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Sobriety often follows end-of-year celebrations and winter sales, and it has implications for customer service departments. Responding effectively without customer experience optimisation can be difficult: mass returns, multiple queries, after-sales service, etc. How can contact centres navigate and learn from these challenges to prepare for next year’s peak in activity?
Many people start the new year regretting one or two purchases and wondering if it’s possible to return them. Often, they know their UK consumer rights when it comes to returns but turn to brand touchpoints for information on how to go about it. A 2022 report revealed that a quarter of the UK’s leading brands charge consumers for returning online purchases. Furthermore, 30% of brands only offer 2 return options; one of the most common being to drop off the item at a parcel shop. Finding out more about the available options is a leading driver of customer contact following winter sales.
Although the increase in contact centre activity at the start of the New Year is largely predictable the e-commerce return rate does vary according to product type. In 2022 34% of UK respondents had returned an online purchase, with clothing ranking as the leading category. Anticipating the extent of the contact peak is a crucial way to limit dissatisfaction and it relies on accurate forecasting and effective planning. Post-sale periods aren’t just about returns though, with customer experience optimisation it’s also an opportunity to improve customer loyalty.
After the flurry of sale activity at the beginning of the year, proactive engagement can continue the conversation with new and existing customers. Reaching out with invitations to join online communities can engage those considering new year lifestyle changes. Even a simple thank you note can be personalised with suggestions or offers. 79% of UK retailers ignore customers after the dispatch notification. Such simple gestures may not seem like customer experience optimisation however even without any monetary value they can make brands stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression, improving customer retention. At this busy time of year though, an effective after-sales strategy is about more than thank yous.
Whether in bricks-and-mortar shops or in e-commerce, after the intensity of winter sales orders come the requests for post-purchase support. Largely, ordering and payment is the ‘easy’ part, especially with online shopping, it’s automated and streamlined. What follows is applying customer experience optimisation strategies to make returns and query resolution as convenient as possible.
Consumers who find the returns process simple are more likely to feel confident spending their money with the same business in the future. In fact, the importance of simplicity is so great that retailers and consumers are turning to 3rd party businesses to coordinate online returns.
Regardless of the returns process, clear communication is crucial. Customers need to find consistent information easily on their channel of choice. Then, when there is a need to follow up or escalate a query, the ability to continue a conversation rather than restart it is a meaningful customer experience optimisation. It follows then, that one of the differentiating factors for brands and their contact centre software is the ability to integrate all interactions into a single omnichannel history.
Regular communication via a customer’s channel of choice optimises relations further by keeping them informed about the progress of their return. Emails and/or SMS at each stage of the process, from drop-off to receipt of delivery to the actual refund, reassures customers and reduces the need for additional inbound communications.
WhatsApp Business is a newer communication touchpoint that’s growing in popularity. Once customers opt into or initiate messages, interactions can be integrated into omnichannel conversations. This channel is not only easy to use, it adds value for customers with rich content and by engaging them on an already familiar platform. It can be used to target several points in the customer journey including post-purchase, like sharing details or resources about product returns.
Customer services departments can quickly find themselves overloaded in the aftermath of winter sales. As well as customer experience optimisation having the right number of agents logged in is a clear advantage, but it’s not always straightforward to achieve. The workforce management and data visualisation tools integrated in high-quality contact centre software increase the accuracy of forecasting and planning by making sense of the available data and help with complex staffing equations.
Managing a high volume of interactions and maintaining customer satisfaction only using agents is both costly for businesses and fails to meet customer needs and expectations. Contact centres also need automation. This not only enables 24/7 support for busy customers, some actually prefer to interact with bots. FAQs and simple requests are ideal for self-service and by making escalation options clear and accessible for complex issues there’s no need for customer frustration. Links to returns portals can be easily shared in the course of a self-service interaction making the entire process as effortless as possible for the customer.
A great complement to inbound customer experience optimisation is automated outbound messaging. This can bypass the need for customers to make contact in the first place. No one likes unexpected delays or problems. Notifications, whether by IM, SMS or email, from shipment to collection and delivery help manage expectations with transparent information and updates.
Any post-sale period can be a pivotal time for businesses and their contact centres. Providing high-quality customer experiences can impact repeat sales and customer loyalty. Odigo is a leading Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solution provider. With a cutting-edge CCaaS solution optimisation of every customer experience creates enhanced journeys and efficiently manages peak activity.
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