Retail and Consumer Goods

2021 holiday season is here. Is your contact center ready?

Lidia Tavares Dias

By Lídia Dias

0 min read

Holiday Season Is Here Contact Center

Remember those crazy Black Fridays when hordes of people waited in line for hours before department stores opened doors?

And acted as if running for their lives to grab the last coat on the rack? We’ve surely come a long way.

Many tech-savvy customers stopped waiting in lines and now shop online; however, the shopping frenzy has not diminished. In fact, in 2020, the number of Black Friday online sales reached $14.13 billion. All would be good with this number if it were not for the increase in returns that jeopardizes the expected revenue. How can retailers optimize the returns process and provide customers with the best service to keep returns as low as possible?

The holiday season is a crucial time of the year for retailers. It starts with Black Friday and ends with the traditional last-minute shopping for the holidays. While the measure of success for this season is often placed on sales, how a company’s contact center responds to the call rush is also critical.

Navigating this busy time while supporting a positive experience for customers is a challenge for many retailers. Shipping delays, out-of-stock products, inaccurate product descriptions on the website—it is really easy for the madness to descend on the contact center.

In this blog post, you will find:

In 2020, digital sales hit a new record.

2020 has been an extraordinary year for retailers. COVID-19 has accelerated the channel shift from in-store purchases to eCommerce. Last years’ holiday season took eCommerce to new records:

Although online shopping continues to grow rapidly, many people still prefer brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. Even in the midst of pandemic restrictions, in-store sales are still a large part of the business.

In 2021, customers are planning to spend more.

2021 holiday shopping season, the most critical time of the year for retailers, comes with great expectations. Big-box retailers, like Target and Walmart, already got deals rolling in mid-October and plan to separate sales throughout November.

For 2021, predictions are that:

  • Sales in November and December will grow 7% compared with 2020, reaching over $800 billion globally.
  • Over a third of early U.S. holiday shoppers will increase their spending.
  • 32% of consumers will shop for the holidays between October and mid-December.
  • Luxury and apparel will see the most considerable growth in retail sales over the 2021 holiday season.
  • Greater demand will lead retailers to staff up for the holiday season.

Customers expect personalized, quick, and accurate customer service, either in-store or online, with instant answers to their queries. This ability to respond quickly and accurately can make or break customer relationships, as service experience plays a crucial role in their overall brand perception.

Powering Retail Growth The Next Generation Of Contact Centers


Powering retail growth: The next generation of contact centers

Six tips to prepare the contact center for the Black Friday frenzy.

Seasonal spikes are a big challenge for retailers: 50% of retail CX professionals say the top challenge they face is high variability/volatility in the volume of customer support needs, such as holiday or seasonal spikes, off-season dips, and others.

The contact center is the foundation of customer service and the first point of contact for  customers to get help. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a peak in sales translates to an increase in the contact center, often not prepared to handle those peaks. Typical problems that arise from having more calls than agents can handle include:

  • Long wait and response times.
  • Disparate information.
  • Damaged brand reputation.
  • Poor attention to detail.
  • Issues in employee retention.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to reduce the incoming calls, get through the holiday season without burning out the customer service team, and still excel at the provided service.

Keep reading and discover six tips that will take your contact center to the next level of excellence, even during the holiday sales madness.

  1. Break down your call center operations. Identify average wait times and the busiest periods for your contact center, forecast customer demand, and automate agent scheduling. Assess every agent’s performance and provide coaching and training as needed.
  2. Mitigate outbound calls. Don’t wait until your customers dial in frustrated. Proactively communicate shipping cutoff dates, fulfillment alternatives, higher call volumes, or anything that may impact their shopping experience.
  3. Consider automation tools. Chatbots and virtual agents can deliver human-like experiences to solve simple customer issues without the need for live-agent intervention.
  4. Keep the conversation going. Use digital channels to keep the conversation going, the customer engaged, and reduce the number of calls to do more with the same number of agents. For example, enable asynchronous communication and other alternative channels, such as text and voice.
  5. Ensure adequate staffing. Empower agents to work from everywhere, thus enlarging the talent pool. A cloud contact center solution will allow you to have agents all around the world, thus enhancing the opportunity for 24/7 service.
  6. Empower agents with the right tools. Give your agents the tools and training that guarantee fast and accurate customer service. Integrate those tools with the existing systems to avoid wasting time looking for customer data and context.

Our customers know how to play the game.

Mastering customer service during the holiday season is not for everyone. But our customers have the right tools—operational agility, innovative customer service, and a scalable, customized cloud solution to excel at the challenge.

Read about how some of our clients improve their customer service standards and drive business growth during the holiday season.

A decorations and home decor company optimizes customer service with flexible call routing.

Customer service can make or break the year for a seasonal business, and a decorations and home decor company knows this too well.

To meet customers’ demand during the Christmas sales peak, this decor brand scales staff to 15 times its usual size. However, training these agents to be the brand ambassadors and frontline spokespeople during this crucial sales window in such a short time proved to be a challenge, and the company used to rely on outsourcing voice support to handle the seasonal rush.

A flexible routing system was the response for the brand’s challenges: multiple queues, callback function, and designated agents to a specific function give the contact center agility during a potentially hectic time for everyone—agents and customers.

Tuft & Needle optimizes agents’ schedules and obtains a 96% service level.

Tuft & Needle provides high-quality mattresses at an affordable price while giving customers an amazing experience they rarely receive at traditional stores. They are a proudly “digital-native” company that facilitates operations mainly online, with conversations coming in through email and chat, but also phone calls—making omnichannel support more complex.

The company uses live and real-time reports to improve agent performance and increase service level. Using Talkdesk for Help Scout, agents are empowered to provide omnichannel support to customers.

With a goal of 95% of calls answered within twenty seconds, Tuft & Needle optimized agents’ schedules and has achieved a service level of 96%.

Hero Tuftneedle

customer stories

Tuft & Needle

Zumiez adds new agents in 15 seconds or less.

Zumiez has more than 40 years of history and hundreds of stores where they sell clothing, shoes, accessories, and gear for skateboarding. They have a vision of exceptional customer experience and differentiate themselves by serving their niche audience well. This strategy has been rewarded with raving fans as a result.

Zumiez must scale up and down quickly to meet seasonal demands. Using Talkdesk has enabled them to add a new agent in 15 seconds or less. SLAs improved 15% as a result of real-time dashboards that let agents make workflow decisions on the fly to ensure that customers’ needs are met.

Call recording and easy access to reports and contact center performance metrics free supervisors to tailor coaching to specific agent needs and take customer service to the next level.

Customer Story Zumiez

customer stories


Is your contact center (really) ready for the holiday season?

Are your customer service representatives ready for the influx of questions about inventory and shipping delays? Is your contact center ready to scale as needed? Can you ensure quality and consistency in customer care?

To help you assess whether your contact center is ready for the holiday season, we put together a comprehensive holiday kit.

In this kit, you’ll find:

  • A case study: Read more about how Balsam scaled customer care for the holidays.
  • A holiday checklist: Deep dive into the tips that will help you prep your contact center.
  • A demo: Transform returns into up-sells and cross-sells.
  • A case study: Learn how Vivino improves service during seasonal demand.
  • A demo: Deflect calls with intelligent self-service.

Download the holiday kit for free.

Holiday Prep Kit Customer Care Through Seasonality Uncertainty


Holiday Prep Kit


Lidia Tavares Dias

Lídia Dias

Lídia is a marketing content writer that has been writing about banking and technology for the last few years. She believes in better, human-like digital experiences. When not writing, she’s probably cooking for her kids or reading crime books and thrillers.