How to Meet Higher Customer Service Expectations During Holiday Season 20205 min read

A year defined by unprecedented events, it’s difficult to predict how 2020 will close. Although susceptible to the future’s uncertainty, businesses should still prepare for this holiday season.

The last several months hit a majority of businesses hard. Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report found that nearly 100,000 businesses permanently closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A majority of businesses that remain afloat worry about the financial impact of additional economic closures. This holiday season, therefore, may be especially important for businesses’ operations. 

Various organizations predict an increase in consumer spending this holiday season. The International Council of Shopping Centers, for example, projects a nearly 2% growth in spending. 

Deloitte, on the other hand, offered a K-shaped scenario. One part of the scenario predicts a 0%–1% growth whereas the other predicts a 3.5% increase in consumer spending.

To activate this growth, businesses will need to meet consumers’ higher service expectations. Whereas 70% of customers will abandon their purchase after a bad customer service experience, 74% would spend more money on good customer service.

70% of customers will abandon their purchase after a bad customer service experience. 

Businesses should implement the following strategies to meet higher customer service expectations during the holiday season and secure greater financial returns. 

1. Develop an Extensive Customer Service Plan

To prepare for higher consumer expectations this holiday season, businesses should develop a robust customer service plan that meets their requirements.

A customer service plan should originate from an in-depth examination of customers’ expectations for your business. Conduct virtual interviews or digital surveys with customers and ask questions about their service expectations.

Following data collection, businesses should thoroughly analyze their existing customer service processes. This analysis should focus on identifying gaps between customers’ expectations and experiences. 

It may be helpful to engage employees during this part of the process. If they directly interact with customers, they likely have insights into the efficacy of customer services.

After identifying opportunities for growth, businesses should develop strategies to align their operations with customers’ expectations. Strategies could involve various aspects of your business. They could, for example, involve expanding refund policies or offering 24/7 customer support. 

This is another stage during which employees should be involved. Employees likely understand how new measures could influence operations and performance.

The process of developing a robust customer service plan extends beyond implementation. Businesses should measure the outcomes of new customer service activities to ensure their success.

By beginning with an analysis of customer expectations, businesses will more likely develop policies that satisfy customers.

2. Emphasize Visual Communication

Another method for businesses to meet higher customer service expectations during the holiday season is to emphasize visual delight in their communications with customers. 

By using images in their communications with customers, businesses will be more likely to engage them. Visuals augment the clarity and accessibility of communications.

People process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, meaning customers will grasp your message faster if it’s paired with a visual component. Communication efficiency is important because technology continues to erode consumers’ patience. 

One study found that the average person becomes frustrated after waiting 16 seconds for a webpage to load and 25 seconds for a traffic signal to change. To avoid inducing frustration, businesses should emphasize visuals in communication with customers.

Visuals also lead to greater engagement. Tweets with images, for example, receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.  By adding visuals to their communications, businesses also promote customer engagement.

Emphasizing visuals in their communications may help businesses meet higher customer service expectations this holiday season.

3. Use Personalized Thank You Notes

Businesses should craft personalized thank you notes for customers to delight them during a season of higher service expectations. 

Businesses distinguish themselves from competitors by sending a personalized note to customers via snail mail. Whereas the average American worker receives 121 emails per day, the average home only receives a personalized letter once every two months. Given the infrequency of handwritten notes, you will likely surprise and delight customers by sending one. 

Writing personal notes to customers may require a greater time and cost investment than sending templatized emails through a customer relationship management (CRM) software. However, businesses will likely be rewarded for going the extra mile to thank customers.

More than a third of Americans look forward to checking the mail. Moreover, more than 90% say they have a positive reaction when receiving personal letters and cards according to a Gallup survey. Customers will notice and appreciate the greater investment you made to demonstrate gratitude. 

A personalized note sent via traditional mail may help businesses to meet higher customer service expectations particularly because it is a rarity.

4. Craft Personalized Emails

If handwritten notes are infeasible, businesses should provide customers with personalized emails to satisfy their higher expectations for service. 

Brands face fierce competition for customers’ attention via email. Brands inundate consumers with emails every week. More than a third (35%) of marketers, in fact, send their customers an average of 3–5 emails each week. 

Personalization may prove advantageous in businesses’ competition for consumers’ attention by providing customers with relevant information. By personalizing content, businesses demonstrate consideration for customers’ unique interests.

Personalization is important because it reflects on a brand’s reputation. A majority (88%) of consumers say that personally relevant content improves their feelings about a brand.

Personalization also leads to greater returns. Half (50%) of consumers said that they would pay more for products and services from brands that provide personalized content according to a study by OneSpot.

By personalizing emails, businesses may not only satisfy customers’ heightened service expectations but also activate greater returns on investments.

Adapt Strategies to Meet Higher Customer Service Expectations

Businesses should investigate customers’ service expectations and then develop a plan accordingly. By understanding their needs, businesses will be more likely to meet customers’ higher service expectations during the holiday season.

Businesses should integrate visuals into their communications. Visuals not only augment engagement but also satisfy customers’ expectations of efficiency. 

Personalized notes distinguish businesses from their competitors. A handwritten note will surprise customers and meet their higher expectations for service. 

A handwritten note isn’t the only way to delight customers during the holiday season. Personalized emails demonstrate a business’s knowledge of customers’ unique interests and meet their expectations. 

Kate Russell is an Editorial Associate for Clutch — an Inc. 1000 private company that helps decision-makers determine the best B2B service providers to solve business challenges. She is a business services research and content lead.