How To Handle Retail Contact Center Challenges?
For years, the retail industry has been transforming in response to changes in consumer tastes and habits and the introduction of new technologies that make integrated digital experiences possible.
As brick-and-mortar stores closed, the pandemic accelerated the shift to eCommerce. Retailers now find themselves in a do-or-die scenario—make significant investments in their digital infrastructure, or risk losing customers to the competition.
The preference for online shopping will persist post-pandemic, and today’s consumer is highly selective, well-informed, and always on the hunt for brands that can deliver the quality, convenience, and exceptional customer service they crave.
Changing needs of retail contact centers
As new technologies usher in higher standards in personalization, customization, and service, the role of the call center becomes increasingly essential. Maintaining a high standard of service is just one of the challenges big retailers face in the post-pandemic world.
The challenge for retail call centers
With brick-and-mortar stores closed to help curb the spread, recent surveys have shown that many consumers won’t return to shops, even after the vaccine rollout is complete. For consumers who prefer to continue shopping online and need assistance, call center agents will be their only human point of contact. Strategy-makers need to consider this. According to one study, retailers have “shifted the bulk of the business away from brick-and-mortar to online e-commerce sales. Massive strategic shifts like this necessitated by the pandemic also entail re-thinking of contact center operations.”
With agents playing a greater role in the multi-channel approach to retailing, existing challenges will persist, and new ones will emerge.
Challenge #1: Increase Brand Presence
Today’s call center agents must help increase brand awareness amongst callers and support the retail presence by encouraging and promoting activity across channels.
Challenge #2: Provide personalized customer service
Consumers expect 24/7 support and enhanced online experiences from the agent facilitating self-service inquiries regardless of the operating hours of physical locations and concierge-like services.
Challenge #3: Inbound and Outbound Campaigns
Today’s call center agents support inbound marketing campaigns, including email, direct mail, and multimedia, and gather data for outbound campaigns. This trend is set to continue as marketers turn to AI to create predictive campaigns. According to a McKinsey report on customer service outlooks in 2025, “organizations will shift from reactive service centers to centers that take proactive control of the customer relationship. A customer’s real and potential individual needs will be identified and solved before the customer thinks to reach out.”
Challenge #4: Saving costs
The ability to reduce costs without compromising service remains a top concern for retail contact centers. While outsourced call centers are less costly overall, they pose specific challenges that only assessment and training solutions designed to improve efficiency and reduce churn can address.
The challenges retail call centers face are constantly evolving and require well-trained staff with the skills to evolve alongside changes in consumer needs and behavior.
Are you struggling with similar challenges at your retail contact center?
As call centers lend a hand in creating exceptional consumer experiences, the usual challenges persist.
Filling temporary or seasonal staff shortages
One study showed that 36.2% of contact centers faced staffing shortages in 2020, inhibiting their ability to support business growth. AI-enabled hiring assessments and training programs make it easier to screen recruits for the skills needed and get them floor-ready in less time.
Hiring and retaining quality representatives
Whether you’re hiring to meet a seasonal surge or simply recruiting new agents, retention remains a challenge. Learn how to increase retention with proven tactics that set agents up for success in this blog post.
Providing uniform experiences across all channels
Tech-savvy consumers will switch between multiple channels when interacting with a brand. Agents need a complete view of consumer activity with a unified commerce model that syncs data across all touchpoints to provide a seamless consumer experience.
Call centers process thousands of calls and gather data from each. But where does that data go? When analyzed, retailers can gain valuable insights into consistent issues with products or services, issues with UX design, and overall call center performance.
Culture and Language Conflicts
When call center agents are not properly vetted for communication skills or are inadequately trained in customer service, problem resolution, and cross-cultural communication, call center performance will suffer. This is why pre-hire assessments and customized new-hire training are so critical.
While these challenges are not new, the pandemic has amplified the impact on call center management. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve the situation and meet your call center KPIs.
The key to successful retail contact centers
By now, it’s clear that contact centers have an essential role to play in protecting and promoting the reputation of the brand they represent. Successful retail contact centers empower their call center agents through the following.
Agents are your most important, behind-the-scenes brand ambassadors. Ensuring they represent the brand well requires ongoing training and immersion into the values you want to convey to your customers.
Establish key call center metrics
Establish the metrics that matter to your brand and ensure your agents understand what each means, why it’s critical, and how they can improve performance.
Nuanced customer care
Train agents to use the most appropriate greetings, comments, and figures of speech for the customer base they are serving. Understanding the subtle nuances of regional language differences facilitates communication and builds rapport with the caller.
Prioritize employee engagement
Create a culture of transparency by creating a two-way dialog with your employees. Provide constructive feedback when you see room for improvement, share organizational information to keep employees informed, and encourage open sharing of ideas.
Call center agents have long been an undervalued resource. A fact highlighted by one recent report that finds, “companies are overlooking an untapped source of potential talent: their contact centers. Many organizations view the function as just a cost center, with frontline employees constantly cycling in and out, instead of as a valuable source of talent with a unique vantage point on customers.” To further know how to hire, manage and retain frontline employees refer to our all-inclusive guide.
Call center agents are uniquely acquainted with your customers. They know their pain, their frustrations, and their desires. With the help of pre-hire assessments and an ongoing commitment to training, you can successfully face contact center challenges and harness the potential of this untapped talent pool.
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