COVID-19 drove a massive shift in customer service and contact center operations across the retail industry. In many ways, the retail industry reinvented for good. Across the industry digital transformation was fast-tracked leading to significant growth in online sales and digital commerce, significantly changing the retail customer experience.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online retail sales increased dramatically during the pandemic, reaching a record high of $211.5 billion during the second quarter of 2020, a 31.8% rise over the previous year. With the rise of e-commerce, came long waits, busy lines and an increased workload for agents and the customer support team. With sales continuing 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 design strategies based on seasonality, resource planning, agent coaching and automation.
High call volumes at contact centers may cause a negative impact on customer experience (CX).
Long wait times
Due to high call volumes, customers may experience long wait periods which can negatively impact NPS.
With high volumes and long waiting times customers may end up abandoning the calls, leading to dissatisfied customers and lost sales.
Customer churn and agent attrition
It is difficult to engage agents or elite customers when teams are handling customers who experienced 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 not well managed can increase customer churn rate and agent attrition.
Whether it's voice or non-voice interactions, to manage a high call volume during peak times, it is important to understand your customer and their needs. By understanding your customer base, you will be able to anticipate the type of questions they may have, as well as the types of issues they may experience and the moments when they are most likely to reach out. Armed with insights about your customers’ behaviors you can determine where there are opportunities to deliver faster, more effective solutions through automation and the times when only a live agent can meet the need.
Interaction analytics can analyze and uncover insights locked in your unstructured data, such as call recordings, email transcripts, social media and chat messages.
The ability to effectively manage peak call volumes set 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:
1. Resource optimization: Working closely with your CX solutions provider to anticipate and carefully plan for peaks in demand based on historic data and current business promotions or initiatives. New agents need training and take time to become proficient making it is important to plan ahead. Your contact center partner should have strategies in place to support resource planning.
2. Effective call routing: Call routing can increase the efficiency of the agents by ensuring that the calls are routed to the most qualified agents based on their skill sets, availability and customer needs. Additionally, the queue management system can prioritize interactions based on their urgency. By reducing the need for calls to be passed between departments and minimizing repeat calls, call routing and queue management technology, retail brands can manage the volumes and demands effectively.
3. Automation: Adding more agents during peak season to meet call volume demands may not be feasible for every brand, especially since consumers are increasingly seeking self-service solutions. Instead, automation such as chatbots, voice bots and automated workflows can effectively manage routine queries and repetitive tasks, creating a scalable solution that can seamlessly handle fluctuations in demand.
4. 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 to ensure that agents have access to a robust knowledge base. This will allow them to answer customer questions quickly and accurately. It is also important 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 into every interaction ensuring the agent feels confident and the consumer receives a consistent experience every time.
5. Consider the end-to-end retail customer experience: Consumers often reach out 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 and deflect volume away from live channels. Offering customers, the ability to resolve queries n through your website or mobile app frees up agents to handle more complex inquiries. Ensuring your self-service channels are easily accessible, intuitive and include a robust FAQ section will encourage customers to help themselves. In addition, proactively reaching out to customers before they need to call can help prevent the need to reach out from arising at all and delivers a personalized experience consumers increasingly expect. Sending personalized SMS messages or emails with information about their recent purchase or shipping status keeps consumers in the loop and reduces the likelihood that they'll need to call for 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 that consumers receive the best possible service, resulting in happier customers, improved customer retention rates and enhanced 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.