How retailers can win customer service this holiday season with AI

AI in Retail: Leverage Machine Intelligence to scale customer service teams to manage the influx of tickets, offering 24/7 support 

 

AI is the ultimate seasonal hire for retailers. 

The holiday shopping season is a golden time of year for retailers of all sizes. November and December represent 20 to 40% of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers1. This year, eMarketer predicts a US retail spending growth of 3.7% to $1.035 trillion during the holiday season2. With over 60% of shoppers planning to do more than half of their shopping online, the influence eCommerce has is undeniable3.   

To protect this incredible growth in e-commerce sales, retailers need to leverage AI to boost customer happiness, decrease returns and scale high-quality support through this hectic shopping season. 

The seasonal surge in customer service tickets 

Naturally, the holidays are the busiest time of year for customer service. More customers + more sales = more potential issues. BigCommerce found that between October and December, companies see a 75% increase in average daily customer service volume4

Most retailers are not set up to effectively manage this surge in customer service tickets. This can lead to long delays – hours or even days. Seasonal agents who are new to protocols and navigating various systems often provide inconsistent support. This can hurt first contact resolution and average handle time metrics. 

Even though there might be many celebrations during the holiday season, customers are not always merry, especially when they have a question or issue. They don’t have time to interrupt their lives to find a way to contact your company. They don’t want to wait hours for a response. During the busy holiday season, providing effortless support is even more critical to improving your brand reputation and ultimately customer happiness.

Holiday AI in Retail Use Cases 

Fifty-six percent of people actually say gift shopping is the most stressful part of the holidays5. Retailers can establish themselves as heroes in their customers eyes by resolving issues quickly. Bringing AI into the customer service workforce enables retailers to respond immediately – within seconds. Our clients generally see over 50% of incoming issues span 5-7 use cases. 

  • Help the last minute shopper: It’s reported that nearly 30% of holiday sales are from last minute shoppers6. AI can help these procrastinators track their order (Help! I’m leaving tomorrow. Will my gift arrive before then?). A virtual agent can also recommend gifts to make them feel confident in their purchase. 
  • Facilitate returns: Nearly 30% of all gifts purchased are returned7. A virtual agent can help a customer throughout the returns process, answering questions about company policy and eligibility. (Learn more about how AI can work well with RMA platforms to uplift the returns process here). 
  • Price adjustments and matching: During the holiday season, a lot of people shop around. If your business offers price adjustments and matching, a virtual agent can act as the first line of defense. It can gather information or request necessary proof before a human agent takes over to refund an account.  
  • Proactively reach out to get in front of issues: If a package is going to be delayed or gets damaged, a virtual agent can proactively reach out to customers to let them know of the issue and what’s being done to remedy the situation. This helps to maintain customer satisfaction as you address the problem, while underscoring that your company appreciates their business.  
  • Store finders and hours of operations: Stores usually have extended hours throughout the shopping season, which are not always updated on search engines. A virtual agent can link to internal systems to pull the most accurate data. 

There are many AI in retail use cases, but the ones above have particular importance during the busy holiday season. Consumers spend on average $1,226 on holiday gifts8. When considering customers will change their buying decisions based on the customer service they receive (pre-and post sale), it becomes clear that support needs to be a strategic part of the retailer holiday playbook.

You should deploy an AI-powered virtual agent to satisfy the increased demands of your customers this holiday season. As ticket volume skyrockets, your customers will expect quicker, more convenient service. Delegate high-volume, costly repeatable customer queries to AI and let human agents focus on more complex needs. Give time back to your customers and agents. It’s the best gift of all. 

It’s not too late to bring AI into your customer service workforce this holiday season. Get in touch today to scale high-quality support that delights your customers while empowering human agents to work faster. 

 

References 

  1. Constant Contact: 30 Holiday Shopping Stats That Every Small Business Owner Needs to See (https://blogs.constantcontact.com/holiday-shopping-stats/)  
  2. eMarketer: US 2018 Holiday Season Review and 2019 Preview, February 21, 2019 (https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-2018-holiday-season-review-and-2019-preview)
  3. Digital Commerce 360: Holiday e‑commerce 2018 data analysis in 10 charts, January 24, 2019 (https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2019/01/14/holiday-season-ecommerce-analysis/)
  4. Big Commerce: Make Customer Service Your Most Valuable Asset This Holiday Season (https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-customer-service/#customers-know-youre-busy-and-they-dont-care) 
  5. University Hospitals: The Most Concerning Holiday Stress Statistics, November 29, 2018 (https://blog.partnersforyourhealth.com/blog/the-most-concerning-holiday-stress-statistics)
  6. Big Commerce: How to Ease Holiday Shipping Anxiety for You and Your Customers & Holiday Shipping Deadlines for 2019 (https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-shipping/)
  7. Small Biz Trends: Final 2017 Holiday Sales Figures Show Best Season in 4 Years, January 15, 2018 (https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/01/final-2017-holiday-sales-figures.html)
  8. The Wordstream Blog: 14 Holiday Shopping Stats to Help You Plan in 2018, August 8, 2019 (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/10/10/holiday-shopping-statistics-2018)

Can Ozdoruk

VP of Marketing

Can Ozdoruk is our VP of Marketing. He has an MBA from the University of Southern California and his insights on customer service and the benefits AI can provide the industry have been featured in publications like CustomerThink, G2, and Clutch.

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