Gearing Up for Holiday Service

What’s the formula for a winning holiday strategy? It’s your marketing campaign plus your customer service, according to Greg Fettes, president/CEO of call center services provider 24-7 INtouch, and Barry Lamm, director of account management and training for live chat software provider LivePerson.

In their session “180 Days Until Christmas! Are You Prepared For the Busiest Online Shopping Season?” at ACCM in New Orleans last week, Fettes and Lamm noted that your marketing campaign strategy consists of promotions and advertising with print, online, and direct response.

The customer service strategy, which is often overlooked, involves handling volume, pre- and post-holiday service, and customer experience. Brand loyalty and continued revenue also come into play in your customer service strategy.

Quality customer service becomes a differentiating factor during the competitive holiday sales season. “This is your brand ambassador,” Fettes said about service. The key to capitalizing on it is planning.

Today’s consumers have short attention spans, Lamm said. They are Web savvy and demand speed and access to information, and more now prefer communicating online via e-mail or live chat. They also demand convenience, answers, bargains, and quick service.

What else do they want? A recent report by the E-Tailing Group shows that 77% of shoppers said accessible contact information was most important when buying online; 75% said a toll-free phone number; and 72% said live chat was key. (Visitors who chat are three times more likely to buy, and their average order size is 35% higher than nonchatters, Lamb said.)

Multichannel customer service (phone, chat, and e-mail) allows you to connect with your customers through the communication channel of their choice, Fettes said. Providing multichannel service increases sales conversions, enhances customer experience and deflects call volumes to other channels for increases in efficiency.

How can you prepare your service operation for a stellar season? Fetes and Lamb offered these five holiday tips:

Use customer service to drive ROI. You spend thousands of dollars to drive traffic to your Website. Quality customer service through multiple channels is proven to increase sales conversions and enhance the customer experience.

It’s not over on Dec. 25. Don’t forget about the post-holiday sales rush! Gift card purchases are on the rise, giving you an opportunity to exceed your first-quarter sales targets. For returns and exchanges, a seamless process will create high brand loyalty and repeat businesses.

Get more out of what you got. With fewer consumers spending, average order value is an important metric for ROI and reduced cost per contact. Use technology analytics and reporting to identify visitors who are most likely to buy and focus on upsells and cross-sells to increase the average order value.

Know your options. Don’t sacrifice sales and service because your headcount budget is frozen. Consider short-term contract work for your after-hours coverage or seasonal overflow contacts.

Lead, don’t follow. Competition is growing each year, and 2009 will be a fight to win consumer dollars. When it comes to service, lead—don’t follow your competition. Make the investment to provide a great experience and leave a lasting positive impression with your customers.

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