All Your Customers Want for Christmas? Good Service and Great Deals

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    Many small businesses rely on holiday season sales to meet the year’s revenue targets. Most consumers just hope their holiday shopping experience won’t add to their stress at this busy time of year. Unfortunately, many of them are not counting on it.

    Nearly half of shoppers say customer service is worse during the holiday season, according to a recent Zogby Analytics survey commissioned by CorvisaCloud, a cloud-based call center software provider. More than 1,000 adults were surveyed. While only 8 percent of shoppers say “customer service” is the number one force that drives their choice of retailers—77 percent say “great deals” or “low prices” motivate them most—how they’re treated does not go unnoticed.

    Only 14 percent say customer service is better during the holidays. That’s based on comparisons with their experiences throughout the year: 34 percent of those surveyed claim they contact a customer service department at least twice a month; 48 percent manage to keep those interactions to once a year. During the holiday season, the week following Christmas is the most likely time to speak with customer service, they say.

    Few let bad experiences go unacknowledged. More than one-third say they complain or ask for a manager; and one-fifth tell friends and family or talk about it on social media. Another one-fifth are more understanding: they say they just shrug their shoulders and move on, or give the business another shot in case the situation was a fluke.

    To be sure, customers also reward good service: One-third give positive feedback to the company, nearly one-third say they might shop more frequently with the company, and 20 percent sing praises to friends and family in person, on social media, or by signing up for the company loyalty program.

    Dennis Casey, VP of Customer Service at CorvisaCloud says the data underscore the importance of making sure your contact center agents, employees, and customer service department perform seamlessly during the holidays.

    Casey offers 5 tips to ensure excellent customer care this holiday season:

    Get your reindeer in a row. Don’t assume everyone on the team understands the company goals. If the holiday season is key to hitting your year-end revenue marks, let them know it. If you hope to leverage stellar holiday season service to ensure a life-long supply of happy customers, communicate that ambition to your employees, Casey says.

    Be jolly, by golly. Some people dread dealing with customer service reps so much that they’d rather shop among Black Friday crowds, the CorvisaCloud survey shows. Casey recommends keeping customers happy by always portraying a positive and friendly interaction. “Try smiling while you’re on the phone,” he says. “As cheesy as it sounds, people can ‘hear’ a smile over the phone.”

    Spread the holiday cheer. Want employees to be nice to customers? Be nice to employees! “People react to how they’re treated and that reflects on your culture as a company. The extra time you take now to make customers happy will pay off in 2014,” Casey says.

    Put yourself in your customers’ stockings. The shortened 2013 holiday season will, no doubt, to amplify stress for shoppers and sellers alike. Those surveyed say their most aggravating customer service experiences include repeating the same information multiple times, waiting a long time to be helped, speaking to an unknowledgeable person, and being transferred multiple times. But Casey says a pleasant experience or kind word can suddenly turn a disgruntled or cranky customer into a loyal and satisfied fan. “Teach your employees how to stay patient when a customer service interaction becomes frustrating at both ends,” he adds.

    Be ready for the post-holiday rush. One in four consumers surveyed say they’re most likely to contact customer service the week after Christmas. One in 20 say Cyber Monday is when they’ll reach out. “Make sure your customer service department and call center is ready for this influx of calls and customer requests,” Casey says. “Your contact center agents and retail sales associates set the stage for creating first, second, and even the one-hundredth impression of your company. Take the extra step to make sure they have the strategies in place to make your customers merry

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