Mall shoppers
With the holidays upon us, online and offline retailers alike are scrambling to prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the days between now and New Year's Day. Previously, we discussed the link between customer experience and a successful holiday retail season.

To further highlight the relationship, CorvisaCloud, a cloud-based voice communication technology company, released survey findings that reveal why businesses should make customer service the priority this holiday season.

Have a Holly, Jolly Customer Experience

Anyone who has ever tried to return something during the holiday rush or find a clerk in a crowded store understands how customer service seems to deteriorate during the holiday season. In fact, as the CorvisaCloud survey shows — it gets worse. 

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A total of 45 percent of those surveyed report customer service is worse during the holidays — and 25 percent of customers go out of their way to avoid interacting with customer service representatives until a week after Christmas.

Still, it's not as if all customers put a high demand on customer service. Only 8 percent indicated it was a driving factor in where they choose to shop. For that, great deals (38 percent) and low prices (38 percent) reign supreme. 

Just because customers avoid customer service during the holidays doesn't mean they're satisfied. And it doesn't mean they're keeping their frustrations to themselves. In October, CorvisaCloud reported 16 percent of disgruntled consumers tell their friends and family and more than one in 10 (13 percent) go so far as to say they will never shop with that company again. Poor customer service, any time of year, can affect the customer experience. But during the holiday season it seems to magnify existing issues. 

What can you do to ensure that your company is spreading joy, not dissatisfaction and contempt, this season? Matt Lautz, president and chief information officer at CorvisaCloud shared his tips with us.

1. Increase Communication with Staff

Whether you are hiring seasonal staff or working with full-time employees, all staff members should be clear about the roles they play in achieving company goals. And everyone should be rewarded for their hard work. Though things will  be busy, make time for employees to share information and learn from each other's experience.

2. Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes

What does the in-store experience feel like to the huddled masses on Black Friday? While it may be too late to make large-scale changes to your store's retail experience, small changes can mean the difference between getting squeezed waiting in line or being able to pay via a card reader from a mobile kiosk. In an ideal world, every part of the customer experience would be exceptional.  Yet the reality is that you'll need to prioritize your customers' needs accordingly. Focusing on customer service first may mean that satisfied customers may not notice the crowded dressing room or clogged aisles. 

3. Focus on the Return Experience

Returns happen. No matter how hard you try to find that perfect gift, it's going to get to returned for something different or for store credit. While you should always make it easy for customers to return or exchange a product online or in-store, it is especially important during the holidays. The experience of making the return should not impede the customer's next purchase. 

If you think you can ignore customer service this holiday season, think again. Customers may expect customer service to be poor, but they are delighted when it's not. Additionally, a survey from Aspect Software shows 91 percent of customers think companies should be better prepared to address customer service issues that arise throughout the holidays. If you're not ready to handle an onslaught of customer queries, customers are prepared to turn elsewhere.