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How wide will the customer service gap get this holiday season?Do the fast approaching holidays fill you with dread at the thought of crowded malls packed with shoppers and incompetent, temporary store employees?  The HayGroup predicts that approximately 75% of retailers will experience an increase of holiday sales this year.  Given the prediction of a good shopping season, it’s almost a certainty that we will have some customer service challenges.

Why the pessimistic view?  Well, it’s because holidays bring the need to increase the number of bodies (employees) in the stores and a related increase of calls into call centers.  Everyone needs to bump up the seasonal staff in stores, distribution centers and call centers to handle the increase.  While the increase is no doubt a positive for a sluggish economy, service ultimately suffers.  The gap between service expectation and service reality is ever widening.

As customers we expect good service levels no matter where we shop and we detest being pressed for time, fighting the holiday crowds, finally finding a salesperson to help only to discover that he or she is completely useless.  It’s the same in a call center that has been ramped up with new agents that aren’t knowledgeable about the products they’re selling and can only help with simple orders and returns.  The customer experience is more than dealing with a warm body to answer a phone or roam the sales floor.

Where do you think we will have the best consumer experiences?  With the retailers and call centers who have scaled back to the bare bones over the past six months and will ramp up for the holiday season OR with an organization that has been consistently focused on the customer experience (over only bottom line)?  The increased patronage and calls during the holiday season will pronounce the service gap for the weak and push even further ahead the current leaders – essentially a nail in the coffin for many, and a push for some further into the Elite category.

Who do you think will shine and who do you think will be buried by the holiday season – and why?  Tweet me and let’s talk about it!

About Dr. Jodie Monger

Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics and a pioneer in voice of the customer research for the contact center industry. Before creating CRMetrics, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

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