updating interactive voice responses (IVRs) and website contact information to get customers to the right place, at the right time reducing the need for repeat contacts and improving the digital customer experience. 
  • Understand customer pain point– by analyzing which applications are being used and at what points in the customer life cycle consumers find they need to reach out to customer service, brands gain the ability to understand and create self-service solutions for customers, deflecting volume from live channels. This enhances the digital customer experience and elevates the entire retail customer experience by providing convenient self-service options. 
  • Optimize the customer journey– Interaction analytics identifies bottlenecks, pain points and areas for improvement in the customer journey, enabling brands to streamline processes, improve customer self-service capabilities and deliver a seamless digital customer experience, ultimately contributing to an exceptional retail customer experience. 

Must Read: Uncover the key customer experience trends that telecom companies are focusing on.

Strategies for enhancing the retail customer experience

The ability to effectively manage peak call volumes sets the best retail contact centers apart. Retailers know they will experience peaks and troughs in demand and planning to effectively manage this fluctuation is critical for their CX delivery. Technology plays a leading role in supporting retail contact centers to successfully manage high interaction volumes during a peak time: 

Understand your customer and their needs

1. Automation: Adding agents during peak season to meet call volume demands may not be feasible for every organization, especially since consumers increasingly seek self-service solutions. Instead, automation such as chatbots, voice bots and automated workflows will effectively manage routine queries and repetitive tasks, creating a scalable solution that seamlessly handles fluctuations in demand. Promoting customer self-service options through these digital channels will enhance the overall retail customer experience.

Discover the benefits of using CRM systems to enhance Customer Experience in travel. Learn more.
 
2. Empower agents: To manage high call volumes while delivering excellent customer service, it is essential to empower agents with the right tools. The first step is ensuring they have access to a robust knowledge base. This allows them to answer customer questions quickly and accurately, contributing to a positive digital customer experience. It is also imperative to give agents the ability to escalate calls to supervisors or experts when necessary. With an effective knowledge base in place, AI-based training and coaching tools bring in-the-moment coaching to every interaction, ensuring agents are confident and the consumer receives a consistent experience every time.
 
3. Effective call routing: Call routing increases the efficiency of agents by ensuring calls are routed to the most qualified agents based on their skill sets, availability and customer needs. Additionally, the queue management system will prioritize interactions based on urgency. By reducing the need for calls to be passed between departments and minimizing repeat calls, call routing and queue management technology enable retail brands to manage volumes and demand effectively, contributing to an improved digital customer experience.

"Elevate your call center's customer service with the techniques discussed in how to improve call center customer service."
 
4. Resource optimization: Work closely with your CX solutions provider to anticipate and plan for peaks in demand based on historical data, business promotions, seasonal variations or other changes. New agents need training and take time to become proficient making it vital to plan for different contingencies. Your contact center partner must have strategies in place to support resource planning and ensure optimal staffing levels to deliver a seamless retail customer experience.

In today's competitive telecom market, delivering exceptional CX in telecom is crucial. Read how AI can help you achieve this goal.

5. Consider the end-to-end retail customer experience: Consumers often reach out to contact centers to check on the status of an order or inquire about the process for returns. By considering the end-to-end customer journey and asking, “Does a live agent need to do that?” you will uncover opportunities to build self-service solutions that drive customer satisfaction, deflect volume from live channels and enhance the digital customer experience. Providing customers with the ability to resolve queries through your website or mobile app frees agents to handle more complex interactions. Ensuring your self-service channels are easily accessible, intuitive and include a robust FAQ section encourages and empowers customers to help themselves. In addition, proactively reaching out to customers before they need to call helps prevent the need to reach out and delivers the personalized experience consumers increasingly expect. Sending personalized text messages and emails with information about their recent purchase or shipping status keeps them in the loop and reduces the likelihood they'll need to seek assistance. 

6. Forecasting through next-gen analytics: Managing interaction volume is a critical element in delivering world-class CX in the retail industry. By taking a proactive approach, brands can ensure consumers receive the best possible service, resulting in happier customers, improved customer retention and an enhanced overall customer experience. 

As a global CX provider, Startek is leading the way in the new era of retail. Collaborating with the Marketing, Sales, and Service teams within leading retailers across the globe, Startek devises and delivers digital-first CX programs designed to effectively engage and retain your customers.

Contact us today to learn how we can support your brand.

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