By Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-founder, Natterbox
For contact centres, Christmas is the busiest time of year, and this year, it will be even busier as more consumers will be shopping online as a result of the pandemic. In fact, recent figures suggest that a third of us went online to complete our Christmas shopping as early as November this year – a 75% increase over last year!
As a result, we can expect an onslaught of customer communications over the coming weeks in the lead up to and following Christmas. These communications will likely include enquiries about delivery statuses or refund requests. To do so, many customers will be replacing their usual in-store, face-to-face contact with other methods of communication – especially the phone.
Given Christmas is going to be very different for us, it’s important that brands play their part in ensuring that customers’ shopping experiences are as smooth and seamless as possible. Ultimately, businesses can see this as an opportunity to show how much they value their customers. But beyond that, it is also incredibly important that they show their appreciation for contact centre staff, who will be working on the frontline and undoubtedly dealing with some frustrated shoppers this Christmas.
Why this year is different
Most of us are hoping and planning to simply make the best of Christmas this year – many extremely thankful for the news that we will be able to see at least some of our family for this special time that marks the end of what has been a difficult year.
Despite this, there are still a lot of people we won’t be able to see, journeys we won’t be able to make, and gift exchanges we won’t be able to take part in, in person. This will result in some different shopping habits than retailers are used to, including the massively increased use of online channels. What’s more, many more people will be looking, for example, to send gifts directly to friends and family they won’t be able to see face-to-face.
With websites, retailers and supply chains dealing with such a change in demand, there are undoubtedly going to be issues along the way, in addition to the usual abundance of returns that brands see post-Christmas. And it will be contact centres that largely bear the brunt of frustrated customers at the other end. As a result, it is down the businesses to ensure their staff are equipped with the tools they need to provide the best customer service and experience they can.
This time of year is also going to be tough for staff, who beyond not being able to see their family and friends, are also faced with next to no festive social occasions to attend as businesses must adhere to social distancing and struggle tight budgets. As a result, it’s vital that organisations find other ways to ensure their staff feel valued, and more importantly, to ensure they don’t burnout or suffer low morale when working alone from home. At a time that’s going to be busier than ever for contact agents, this will be crucial for ensuring they feel engaged with their work and customers.
Overcoming the challenges
Equipping contact agents with intelligent tools can help businesses to vault two streams with one leap, offering the agents the opportunity to perform their job well and feel good about the service they can offer customers, as well as leaving customers feeling satisfied with the brand experience they have received.
Telephony platforms, for example, can enable a well-rounded view of each customers’ journey with the brand and as a result, allow agents to provide a great customer experience with ease. On the flip side, customers can have more enjoyable conversations with their favourite brands and save themselves the frustration that many of us have experienced when dealing with businesses that offer poor customer service.
While this may incur some initial investment for companies, there are some more light-hearted solutions brands can consider, to improve their customer service this year alongside new technology. For example, how about lightening the mood for customers waiting in a hold queue with the likes of Christmas quizzes, music or even tips such as best ways to wrap presents! Staff can also be trained to open conversations with a festive greeting to kick their conversations off to a happy note.
Business should also consider fun ways to give their employees some down time after some inevitably long days at work, whether it be virtual Christmas parties, festive award ceremonies to reward staff for their hard work and reflect on some of the best moments from the company’s year, or even just one-on-one catch ups where staff have the opportunity to let off steam and have any concerns heard by managers. At Natterbox, we will be taking part in virtual musical bingo led by big personalities, as well as ‘taking’ each employee and their family out to dinner ‘on us’ since we cannot all be together this year.
Every conversation matters
No matter whether you’re a customer or contact agent, this Christmas has already shown itself to be very different from any we’re used to, and for many of us it will be a difficult time as we reflect on the entirely unexpected year, we have all bared witness too.
But let’s use this time to show the people around us what they mean to us, that they are valued, and ensure we each make the effort to have a positive impact on every person we come into contact with. Whether a business interaction, or a personal one, every conversation has the potential to change someone’s day.