This Year’s Go-To Fall Accessory for Retailers? The Pocket Guide To Staffing For the Holidays

Retail online shopping

As summer turns to fall, online and brick mortar retailers alike gear up for the inevitable holiday shopping rush. For customer service teams, this means an influx of tickets on shipping, gift wrapping, returns, and myriad other holiday-specific issues.

This holiday season will be no exception: e-commerce sales are expected to rise 12 percent, while in-store sales are expected to rise another 2.6 percent. To handle this spike in sales, NRF expects retailers to hire between 585,000 and 650,000 temporary workers for this holiday season, up from last year’s 582,500. Meanwhile, finding these workers will be intensely competitive, as U.S. unemployment is at its lowest level in 50 years — meaning there are fewer seasonal workers available. 

Even with additional seasonal staff, any holiday shopper knows that customer service can get severely backed up at peak times. This can have major effects on your brand that reverberate throughout the year. Indeed, unhappy customers tell, on average, 16 friends about their experience (as compared to happy customers who tell 9 friends on average). 

So how are retailers supposed to ensure they provide rapid response times and accessible customer support, while also navigating the budget constraints and time limits imposed on hiring and training new staff? 

This blog post is an abbreviated version of the comprehensive step-by-step guide to staffing for the holidays. Ready to dive in now? To read the full Pocket Guide to Staffing Smarter for the Holidays (Without Breaking the Bank), click here

How to Provide Immediate Response Times and Seamless Paths to Resolution Without Doubling Your Holiday Workforce

There are three hacks that every retailer can utilize this season to augment their workforce with scalable and efficient support infrastructure. 

  1. Seeing Immediate ROI With Messaging
  2. Leveraging AI for Automatic Classification and Segmentation 
  3. Using Bots to Automate Simple Requests

By leveraging the best of 21st century communication technology, you can make your existing workforce (and additional staffers) significantly more efficient. Indeed, a recent Helpshift report found that in the retail industry, a combination of human and bot workflows with messaging-based support enables agents to handle twice the amount of tickets in any given time period. In fact, 45 percent of issues may not even need an agent to get involved, and can be fully handled by bots. 

That said, you can see immediate ROI from acting on any one of the above three steps. If you’re still relying exclusively on email or phone support, focus on finding a vendor that offers asynchronous messaging across devices and platforms (in-app, web chat, etc.). If you already use messaging based support and automated ticket routing, consider investing in bot-based workflows (setting it up is much simpler and faster than you may think!). Wherever your team is, you can take at least one step toward providing a tech-enabled support strategy that makes life easier for customers and agents alike. 

Start Scaling Today – Not Just For the Holidays, But For the Future

The holidays tend to reveal any holes or weaknesses in customer support strategies. However, that doesn’t mean you should just rely on patching those holes with extra staff during peak periods. Instead, it means you should examine the faults in infrastructure that led to the holes in the first place, and fix those in order to offer superior support throughout the year. 

For a step-by-step guide on how to do this, and what your expected pay-off can be, download the full Pocket Guide to Staffing Smarter For the Holidays

Published August 6, 2019
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