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This holiday season will be unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Despite the uncertainty of whether consumers will spend money during this holiday season, consumers will opt to spend online instead of in-store. McKinsey is reporting that 30-60% of shoppers will shift their holiday shopping to online platforms. Shoppers who purchase through digital platforms tend to have larger basket sizes, which may be a result of not having the same in-store experience. As a result, retailers should anticipate a higher than average influx of returned merchandise and customer service calls.

The tension point of customer service calls 

The spike in purchases and returns this holiday and post-holiday season will create a bottleneck for retailers and consumer goods companies in several ways: delayed returned merchandise, reverse logistics, and a spike in customer service calls. The customer service interaction in the return process is the one I dread the most. 

Historically, customer service interactions get a bad reputation for being time-consuming, requiring customers to provide personal and transaction data, and at times, a generally unpleasant experience. Which begs the question: “Why does this even happen with modern technology?” Customer service teams aren’t intentionally trying to make the experience unpleasant — a poor customer service experience is more likely a symptom of disconnected systems. 

Sixty-six percent of customers say they are willing to pay more for great experiences, and as retailers fail to deliver they are losing money and customer credibility. So how do you create a seamless end-to-end customer experience? And, how do you prepare for the expected post-holiday surge in customer service calls? 

Bring service back to customer service

Consumers are increasingly interested in a seamless customer service interaction that delivers beyond their expectations, almost regardless of how retailers derive at them. There’s something creepy good about calling a customer service line only to discover that they recognize you with just your phone number. I’ve had moments where I’m trying to remember when I ever gave them my phone number, slightly surprised that they “know me.” And then just like that, before I can even figure it out, the call is over and they’ve resolved my issue. I’m then quickly relieved that I gave them my information and that they treated me like a person, not an account number. Customers don’t have time to be searching for a purchase receipt that was potentially thrown out. Nearly 85% of customers want to be engaged on a personal level and not like a transaction. Customer service agents don’t want to be yelled at either, nor replaced by chat bots, they simply want to do their job. Securely integrating POS systems, customer information, and account history are key to delivering upon a superior customer experience, and empowering your staff to deliver the human element of the experience.

The future of a single customer view

Shoppers are increasingly expecting a personalized experience from brands and retailers, and the savviest of shoppers are turned off by generalized marketing messages. This year I received a marketing email from a retailer promoting back-to-school supplies. I don’t have school-age children and there’s nothing in my shopping history that would indicate I want back-to-school content. I do, however, have a busy toddler and would be very interested in product suggestions to keep them busy at their developmental level. 

Building a single customer view allows retailers and consumer goods companies to follow consumers on their life journey. The future of personalized marketing will layer in AI to signal shopper behaviors for things like remodeling a home, welcoming a new family member, or adopting a new hobby. Personalization impacts revenue generation since shoppers who click on a personalized product recommendation spend an average 26% more.

So integrating data you say…

Yes, integrated data empowers retailers and consumer goods companies to deliver better and personalized experiences with a single source of truth through a single customer view. You’re not alone in this transformational point, 82% of service decision-makers say their service must transform to stay competitive. An API-led integration strategy prepares your business for the future because it gives you the ability to modernize legacy systems and replace outdated systems without disrupting the entire API network. Learn more about our out-of-the-box innovation like MuleSoft Accelerator for Service Cloud which can speed up your service projects 3x faster. The only thing on my holiday list is great customer service… and a great discount!

Register for a free expo pass by January 6th to attend NRF’s Big Show and find MuleSoft in the Salesforce virtual pavilion! The first 50 to attend the MuleSoft interactive retail session on Jan 19 will receive an exclusive giveaway!