Worried about supply chain issues messing with your holiday shopping plans? You’re not alone.
Today, we’re unveiling the results of a new study that explores the impact that the global supply chain crisis is having on holiday shoppers and customer support teams. Our Holiday Shopping Experience Report, based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers and 500 customer service workers, found that customer expectations are higher than ever – and these increased pressures have led more than half of stressed-out and under-resourced customer support reps to consider leaving their job.
“Companies want to do right by their customers, but support teams are always stretched during this time of year and the global supply chain issues are causing an even greater strain for both the support teams and the consumers they’re supporting,” says Des Traynor, Intercom’s co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. “This is a make-or-break time for businesses to avoid disappointing their customers, to not only proactively communicate with customers about any challenges in fulfillment but also to earn their trust, and equip support teams with the tools necessary to lessen their burden.”
Here are some of the top findings from the report – and what you need to do about them.
Consumers are worried about the impacts of supply chain issues
Global supply chain issues are causing consumer anxieties around the availability, timeliness, and cost of their purchases this holiday season.
- While the National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending in 2021 will be the highest on record, 77% of shoppers surveyed worry they’ll have issues buying gifts online this year.
- Their biggest concerns? Gifts not arriving on time (45%) or not being available at all (33%). Shoppers also worry items will be more expensive this year than expected (42%).
- Concerns about delays are well-founded. On-time deliveries have been an issue for months for most shoppers, with almost two thirds (64%) reporting they have had items arrive later than promised in the past six months.
- However, despite a push from retailers to shop early, only 14% of consumers report they are mostly done with their holiday shopping.
“On-time deliveries have been an issue for months for most shoppers, with 64% reporting they have had items arrive later than promised in the past six months”
What to do: Communicate proactively and set expectations using targeted messages
- What is proactive support?
- The support leader’s guide to proactive support
- Tactics to stay ahead of the curve and boost efficiency with proactive support
- The experiment that reveals how proactive support directly affects your bottom line
Consumer concerns are resulting in more support inquiries for companies – and more frustrated customers
Due to these concerns, customers are more likely to contact customer support – but despite the increased volume of communication, neither customers nor support reps are confident that they can satisfactorily resolve these issues with the resources they have.
- Almost a third (30%) of consumers say they have contacted customer support more often this year than in the past, and nearly half (45%) report recent customer service interactions have been frustrating.
- Customer service reps feel the same. Nearly half (49%) have received more inquiries in the past few months compared to the same period last year – and 62% report customer expectations and demands have increased as well.
- Despite the increase in interactions, most consumers (61%) admit they are not very confident issues will be resolved to their satisfaction. And most customer service reps (60%) believe it is harder than ever to fully resolve customer issues.
- The stress of these increased expectations is weighing on customer service reps. Over half (52%) say they have considered leaving their job, which could spell disaster for already under-resourced customer service departments.
- 76% of customer service reps say they’re concerned their company doesn’t have enough customer service representatives to handle customer inquiries this holiday season.
“76% of customer service reps say they are concerned their company doesn’t have enough customer service representatives to handle customer inquiries this holiday season”
What to do: Increase your efficiency without increasing headcount using bots and automation
- The custom bot that saved logistics platform Stuart over 2.5k hours per week
- How to support your customers at scale with automated customer service
- Automation in action: Proven ways to boost the bottom line with self-serve support
Customers expect personalized updates before they have to ask
When it comes to potential delays caused by global supply chain issues, customers are looking for transparency and proactivity, especially around shipping and fulfillment.
- Almost all (94%) consumers say they expect companies to let them know of delays without having to ask about them. And 79% want alerts about delays and backorders before they checkout or make a purchase.
- Yet 38% of customer service reps say their company is not doing enough to set customer expectations on item availability and delivery times.
- In addition to knowing about issues in advance, shoppers also want customer service that is fast (60%), friendly (57%) and available when they need it (53%).
“38% of customer service reps say their company is not doing enough to set customer expectations on item availability and delivery times”
What to do: Leverage personalization to provide customized support at every touchpoint
- 6 tips for creating a great customer support experience during the holidays
- How support leaders can empower their teams to satisfy, delight, and retain customers
- The support leader’s guide to personal, efficient human support
- Monitor your most important metrics in one place with our new real-time dashboard
How leading companies are building better customer relationships
Our retail customers tell us they’re building trust with customers even during this disrupted shopping season by using our messaging tools to deliver fast support, personal, and proactive support, and our powerful AI to deliver instant resolutions. Here’s how forward-thinking companies are using Intercom to deliver fast, personal, and proactive support to thousands of customers.
- Home furnishing brand Living Spaces uses Intercom to handle 8,000 weekly conversations and maintain a first-response time of under one minute. By going all in on proactive, personalized, messaging-based support, they’ve been able to unite their e-commerce and in-store experiences in ways that weren’t previously possible using phone or email support.
- Online retailer Rugs.com increased their support efficiency 10x by switching to Intercom. Now, not only can each rep handle more conversations, they’re also able to get ahead of known issues by using proactive, targeted messages to provide proactive support.
- TrueCommerce uses Intercom to support its customer base of suppliers, retailers, brands, manufacturers, and logistics service providers. By implementing proactive support, they’ve seen an 80% reduction in the contact rate for temporary issues, and are able to provide targeted, relevant updates to those who need them.
Putting the “happy” back into “happy holidays”
This holiday season, support teams need to deliver excellent customer support and ongoing engagement. In order to meet high consumer expectations, you need to do three key things:
- Firstly, you need to invest in proactive support that lets your team get ahead of customers’ questions – especially around shipping and delivery times – before they even have to ask.
- Secondly, you need to leverage bots, automated workflows, and smart AI so you can engage with customers and resolve queries in the moment, without needing to add headcount.
- And finally, you need to make every customer touchpoint personalized, flexible, intentional, conversational, and frictionless – no matter the channel.
By investing in these areas, your business can build strong customer relationships even in the face of supply chain disruptions and concerns.
A note on methodology:
Intercom commissioned an independent research firm to conduct a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers and 500 U.S. customer service workers in November 2021. The data has been weighted to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult (age 18+) and customer service worker population.