While the holiday season typically represents the peak shopping period for many brands, the vast majority say they will struggle to ensure they have the people necessary to deliver the customer experience they want, according to data released from Verint.
The Melville, N.Y.-based firm, which provides software to boost customer engagement, commissioned a survey of approximately 400 business professionals for its CX Retail Holiday Survival Guide 2023.
Retailers said the biggest staffing issues are within the frontlines of their physical stores, where 53 per cent said they may have trouble hiring. However there was also a significant concern in recruiting team members for contact center roles, which was cited by 36 per cent of those surveyed.
The challenges aren’t limited to simply bringing people on, either. Verint found that 54 per cent struggle with having to approve a lot of overtime pay during the holidays. Then there’s training: though working in retail has not traditionally been considered a complex job, 64 per cent said there are not enough applicants with the skills they need.
Perhaps as a result, 47 per cent of retail professionals said chatbots play a key role in their customer engagement strategy. Forty per cent are also focusing on driving more customer engagement through their mobile app, just one percentage point below those who said they were focusing on the in-store experience.
That said, Verint found there was a gap in terms of the degree to which chatbots have access to customers’ interaction history compared to contact center agents.
“When it comes to proficiency in implementing customer feedback, there is stark contrast between retailers that connect all customer data and those that only connect customer data across some engagement channels,” the report’s authors wrote. “Retailers that connect all data are more than three times as likely to use insights very effectively from customer feedback to improve their experiences on digital channels and in-store.”
360 Magazine Insight
Given the sometimes shaky reputation of chatbots as a customer service tool, it’s perhaps understandable that retailers aren’t empowering them with the same depth of data as the human employees who are answering questions and troubleshooting issues.
However Verint’s gated 20-page study makes a convincing case that this somewhat siloed approach can be detrimental from a long-term customer experience standpoint.
While 56 per cent said they were very effective in using customer feedback to improve digital experiences, for instance, Verint broke that down further. For those who connect customer data across all engagement channels, the number jumped to 72 per cent. For those who don’t, it dropped to just 22 per cent.
This matters if you’re facing staffing challenges as customer demand surges over the next few months. Retailers are going to have to make tough decisions about how many people they bring on and where technology can make up for hiring challenges. The only real way to know if you’re making the right bets is to see what customers are saying about their experience.
Realistically, this should start long before consumers start putting up Christmas trees, and should be complimented with a deeper analysis that examines revenue trends based on in-store and digital channels. Just like putting off holiday shopping until the last minute, you only have yourself to blame if things don’t go as well as expected.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.