It seems that, when we start reaching the end of the year, time becomes shorter, and so more valuable than usual. Whatever is left from December becomes a countdown of very scarce days and hours in which to fit everything is pending before the year is over: work or personal balance sheets, plans for the coming year, holidays plans, and among all these, the need to get ready for some of the most expected days in anybody’s calendar which bring about reunions, joy, prosperity, and also, a certain degree of excitement and stress: The Holiday Season.
It is because of this turmoil of sensations associated with the end-of-the-year phenomenon that we witness long days of thousands of people cramming different shopping areas seeking to meet diverse needs in the shape of products and/or services, and also wishing to spend the least amount of time in an attempt to have room to do everything that is still pending before the last day of the year is over. What is paradoxical is that the more we rush, the more we have to wait. Retail, which consists of supermarkets, shops, banks, airlines, etc., turns into the core of massive demands in which customers’ experience becomes a key strategic factor, not only for companies but for consumers as well. When offering positive and memorable experiences, even in times of extreme demand, companies must show they are capable of organising, connecting, and measuring the influx of customers throughout their service areas by getting the most out of their potential, without losing sight of both the quantity and quality of attention.
What is true is that Christmas brings about the most prominent consumption boom of the year. According to The Washing Post, it was estimated that consumers worldwide would spend U$S 602 billion during 2014 Christmas shopping. This is 8% more than in 2013. Christmas sales represented 19.2% from the total of U$S 3, 2 trillion of annual sales. These figures highlight the existence of a consolidating and intensifying consumption model which sets new challenges to companies that entail the inclusion of innovating solutions to face significant demands during key periods of the year. It becomes interesting to find out, then, how long consumers queue when shopping for gifts during those hectic, full of sales days, when shopping for groceries, or doing bank procedures, etc.
Likewise, it would be strategic to contrast all the above with the time, anxiety, and stress customers would save if the attention conditions and opportunities offered by retail shops were different during those critical periods. For companies, focusing on the experiences they are able to offer and instil in customers means a challenge that, if achieved, results in beneficial long term sustaining relationships with customers.
Sometimes, the sharp increase of demand urges the augmentation of the staff on a temporary basis, as Macy’s did in 2014 when estimated the hiring of 86,000 employees, 4% more than in 2013. Similarly, Walmart hired 60,000 temporary staff members, 10% more than in 2013; and Kohl exceeded its 2013 figures by 15% with the inclusion of over 67,000 temporary employees. However, staff augmentation during the holiday season for strengthening customer service, sales, etc., does not fully solved issues if the resources are not efficiently managed. In other words, it will not be possible to get the most out of either the performance or the potential of customer service and commercial areas if innovating solutions for organizing both influx of customers and the workforce are not effectively developed and managed.
Fortunately, both the technology and the innovation offered by cutting-edge companies nowadays make it possible to reduce customers’ waiting time and to enhance their shopping experience by making it more entertaining and informative through quality and interesting content. At the same time, it is possible to guide customers throughout the different instances of interaction with the brand by means of clear messaging from an omni-channeling perspective. Also, optimizing workforce’s productivity is now a reality due to the fact that real time data gathering enables checking attention service management as well as sales management at the company’s premises.
This array of opportunities comprises countless benefits for the retail sector in times of overwhelming demand, and the possibility to offer valuable experiences to customers becomes a relevant competitive value for those who enjoy them and internalize them as memorable, positive experiences, worth sustaining and repeating.
There exists technological solutions which aid in building and creating such memorable experiences, such as Queue Management systems to organise the influx of customers, Customer Feedback to get insight as to the value of the service received, Digital Signage solutions to entertain and connect customers to the brand, among others. Wavetec is a leading company whose day-to-day work focuses on innovating so that each customer’s visit renews the motivation to remain and to return to any of the interacting company’s attention and/or sales centres.
Although it may be hard to believe, it is possible to offer valuable experiences on the hectic days of December and early January when all customers want to buy gifts and everything they need for the holidays during chaotic happy hours days in outlet malls, or queuing to do banking or airline procedures, etc. Indeed, it is possible thanks to companies like Wavetec, whose top priority is to offer solutions to maximize customers’ experiences at the service area every day, all year-round.