It’s time to get your call center ready for the 2020 Holiday Season

For decades, the US retail industry has experienced two giant peaks every year—one around back-to-school shopping at the end of summer, the other centered on Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and shopping for the holidays.

The data speaks for itself: the 61 days of the November-December holiday period represent up to 30% of total sales for some retailers, who have historically hired over 500,000 seasonal employees during the annual ramp-up.

Retailers are no strangers to planning and executing the holiday season. However, 2020 will likely be different. First, there is a new emphasis on e-commerce. As noted in our last blog post, overall retail sales are projected to be 10% lower, while e-commerce sales rise by 18%. That shift has led manufacturers to accelerate ‘owned’ e-commerce efforts. In 2020 many companies are now operating as retailers—either for the first time or at a larger scale than ever before! These companies don’t have extensive experience with ramping up for the holidays.

Second, back-to-school shopping is traditionally the first surge in retail sales in the second half of the year. 2020 will be different. Many large school systems have opted to be 100% ‘virtual learning’ and others are allowing parents to choose between ‘in school’ and ‘virtual’ learning. While the impact on back-to-school shopping is unclear, it seems inevitable that kids’ schooling from home requires fewer accessories! That seems likely to make the holiday shopping season even more critical.

Here are three suggestions for contact center leaders looking to maximize their contribution to a successful 2020 holiday season.

1. Plan on adding capacity

We have spoken to customer experience leaders who shared that during peak season, their contact center staff increases by 30 to 500%. With new agent training lasting anywhere from two to six weeks, there is not much time left to have a capacity plan. If this will be your first holiday shopping season with a significant e-commerce push, estimating your needs is more art than science. But hopefully, your marketing team will share traffic and revenue goals to get you started.

Choosing between augmenting your in-house operation or leveraging a third party depends on a lot of variables. But just as in handling a crisis, it can always be helpful to have more than one option available to handle the unexpected. (And Stafford is here to help if you want the best contact center supplier in the business on your side!)

2. Chat = e-commerce conversion

Customer service often has a hard time demonstrating how we contribute to top-line growth. One of the more exciting aspects of getting engaged in owned e-commerce is the chance to demonstrate the contribution your call center can make. One established tactic for driving provable sales is to leverage chat to help customers select and purchase products.

Implementing chat at the ‘virtual shelf’ and checkout is a great way to mirror the brick-and-mortar practice of offering help during purchase or consideration. And doing it in an e-commerce context allows you to measure changes in conversion rates, basket size, and sales!

3. Tune up your content

I am sure that your marketing team has done a fantastic job with photos and inspiring copy through your whole e-commerce site. But time and again, we see that the contact center team can add a unique ‘customer eye view’! Are policies clearly laid out? How about ingredients? Compatibility? Bulk sales?

If you haven’t taken a critical look at your website content to make it more consumer-friendly, now is the time!

If you need any help getting ready for the holiday surge, please give us a shout. Ken ( would be happy to talk through what we have learned working with hundreds of leading brands and how that experience can work for you!

Contact us today for more information.

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