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Christmas is by far the busiest holiday for online retailers.  It’s reported that shoppers in the US can spend over $1 trillion (https://muchneeded.com/christmas-statistics/) on Christmas, in the UK/EU this figure is around £2 Billion.

Combining on and offline shopping methods, stores will often achieve 20% of their annual sales during this period – and with the higher footfall in stores and visitors to their online stores comes additional pressures on retailers.  To counteract the challenges of this period, retailers need to plan ahead, so as to not sacrifice brand reputation via missed deliveries, poor service or underperforming websites.

For online retailers, getting the offline elements of their online service right is critical.  Whilst customers might be merrily ordering their gifts from an easy to navigate and secure website, if retailers don’t have a corresponding, well trained and well planned human back office function, it’s easy for things to go wrong.

And of course, the festive period often means upweighting your team to cope with the influx of purchases.  So when should retailers start to think about planning for Christmas?  Here at Arema Connect, our planning for next year starts as soon as Christmas is over!  We use data from following festive period, and that all starts with thinking about recruitment and staffing.

We recommend that you start your recruitment process over the summer, with a clear criteria around what makes the perfect customer service agent.  So what happens next?  It’s critical now that you get your seasonal staff in as early as possible to give them the necessary training.  In our seasonal teams, we like to get our new recruits to start their training in September, well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Christmas peaks. We make sure that new starters are paired with experienced members of the team, and start their work on more routine, process led tasks until they are confident with this type of work and handling customer expectations.  When we’re confident that they have the necessary skills, then we move them onto direct customer interactions.

It’s also important to remember the emotional impact that Christmas deliveries can have.  Whilst courier and logistics support is often outsourced to a third party, it’s your call centre that the customers will be desperately contacting when ‘Little Johnnie’s’ latest transformer toy has not arrived on time. Your staff need to be prepared for dealing with customers who are often under pressure themselves in a calm and reasonable way, and be clear on the necessary escalation procedures for delivery or logistics failures.

At this stage we’d again recommend going back and analysing your data from last year.  Where were the biggest problems, where were the highest numbers of calls recorded and how did your people handle them?  This data is invaluable to help you prepare the training and Standard Operating Procedures you need to ensure that your customer service agents are performing to the best of their ability.  It also gives you the opportunity to challenge your delivery and logistics partners around the Service Level Agreement’s (SLA’s) they provide, to make sure that everyone is aligned before the sales start flooding in!

So in summary, getting your business ready for Chrismas is all about the planning.  The earlier you start to examine the data from last year, recruiting the right type of staff and planning your training programme, the better prepared you will be for the busiest, and most lucrative time of year.  As the old adage goes ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas!

To see how Arema Connect can help support your Christmas rush visit here