close up of someone's hands   in mittens, holding a cup of hot chocolate
PHOTO: creativefamily

The holiday season is upon us and like many things in 2020, it will look significantly different than in years past. Gone are the days of large family gatherings around the Thanksgiving dinner table and hours spent shopping for the perfect gift. This year, with social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place, the holiday season will consist of scaled back events, month-long Black Friday sales and at-home activities with your immediate loved ones.

Across industries, businesses are also feeling the ripple effects of 2020’s challenging holiday season. In retail, for example, online transactions are expected to spike due to restricted in-person shopping. Meanwhile, the travel industry is implementing new measures to adhere to COVID-19 safety regulations amidst the busiest travel time of the year. With large in-person gatherings off the table and travel limitations in place, a brand new kind of holiday season is taking shape, and may remain in place even after the curve is flattened.

Despite a year of uncertainty, the sentiment of the holiday season has not changed. Instead, people are looking for new ways to show their loved ones that they care. In business, it’s no different. Now more than ever, brands must adapt their customer experience strategy to show customers gratitude and let them know that business will remain constant, even when everything else is in flux. In the spirit of the holiday season, here are three customer experience strategies for showing your customers you care:

1. Build Much-Needed Simplicity Into the Holiday Season

For many, the holiday season is the most hectic time of year. There are Zoom parties to attend, errands to run and deadlines to meet before signing off for vacation. In addition to the usual hustle and bustle, consumers now face pandemic stress, too. With businesses limiting in-person capacity or shifting to primarily digital operations, easy tasks like booking a hotel room or running to the bookstore now feel more difficult.

This year, simplicity is more important than ever in the customer experience. Omnichannel and self-service adoption have become key competitive differentiators. Take travel bookings, for example. Customers may purchase their tickets through a virtual assistant on the live booking page, but ultimately want their boarding pass easily accessible on their smartphone or waiting for them at the airport for pick-up.

It’s also important to expand channel offerings as much as possible, because emerging trends, like curbside pick up, may even be preferable over digital options amidst the holiday chaos. By building out unified, flexible solutions, businesses can offer every customer a seamless experience, no matter where they are in their customer experience journey.

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

2. Personalize Experiences Like You Would a Holiday Card

Many people send out holiday cards towards the close of the year, but not all take the time to write personalized, handwritten notes to recipients. This step can make all the difference in letting someone know you’re thinking about them. The same goes for customer experiences. People want and expect businesses to personalize their journey and meet their needs based on their unique engagement with a brand. Beyond relevant search results, customers seek services that actively guide them from one touchpoint to another.

In ecommerce, for instance, businesses should leverage data to not only access a customer’s past transactions, but also adapt product recommendations while the customer interacts with their platform. Ultimately, they should serve as a trusted advisor who understands a customer’s intent and proactively offers up products they might not even know they want. Leveraging customer data at every touchpoint in the customer experience journey provides the level of personalized service customers get from their go-to restaurant or favorite clothing store.

Related Article: Personalization Goes Nowhere Without Trust

3. Wrap Every Customer Experience Up With the Human Touch

As we all know, holiday shopping is no easy feat. People are on the hunt for gifts that hint at inside jokes with friends or let a special someone know they mean the world. Convenient, data-driven digital customer experience can help streamline the process, but customers also seek the individualized care one might receive from a seasoned salesperson to ensure they check all the boxes on their holiday shopping list. With high call volumes overwhelming customer experience agents, however, there isn’t always time to foster meaningful connections with customers.

Amidst the holiday craze, I believe technology actually allows humans to be more human. For example, leveraging AI to manage routine queries frees agents to focus on providing the attentive care that is paramount to customer retention. If a customer calls a flower company to purchase the perfect bouquet for their holiday table, agents can provide insights into a visual display that only humans would understand, while a virtual assistant can handle shipping snafus that come up in the fulfillment process. It may seem counterintuitive to lean on technology to provide the human touch, but sophisticated solutions can ultimately be the bow on a perfectly wrapped customer experience.

Customer care requires thoughtful consideration every step of the way, but there’s no better time than the holidays to remind your customers that they will always be at the top of your wish list, even amidst a global pandemic. By embedding simplicity, personalization and a human touch into your customer experience, your company is sure to convey just how much you care this holiday season.