For many brands, last year’s Golden Quarter has ended and the subsequent ‘deep dive’ reviews and lessons learned now form the basis of planned strategies and tactics for next year’s peak.

To truly benefit from such an intense programme of reflection, planning needs to start immediately to ensure that retailers can deliver on their objectives and achieve their goals. This will allow time to explore in detail everything from better use of automation tools, workforce management, resource structure and forecasting, to use of partners and suppliers.

Get ahead of the game on traditional peak season planning

According to Statista, the most recent UK governmental figures placed the value of UK e-commerce sales at £586 billion.

By 2021, roughly 93 percent of UK internet users are expected to do online shopping, the highest online shopping penetration rate in Europe.

At the same time, what constitutes ‘peak’ in retail and ecommerce is extending across multiple quarters, with annual public holidays and discount and promotional events augmenting traditional seasonal sales and celebrations. Combined with the ubiquitous use of smart mobile device and ‘in-app’ purchases, the demands on customer contact channels are only going in one direction.

Peak preparation then should incorporate all available tech tools, examine opportunities for automation in front and back office, and review the structuring of teams to include ring-fenced specialists and blended activities. Volume forecasting and subsequent resource modelling is also crucial, and that includes social media teams, to ensure 360 degree coverage of channels where brand reputation can fall foul of third party challenges including logistics such as delivery issues.

blog-analysis-people-technology-mission_t20_VKNvmP📷 @FotoArtist via Twenty20

People remain core to customer contact and many retailers will continue to offer overtime at their busiest periods. For many employees, overtime is attractive for obvious reasons, but contact centre operators need to ensure staff want to be there. By providing good down time activities and amenities, and by being cognitive of staff burnout, it will be easier to put in place processes and facilities to address employee ‘wellness’. Well-being is important to morale at any time of year but especially when teams expand for peak.

Partnering with a customer management services provider is also a core component for many national and international brands. With their focus on scalability and flexibility across multiple channels, sites and geographies, they can help retail brands reduce the pressure on in-house teams. The added complexity of resourcing multi-lingual customer contact for peak can also be passed to the services provider and will benefit from in-country recruitment knowledge and expertise.

According to the Sabio CCMA Benchmarking report 2019, for the first time, voice is no longer offered by 100% of participants. Email remains strong, offered by 95% while Social is offered by 79%, and Webchat continues to grow. Once again, a partner can be the right choice where contact channel capability or capacity is insufficient to accommodate spikes in customer demand and helps avoid service degradation and associated reputational risk.

Whatever the options retailers choose to consider, early co-planning is critical, both internally across sales, operations and marketing, and externally with partners and suppliers. And communication will remain key between all stakeholder partners and is never more important than during peak to achieve success and business goals.

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William Carson

Written by William Carson

William Carson is Market Engagement Director at Ascensos. He sits on the Global Sourcing Association Council and is an active member of the UK Contact Centre Forum and the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing. William is dedicated to the pursuit of end-to end business conversations with clients focused on developing better 21st Century CX, delivering on business outcomes that help achieve and exceed clients' strategic goals. He is a writer, speaker and general disruptor of all things customer experience (CX) related.