The 2022 holiday season will be remembered for a once-in-a-generation winter storm sweeping through North America. In a special edition of Retail Mashup the Podcast, Larry will discuss how retailers can better manage winter storm disruptions through customer experience.
Table of Content
Section 1 – Introduction: 2022 Winter Storm
This is Retail Mashup. Hi, I’m Larry. On a special edition of Retail Mashup – the Podcast, I am going to talk about a once-in-a-generation event, a winter storm that is affecting more than 300 million people in North America. This particular winter event is, causing havoc with high winds that are approaching hurricane speeds to heavy snow that is creating a blizzard environment for drivers and for people who are trying to fly to a destination in many places in North America. With all that disruption, you may be asking yourself, how does that affect retailers? Well, I am here to talk a little bit about it.
Winter storms with intense winds and snow battered Canadian provinces – Ontario and Quebec (December 23, 2022)
Section 2 – Engagement
First off, disruptions are never easy. So if you are traveling, please keep safe and stay warm. When it comes to winter storms, there are many retailers offering anything from airline tickets to accommodation to winter clothing, flashlight, batteries, you name it. There are many items that many consumers need in the winter, and it’s not the perfect time for retailers selling winter gear to engage only doing a particular storm.
it would be best actually for them to engage earlier to tell their audience through social media channels, their websites, or mobile apps in advance of any winter storms so that their customers know that the stores have their backs.
Section 3 – Inventory Check and Delivery
The second thing to do is for retailers to do an inventory check and provide that information to the consumers in case particular items are needed. That way, people are not going to a store only to find out that the item that they need is not available for purchase and they will go away disappointed, especially after they received an email or notification saying that the item is available. In this particular instance, it would be great if the retailer has a buy-in pickup option.
When it comes to shipment, given the winter storm disruption, it’s highly possible that certain shipping delivery may not actually get to the destination on time. It’s important for the retailer to engage early and provide alternative methods of delivery if possible. If the delivery is not going to make it on time for say, Christmas Day, then it’s important that the retailer communicates to the consumer earlier.
Section 4 – Travel
If you are a traveler, you may have already noticed that many airlines in North America are providing travel waivers so that you can make changes to your airline ticket in advance of the winter storm. And if you are already experiencing the impacts of the winter storm, you may be stuck at the airport. It would be better for airlines to be proactive in communicating flight schedules and disruptions. Use their social media assets to showcase what is happening across different parts of its network so that passengers would form a better expectation on whether or not they would be able to travel today.
More than 5,000 flights were cancelled or delayed across United States and Canada on December 23, 2022. As reported by NBC News, more than 7 million passengers may be affected during two of the busiest travel days of the year.
Section 5 – Call Center
Many retailers may run out of items to sell and disruption may cause many people to call the hotline. it would be in the retailer’s best interest to inform customers how long the wait would be or provide a callback number for its contact centers so that customers would not be waiting in line for hours on end. Alternatively, there should be other options available for the customer to engage with the retailer, say online to manage different transactions.
Section 6 – Customer Experience: Process and Assessment
This all comes from having the right customer experience process in the first place. In October, Forrester’s Research indicated that one in five customer experience programs may disappear in 2023 due to the recession. As well 80% of the programs and teams lack essential skills.
This is the perfect time for retailers to think about their customer experience program, what customers are going through when they are experiencing a winter storm, and how are they forming and managing expectations along the way.
Many would benefit from having a walkthrough assessment of various customer experience processes. It’s engagement, acquisition, onboarding, and maintenance of any products and services that are essential to the company’s bottom line. Combine them with feedback data that would help retailers identify where the gaps may be and where they need to spend time on putting short-term fixes along with medium to longer-term solutions for significant gaps.
Section 7 – Customer Experience: Employee Training
There are many different types of training starting with customer service at a physical store environment to a contact center. The most important thing is for the retailer to fully understand if, any winter disruption has changed the needs of its customers and how can the employees be able to identify the needs, manage the emotional, and mental aspects, of what a customer is going through, and be able to fulfill those requirements with products and services.
Section 8 – Customer Experience: Costs
If you are a retailer that does not have a customer experience process mapped out, don’t worry. There are agencies available to help the brands understand and mapping of the process.
There are also lower cost options available by going through walking in the shoes of the customer to find out what their needs may be.
Section 9 – Final Words
I always say that retailing is not easy. Even selling a piece of bread at a bakery, it’s not an easy undertaking. It requires an operation for the bakery to bake the bread and also to sell the bread. More importantly, how to engage the customer to buy more bread, to remember the bread that they’re eating is amazing and that they want to return.
Having the right customer experience process can often help this bakery differentiate itself from other ones who are also producing and creating amazing products. That smells amazing, tastes amazing, looked amazing.
So that’s it for now. In the future episode of Retail Matchup, we’ll go a little bit more in-depth on how companies can build their own customer experience department, and customer experience process, and more importantly, we’ll showcase some of the amazing customer experiences. We will focus on companies that have designed and implemented amazing customer experience strategies.