Avoiding Christmas chaos through technology – 365 Retail

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has disrupted countless winter plans for both businesses and consumers over the last two years. In 2022, while we haven’t yet fully seen the last of the virus, some might have thought we were heading towards a more ‘normal’ end to the year. 
However, with highly publicised inflation rises, and increases to the cost of living through energy price hikes, many consumers are already feeling the crunch in the run up to Christmas. In fact, festive spending is set to drop by more than £4 billion this year as consumers manage household budgets and scale back their usual plans. With this time of year always busy for customer experience (CX) teams, how will companies cope with individuals that are feeling more stretched, more anxious, and perhaps increasingly demanding in search of a bargain?
Retailers need to be more sensitive towards consumers than ever before. This means putting their needs first and crafting experiences that show they care about and understand their issues. Simultaneously, CX representatives also need the tools to manage increasing demand and deliver exceptional experiences. The missing link here is technology. Putting the right solutions in place will not only help retailers to manage demand with agility, but also put consumers first. 
With this in mind, here’s how companies can prepare for different types of disruption, and why they must place empathy at the heart of all they do to ensure there are no CX nightmares before Christmas this year.
The festive shopping period already has retailers dealing with increased demand compared to that of the rest of the year, and the cost-of-living crisis means they have yet more to contend with. With consumers changing their approach and focusing spend on essentials, retailers are having to work harder to secure their loyalty and maximise on this golden period. 
Consumers are finding this time increasingly challenging. With uncertainty around what the future holds and prices set to remain higher than ever, many are understandably anxious. On top of this, they’re facing a Christmas unlike ever before. With reports showing that 60% will spend less this year and less than a third expect to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, many are having to make compromises. Faced with these challenges, customers require more support from the brands they interact with. Customers want to know that their issues are important, and this means retailers must create personalised experiences that show they care.
Expectations of retailers are already high – when customers reach out, they expect support to be readily available when and where they need it. In the current economic circumstances, these have intensified. At the same time, they want seamless interactions across all channels, which means that they expect brands to have a record of why they’ve reached out before. As a result, retailers need to have the ability to not only deal with the increased demand they already face during the Christmas period, but also ensure they deliver timely and meaningful solutions.
More and more, customers are shopping online and interacting with retailers across digital channels, whether that be webchat or social media. While many retailers already have digital channels that allow customers to reach out for care in a way that suits them, a sizeable majority lack the ability to fully take advantage of this. Often, retailers store data is in silos, which prevents them having the full oversight of the customer journey necessary to really get to the core of their needs.
An omnichannel approach is key to optimising the customer experience and making this as seamless as possible. Through this, retailers can ensure they’re providing a consistent and connected experience across channels, improving customer satisfaction and outcomes. This means that data needs to be available to representatives across channels so that anytime a customer reaches out, there is an existing record of all their interactions.
When used in the right way with the right technology, digital interactions can further provide retailers improved insight into their customers’ preferences and help them to build profiles that get to the core of their needs. 
With AI technology, interaction data, such as webchat logs and call transcripts, can be analysed and understood more efficiently. Representatives can quickly identify trends across digital channels related to a specific issue of interest. With this insight, they can anticipate why a customer may reach out and be ready with appropriate solutions when they do. For example, multiple customers may reach out to enquire about a Christmas shopping promotion. With the help of AI, recurring questions can be spotted, helping representatives to be prepared when a customer gets in touch.
Customers want to know that retailers care about their problems and view them as important – and now more so than ever. This means they need to do more to learn and adjust to demands so that customers feel heard and understand, and importantly, that they can rely on retailers to take care of their issues. By staying ahead of customer needs with solutions to the most prominent issues identified, retailers can ensure they’re offering personalised experiences and meeting customer issues with empathy, helping to build loyalty at this challenging time. 
There’s no doubt that this will be a Christmas like no other, and retailers will need to deliver experiences that make their customers feel remembered, heard and understood. This is the foundation of an empathetic customer experience that gives the customer exactly what they want and exactly at their time of need. 
It’s especially important that retailers create meaningful and memorable experiences, with customers more conscious of budgets this year. Individuals will remember which brands put customer orchestration at the heart of everything they do to ensure their experiences were positive despite the challenging economic situation.
The retailers that recognise this and react to the economic challenges of today, taking advantage of technology to make a real difference to their customers, will be the ones to establish loyalty over Christmas and beyond. 

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