As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, supply chains everywhere felt the pain. A shortage of truck drivers, decreased port access, and international delays made it tough to get products into customers’ hands promptly.
In response to these supply chain shortages, buyers have become disgruntled, with 61% expressing frustration and nearly 50% expressing impatience, anxiety, or anger.
Some industries, such as consumer electronics, have a surplus of products, but port backups continue to strain certain goods. And the global semiconductor shortage still impacts many companies. We’ll see consistent challenges in the coming months and years, from delivery problems to returns handling.
Overcoming these challenges is important, but how you handle them is even more critical, considering that 83% of customers will switch to a competitor because of bad customer service.
Can you turn obstacles into opportunities?
Turning Toward Automation and Analytics
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of supply chain executives say automating warehouse roles is a top priority. This automation includes processing to confirm orders and share tracking information with customers, adding machines to assist workers in picking items, and pick-to-light systems using LEDs and barcodes to improve efficiency.
What’s more, retailers use unified analytics to detect and respond to supply chain issues. By digging into the data, companies can accurately forecast demand, identify items to replenish, and incorporate visualizations for multiple scenarios, from new store openings to product updates.
These steps can help improve fulfillment times by offering more precise, up-to-date notifications, and shorter windows of delivery. In some cases, they’re implementing a buy online, deliver from store (BODFS) strategy to avoid incomplete orders and reduce last-mile delivery costs.
As call volumes increase, companies are trying to keep up with demand without putting more strain on their employees. Their strategies focus on automation and analytics, using data to better serve customers.
For example, brands are incorporating chatbots and virtual assistants to drive a seamless customer experience (CX) with digital shopping and online transactions. These tools handle more straightforward customer queries, thereby reducing call volume.
Online communities also help solve common problems while easing contact center inquiries. Users answer each other’s questions and serve as expert resources—and advocates—for specific products or services.
Contact center agents and in-store retail associates have ways to team up, too. Agents can look up what items are available in-store and sell to customers online, guaranteeing smooth pickups. Likewise, associates can quickly order items online for customers that might currently be out of stock otherwise.
Still, automation and analytics need to work in tandem with humans. Contact center agents must be able to quickly access information from previous conversations so that they have the proper background to understand issues and continue where the customers left off.
The payoff can be major: 75% of Americans are more likely to stay loyal to brands that deliver personalized customer service.
Contact Center Strategies to Enhance CX
In most cases, a customer will be upset that they have to return a product or reach out about a delay. While some customers may be aware of larger global supply chain issues, most expect a seamless CX. Here are four ways you can employ to deliver that.
1. Make it easy for them
If a customer has to jump through 10 hoops simply to get an answer to their question, you’re already fighting a losing battle.
Let them message you on the channel they prefer. Offer multiple ways to contact your brand and make these options obvious and accessible on your website, social channels, and Google listings as well as in stores. Use messaging platforms such as Google’s Business Messages, Facebook Messenger, and Apple Messages for Business so customers can reach out to you directly and receive quick answers.
A chatbot can help handle more common queries, freeing up time for agents to focus on more complex, pressing topics.
2. Offer transparency
Customers get upset if they think they’re being lied to, so try to get ahead of any potential pitfalls.
Include expected shipping or delivery delays on your website or product pages. Use shipping and return notifications to keep customers informed about their delivery.
Should a delay arise after a transaction send a personalized note via email or text to give the customer a heads-up. If a price increase has to happen, be open about why. While some customers may still express disappointment, it’s best to temper expectations upfront.
This transparency should extend to your team too. By developing a single source of truth to connect data systems managed by disparate groups across the organization, you can better identify bottlenecks and equip agents with the tools and information to offer a more streamlined CX.
3. Look for the why
When a customer leaves a complaint on a social network, product review site, or online survey, you likely know they’re frustrated, but do you know why they’re upset?
Diving into these conversations and understanding the root cause of an issue empowers you to make changes to minimize that issue in the future.
For example, are customers returning pairs of athletic shorts because the picture on the product page makes it seem like the shorts have pockets? Or maybe a high percentage of customers are returning a product and then calling your contact center to complain about the cumbersome return process.
When you identify trends through these data sources, you can take action. In the examples above, adjusting unclear descriptions and images can help reduce the volume of returns, and giving your returns process a facelift will lead to happier customers.
4. Give your contact center agents space to shine
Remember, your agents are humans too. Agent burnout is real, and with higher call volumes than usual, you’ll want to pay attention to how they’re feeling.
You can also take a more strategic approach to onboarding new hires and addressing agent performance. For example:
- Look for creative training methods. Spending eight hours lecturing agents in a dimly lit room will cause them to tune out. Try alternative methods, such as incorporating games, interactive lessons, and internal podcasts into your onboarding and ongoing training.
- Offer incentives to top-performing agents. Personalizing rewards is a great way to inspire agents. Give tickets to a sports game or buy a board game for your agent who loves to host game nights.
- Let your agents have independence. Contact center agents experience stressful situations without the added pressure of someone looking over their shoulder. Trust them to work effectively and deliver feedback in encouraging ways to help them improve.
The goal is to provide a more positive experience for your agents. In that setting, they’ll advance their skills and feel empowered to share their knowledge with others through an internal community.
Supply chain issues will continue to leave customers feeling frustrated or anxious. But with the right strategies in place, brands can turn those frustrations into a positive experience for both customers and agents.