Having a loyal customer base has never been more crucial for retailers after the turbulent year they have had. Following the impact of COVID-19, consumers want to spend with local businesses more than ever this peak season, offering opportunities for retailers to nurture long-term customer loyalty. Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 found that almost three-quarters of consumers identified customer experience (CX) as the most important loyalty driver in Australia. Amidst these drastically different times, this year’s peak retail season may come with a whole host of uncertainties, particularly as consumer behaviours and priorities have changed.

In preparation for the peak season, here are three tips for retailers to better understand their customers and build long-term loyalty.

1. Use real-time insights to know your customers’ needs

Analysing data in real time provides a clear view of customer trends and helps businesses make faster decisions to improve their overall customer experience. Organisations who are already digitally driven and using real-time insights will pivot faster, as access to such data allows businesses to understand customer pain points and quickly address any emerging challenges or opportunities.

With digital driving the way forward, businesses must respond to a new pace of change. Rapidly changing customer behaviours due to the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of knowing customers and their needs. It has become a business imperative for retailers to provide customers with readily available support through digital channels that they use in their daily lives, and real-time insights will help a business determine which support channels their customers are turning to.

2. Increasing data accessibility to help support teams adapt to customers’ needs in real time

Gain a holistic understanding of the customers’ journey from every touchpoint — across the entire organisation. Sharing data across the organisation creates actionable insights that result in better customer experiences and internally, it means better advocates and improved collaboration to ensure customer success. For example, different teams can look at customers’ needs, preferences, and common questions. Together, teams can look at performance and identify areas that can be improved operationally – whether through training, providing self-service opportunities, developing help centre articles, or even making product improvements.

Sharing relevant insights instantly with other teams and departments also means that different parts of the organisation can promptly test potential solutions and implement change. Team managers can also act on current trends by setting threshold alerts to see which teams are experiencing a heavy load – particularly important during peak season – and make the necessary staffing changes.

3. Learn from last year’s peak season performance

Even though the path ahead seems riddled with uncertainties, there are merits to looking back at customer trends during last year’s rush to help identify areas of improvement where retailers can implement solutions this year. For example, if customers prefer self-service, it is important to understand the types of requests that came through last year to see if there are any gaps in existing help centre content or even the user experience.

By analysing repetitive enquiries, businesses can see where they can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as answer bots and filters to help reduce workloads and support self-service. For those with existing answer bots, try framing articles in a question context, create articles that are relevant to a specific question and label popular articles with descriptive keywords that match customer requests. If the customer finds the article helpful, they can close the ticket, giving agents more time to assist customers who require a higher level of support.

Armed with both real-time and historical customer insights, retailers can have a clearer view of their customers’ needs and expectations. And in doing so collaboratively among internal teams, break down the silos within their organisation and implement change where needed. Assessing past business performance will also help retailers refine their customer experience strategy to drive customer loyalty. With these steps combined, retailers can best prepare for the rush and win over customers’ loyalty this peak season.

Malcolm Koh is customer experience strategist for Asia Pacific at Zendesk.