2024 perspective: The call center for retail

February 1, 2024

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Retailers are no strangers to using their brand as a strategic differentiator, so the stakes are high in getting the contact center and voice experience right.

Read on as we talk through the impact of seasonality, the importance of brand consistency, and the fragile nature of customer loyalty in the retail sector.

The impact of seasonality on retail operations

As retailers come up for air after another busy holiday period, seasonality remains one of the biggest challenges for operations.
Typically, call volumes jump by more than double from Black Friday onwards, generating a surge in demand and the need for additional staffing.

Despite best preparation efforts from a technical and staffing perspective, labor shortages have been intensified by events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to mention, retailers are competing for the same pool of labor.

Hiring challenges and service consistency

As labor shortages continue to cause issues, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) dip, and customers become more frustrated.

The reality is that retailers often have little choice but to scramble for resources, whether that is temporary agents or outsourcing to a BPO at a significantly higher cost.

Temporary hires often can’t provide consistent service levels due to expedited training and learning processes on the job.

At a time when customer loyalty is exceptionally fragile, 32% of customers say they will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. It’s become critical for retailers to deliver a consistent and high-quality customer experience even during the busiest periods in the retail calendar.

Multilingual support challenges

The diversity of a retailer’s customer base, including language preferences, makes it increasingly difficult to find the right staff and provide outstanding service for each individual customer.

Using call center voice AI can help with these problems. Voice assistants provide consistent support in many languages, making sure customers have a seamless experience regardless of the language they speak.

The role of call center voice AI in enhancing customer experience

The introduction of call center voice AI can reduce seasonal hiring by as much as 50% while providing consistent and fast customer service even during peak times, meaning customers can get the support they need when it suits them, not the other way around.

By automating high-volume, low-complexity calls, such as taking order numbers and answering FAQS, retailers can enhance efficiency and give agents more time to focus on complex and meaningful interactions.

By reducing wait times and allocating agent resources to customers who need them the most, voice assistants enable retailers to improve service levels and reduce abandonment rates.


Customer story: How Carter’s OshKosh B’gosh is using call center voice AI for differentiation

As Director of Contact Center Operations at Carter’s OshKosh B’gosh, Mike Hansen is responsible for differentiating the company through the quality of his contact center’s service.

Mike works hard to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty through customer care and sees huge peaks in call volume during the holiday season – hiring up to 200 seasonal workers to help handle call volume.

Before introducing a voice assistant, Mike said that he had to hire six people just to keep one.

Implementing a voice assistant has enabled Carter’s to reduce seasonal hiring by 100 people and provide consistency for customers at a time when hiring is unpredictable at best.

“The voice assistant has allowed us to increase all of our performance metrics,” says Mike. “It doesn’t take seven weeks to train. Our average handle time in the voice assistant is about 63 seconds, about five minutes less than with a live agent.”


With a significantly quicker time-to-value and no need for extensive training, voice assistants enable retailers to scale support without the lengthy and costly hiring and training process of onboarding new agents.

Call center voice AI can improve a retailer’s entire contact center program by allowing customers to access support anytime and solve issues as quickly as possible while driving substantial ROI.

The future of AI and retail: hyper-personalization and anticipating customer needs

Looking ahead, retailers that adopt call center voice AI have the potential to offer a highly personalized customer experience, predicting customer needs and preferences based on previous engagements. Examples include anticipating product sizes, proactively suggesting alternatives, and tracking sentiment throughout every interaction to address potential issues.

Conclusion

The future of retail involves using voice AI not just to make operational improvements but as a strategic tool for strengthening a retailer’s brand through incredible customer experiences.

From predictive analytics to personalized incentives during customer interactions, call center voice AI is ready to change how retailers connect with customers and build long-lasting brand loyalty.

As technology evolves, it opens new possibilities for retailers to stay ahead in a highly competitive market.

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