Boxing Day blues: unlocking customer satisfaction (and retention) this holiday season

From faulty gifts to hasty returns, the holiday period is the most important time of year for customer support. Here’s why smart search can be Santa’s best friend post-Christmas. 

Nico Beukes, Senior Vice President at Yext, offers advice on how to help agents deal with customer service demands during the festive frenzy. 

The holiday season: a time for celebrations with friends, family and loved ones. And shopping – lots of shopping. Such is the extent of this spending, spurred by the rise (and rise) of ecommerce, forecasts suggest that online sales for the holiday period would grow by more than 14% in North America in 2021, reaching close to $207 billion.

But with this surge in retail comes the need for solicitous customer support. Done well, this can be the key to satisfying customers, keeping up with their evolving demands and driving repeat business. If neglected, however, it’s likely your customers will be vocal about their bad experiences, post damning reviews, or even take their business elsewhere.

To raise awareness of the challenges – and how to overcome them – Yext surveyed 1,300 consumers across the UK and US to uncover their preferences and behaviours when resolving customer support issues online, with the key findings outlined below. But what if we told you there was an even smarter approach to support customer satisfaction?

In this article, we’ll explore new insights about the increasing willingness to self-serve, preferred support channels and the winners and losers of customer service.

Customer service is more critical than ever

Before diving into the solutions, it’s important to understand the essential need for customer support, with more than half (56%) of respondents confirming they contacted support services during the holiday season in 2020. But more tellingly, a vast majority (92%) also say customer service during this prime shopping period is vital.

Of the consumers who contacted customer support, popular queries included exchanging or returning items (50%) and locating or resolving delayed shipments (26%), with 24% also looking for information on a product they planned on purchasing. So, no surprises there. But what is surprising is the actions of consumers who receive poor service during the holidays.

In fact, our survey shows they’re an unforgiving bunch – and following a bad experience, the most common course of action is to escalate to a manager (43%). Closely followed by turning to a competitor (37%), turning to a search engine (31%), or leaving a bad review (29%). Ultimately, a bad experience spells bad news for your business, so how can this be avoided? 

Often, the first step to overcoming issues is understanding them – and our survey reveals how long wait times (60%) are by far the biggest driver of dissatisfaction. But not being able to contact agents (47%), being transferred from one agent to another (43%) and chatbot inefficiencies (38%) are also areas of concern.

Perhaps most telling of all, however, is the fact that 53% of consumers prefer finding the information they need on the company’s website – without the need to contact customer service. But this isn’t always possible, with 38% of respondents growing frustrated when they’re not able to find answers on a company’s website, with 21% also disgruntled by poor website results.

Once you’ve gained an understanding of the issues, it can also help to learn from those who are leading the way in customer experience and service (or those who aren’t). In both the UK and US, online marketplaces – such as Amazon – unsurprisingly standout for their commitment to customers, trailed narrowly by entertainment services, such as Netflix.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, both nations are united in their view that both government services and telecommunications are the biggest culprits for bad experiences and service during the holiday season (and in reality, probably the rest of the year). 

Empowering agents and customers with smart search

So, as you can see, our survey shows how customer support still has an essential role to play – especially during the holiday season. But of course, the sheer scale of shopping and demand for customer service during this period will undoubtedly pile pressure on agents, giving rise to some of the causes for concern listed above.

This is where adopting key technologies and approaching customer service in a smart way can ease the burden on customer support agents and increase customer satisfaction. For example, ensuring that your FAQs and business information pages are up-to-date and accurate is a great way to answer queries and give customers the essential information they require, avoiding the need for costly calls to customer service agents.

This holiday season and beyond, businesses that bring modern, AI-powered search to their website can meet rising search volumes and support needs at the holidays head on — delivering customers better answers, more easily when they search. In turn, better self-service through search can both decrease costs and lighten the load on support teams during this critical time period.