While there are plenty of holidays throughout the year, for many of us “the holiday season” immediately brings Christmas to mind.
It’s no surprise, then, that my prime example of creating memorable holiday experiences for customers comes from an experience at Christmas…
Case in point: Elevating customer experiences during the holidays
My daughter and her family live in Sydney, Australia, in a large house close to the sea. Last December, right in the middle of the (summer in Australia!) holiday season, their sophisticated Samsung air conditioning system malfunctioned, creating severely hot, uncomfortable conditions for their houseful of guests.
Within a few days, a Samsung-licensed technician discovered that a lightning strike was the source of the problem, destroying the customized motherboard controlling the electronics in the system. At the same time, he arranged a temporary makeshift solution (a workaround) to keep the air conditioning on while sending a report to the manufacturer to decide on warranties and repair schedules for this complex equipment. The technician indicated that whatever the case, it was an estimated $15,000 repair job.
Two weeks later, a letter from Samsung arrived. The repair required considerable work (a new motherboard and multi-hour installation) and would be ready in late January. A review showed the warranty conditions excluded lightning strike damage, and the general warranty, in any event, was a few weeks into expiration. Nonetheless, as a gesture of holiday goodwill, Samsung would cover the expenses as if under a full warranty.
Looking back, the technical know-how of the technician in the original inspection (with a makeshift solution) was a springboard touchpoint promoting customer loyalty no matter how the warranty decision went. The way that Samsung addressed the situation, going over and beyond their obligations, retained my daughter’s family as lifelong customers- not only for air conditioning but their entire range of products. Moreover, she has told the story to all her friends and posted a glowing Google review. Plus, I’m now writing about it here to an expanded audience. In short, one exceptional customer service act created invaluable brand energy in the marketplace.
Can you imagine the fantastic ripple effect if this approach was implemented systematically? The ROI impact would be exponential.
This case study creates a backdrop – a theme – for several recommendations to similarly escalate the customer experience over the holiday season. We’ll get right into what it means to elevate customer experience and why customer satisfaction is crucial during the holiday season.
Brand building recommendations to enhance customer experience in the 2024 holiday season
Customer-centric holiday marketing trends in 2024 don’t only apply to the traditional holiday season, November to early January, embracing Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year celebrations. It extends to Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving, federal/bank days, and several religious observances. All these breaks and events fall into the same category (perhaps not with the same intensity) but with the common goal of keeping the cash tills ringing. Also, different businesses emphasize different holidays, creating unique opportunities to establish customer loyalty.
1. Prepare for the holiday rush to enhance customer experience.
One thing you can be sure of is that the holiday season is a crazy time when participants (especially those making the buying decisions) are stressed. One study on the state of customer service found that 39% of consumers are less patient today (versus before the pandemic)? As a result, touchpoint disruption is significantly up, and sustaining customer satisfaction is substantially more challenging.
So, your brand proposition must be meaningfully different to provide holiday customer satisfaction, make an impression, and consistently stand out from the herd. It involves putting the holiday season’s anticipated touchpoints under the microscope, anticipating how customers will connect with you from every angle, and ensuring you’re ready and able to counteract every complication. For example, customers hope against but expect:
- Longer lines and waits in the holiday rush.
- Technical support to falter under the weight of client queries and demand for after-sales service.
Here’s the thing – even in less frenetic market periods, a single defective touchpoint can disintegrate customer loyalty in a blink. When the pressure cooker churns faster (i.e., during the holidays), the chances of these gremlins creeping into the CX chain multiply. So, bolster your training programs in a few fundamental ways, as follows:
- Enhancing holiday customer satisfaction by adding trained agents to meet the activity uptick.
- Ensuring all customer communications are transparent, consistent, and updated to resolve issues.
- Erasing the traditionally frustrating interactions where customers receive different responses from different agents to the same question, and/or get fobbed off to others in a chain of agent, forced to re-explain from the beginning each time.
2. Adjust your social media (SM) promotions.
According to recent research, social media activity escalates in the high holidays (i.e., around 18% more social messages per month versus non-holiday periods). The takeaway is that holiday customer satisfaction strategies, centered on leveraging SM impact, represent exceptional opportunities to elevate the customer experience in 2024.
Holiday-themed promotional strategies must connect to your customers where they want to engage, and SM is a prolific congregation arena in almost all industries. So, get involved with influencers on various channels to pump the upcoming holiday theme and underline your brand as the frontrunner to resolve mainstream pain points. There’s nothing like a well-thought-out social media customer retention strategy to jump ahead of the curve. Also, respond to marketplace messaging with:
- Creative brand-centric solutions and insights.
- Expressions of gratitude for positive reviews.
- Holiday greetings to new and loyal customers.
- Thanking individuals personally for their suggestions.
Indeed, fast responses to customer social media communications, personalized and helpful – on their own – are often enough to create the unique differentiation your brand needs.
3. Offer a special holiday deal.
Inspire your customers by promoting discounts in meaningful ways. For example, one study strongly suggests advertisers headline with savings (versus stating the discount percentage), based on Facebook data showing the “savings message” generates 63% more sales per impression. Over the holiday season, it likely strikes an even more responsive chord. Why?
- Firstly, it leans toward saving money at a time when emotions can spur one to overspend.
- Secondly, it implies putting money back in your pocket to spread even more cheer to family and friends.
4. Personalize as much as possible.
There are no two ways about it; the more personalized, the better. Customers inwardly want individual recognition; they don’t want to be lost in the crowd. Protocols around personalizing service go beyond the brand presentation and SM promotions; they lie at the core of staff training. In this regard, I have dealt at length with the alignment between employee experience and customer experience in delivering extraordinary service that consolidates customer retention. Springboarding off this article, company holiday strategies, if nothing else, must go the extra mile to make the customer feel special.
For example in B2B and B2C companies: Whenever a close sales agent/customer relationship is evident, use the connection to send them handwritten thank you notes (possibly with a gift) over the holiday season. The style you use and other points to consider are as follows:
- Write it along the lines, “XXX (the company name) and I, in particular, want to thank you for your engagement, support, and loyalty to YYYY (the brand) in the past year…”.
- Also, note – the stark contrast of “handwritten” versus everything digital in the modern era creates the impression of going beyond the expected.
- Be sure to cover details like the customer’s preferences, body language, words, and tone as they relate to the product.
- Finally, recommend innovative features and tools based on your data accumulation and customer profiles.
Remember that loyal customers are your brand ambassadors, spreading the word about the value proposition and how employees care about them. It’s the most penetrative promotion one could wish for at a relatively low expense. Thus, small employee-caring gestures with a personal touch put a smile on customers’ faces and solidify a loyalty base, perhaps for life – a win-win!
5. Premium packaging fits the holiday season theme.
Undoubtedly, the first go-to remedy for a disrupted customer journey is service. In contrast, packaging is the one flying under the radar most often. However, a reputable study indicates that a significant 61% of consumers declare a readiness to pay at least 5% more for any brand where the customer experience promises to be better. So, the question is, where does a superior CX begin and end?
Believe it or not, a recent Dotcom Distribution packaging study underlines that holiday season packaging adds to the intrigue and excitement, especially among Gen Zs and millennials. It goes as far as to suggest that:
- Marketers should never lose sight of the fact that an elevated CX depends on end-to-end marketing – not picking one’s spots and accepting complacency the rest of the time.
- Therefore, packaging design is a telling factor in many purchase decisions, and bypassing it in the mix is a crucial error.
- In other words, holiday customer satisfaction strategies that bypass packaging as a vital ingredient may lose sales at checkout based only on bland packaging versus lesser competitors’ glitzy wrappers.
6. Your return policy becomes critical in creating memorable holiday experiences for customers.
During the holiday season, every business should understand the psychology behind gift-giving and that some recipients will want to swap them out. For example, just a few return reasons include:
- Sizes and colors may be wrong.
- Duplicate gifts may be an issue.
- “I just don’t need this.”
One recent study showed that 62% of consumers won’t buy from company that doesn’t offer free returns. So, it’s advisable to make the return policy as liberal as possible to reduce “wrong gift” anxiety and remove your brand from that mindset. In addition, ensure returns aren’t a hassle for the returnee and that the agent servicing them is on top of their game to up-sell with a replacement.
Happy CX holidays!
The holiday season is happening year-round, which means that you have plenty of opportunities to provide memorable experiences for customers and to boost both engagement and revenue. All you need to do is be prepared!
Before your next holiday season, contact Sogolytics for the resources and skills in the CX arena, with incredible insights into holiday season strategies that work. They know how to obtain accurate, reliable customer feedback, highlighting festive-centric moves that create brand differences. Discussing your specific circumstances with one of their professional consultants will open new perspectives and opportunities that can significantly uplift ROI and sustain it for every holiday rush in 2024 and beyond.