Surviving the festive hangover

Top tips for retailers to manage the rise in returns at the end of the festive period 

By Daniel Bailey, Head of North & West Europe at Zendesk 

As consumers, many of us will have received something for Christmas this year from a distant relative, family friend – or even someone who knows us really well – that wasn’t on the holiday wish list. Be it a pair of socks, clothing that’s just not our style or something really obscure, we’ve all unwrapped that one gift we instantly knew we’d be returning. However, this means that we’re all contributing to the additional costs retailers face from managing the influx of returns at the end of the festive period – many of which are generated from online sales.

Retailers need to ensure they’re prepared for these busier periods – and not just after the holidays.  This means understanding the importance of the customer experience in managing this peak contact time, and ensuring service agents are equipped with the right tools to tackle customer queries or concerns efficiently and effectively. So, what can retailers do to build a better customer experience during the returns period and ensure that a customer goes from making a return, to becoming a loyal customer? 

Empower your Customer Service teams during peak periods

According to our upcoming Customer Experience Trends 2020 report, which looks at trends from our benchmark of more than 45,000 companies, customer service is the top attribute that makes UK customers feel loyal to a brand (66%), followed by Price and product/service offerings. It is therefore critical that retailers go above and beyond during these peak periods to ensure customer service standards don’t slip. This means empowering teams to create a strong culture of engagement and ensuring where technology can be used to better understand customers, it’s combined with a culture of empathy, as well as support for agents.

Harness customer data 

Our customer experience trends research also showed that customers would opt for companies to keep track of their data, if it led to better experiences, with more than three quarters (76%) of customers wanting the personalisation that comes with better insights. Done correctly, the ability to manage and interpret data can help retailers to understand their customers and identify opportunities to better serve them with a more proactive approach. By introducing them to products they want and need, customers are less likely to return these items. It’s important to help customers trust the decisions they’re making online before they click the ‘buy now’ button.

Embrace technology

By making the most of omnichannel tools, customer service agents can meet customers via their chosen communication method and provide a resolution to their query much faster. Monitoring all channels available need not be a daunting task. By making the most of an omnichannel platform, agents can be in several places at once – without losing sight of a single thread of conversation. It’s a win-win.

As the famous saying goes ‘the customer is always right’. Whilst January may be a peak time for returns, retailers can save themselves the hangover headache by following these simple, yet effective steps to ensure the customer remains at the heart of every interaction, converting a return – into a loyal customer.

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