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New Verint Research Shows Automation to Work Around Staffing Shortages is Key to Retailers Winning Over Shoppers This Holiday Season

Retailers Must Embrace Automation Throughout the Retail Enterprise; Biggest Gaps Lie in the Contact Center, the Hiring Process, and Private Messaging for Customer Engagement at Scale

As U.S. retailers prepare for the busy holiday shopping season, more than 60 percent say they are challenged to find qualified candidates to staff their stores, while 45 percent are struggling to fill contact center and back-office positions. These sobering statistics are from new research from Verint® (NASDAQ: VRNT), The Customer Engagement Company™.

Faced with labor shortages and challenged to meet consumer demands for superior shopping experiences across numerous engagement channels, Verint says this year’s holiday shopping season may be a reckoning for retailers in realizing the new reality of the automation imperative.

“Staffing shortages in stores, in the back-office, and contact center roles will challenge retailers in their efforts to provide exceptional customer experiences to satisfy shoppers during the busy holiday shopping season this year,” says Verint’s Jenni Palocsik, vice president, marketing insights, experience and enablement. “Leveraging automation is absolutely critical to fill workforce gaps and create a connected customer engagement strategy of humans and bots.”

While 94 percent of retailers surveyed plan to hire new workers for the holiday season, nearly 30 percent report not having enough Human Resources (HR) staff to handle the number of vacancies that need to be filled. Automation that helps retailers expand their organizational capacity to interview and qualify candidates can provide relief in this area.

The survey found that automation is either in place or planned for retail activities such as tracking orders (81%), inventory management (81%), sending customized offers or recommendations (79%), and processing returns (69%). Just 56 percent of respondents currently have automation in place for customer support, and 21 percent plan to implement it while 23 percent don’t use or plan to use that type of automation.

Retailers can leverage powerful private messaging channels as the means to ubiquitously connect with shoppers at any place and any time, yet 61 percent of retailers surveyed are missing out. Of the 39 percent of retailers engaging with customers via private messaging, 81 percent have automation on that channel, which can automate customer engagement at scale via bots.

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Retailers also need to scale customer interactions, which requires bots to be on the frontline of the workforce. However, only 34 percent of retailers said that chatbots play a key part in their engagement strategy, which means 66 percent either don’t use any kind of bot, or they only play a minor role in customer engagement. Two-thirds of retailers with more than 1,000 employees are missing the opportunity to use an incredibly powerful tool that is vital for modern digital customer engagement.

Verint recommends that retailers consider the following:

Automate contact center operations. By automating responses to common queries or deflecting conversations to FAQs or community forums, the pressure on human agents is reduced, leaving them free to handle more complex issues, as well as lowering the cost to serve and creating a more seamless customer experience.

Employ intelligent hiring solutions for streamlined staff acquisition and assessment. A virtual interviewing and hiring process creates an extra layer of evaluation by pre-assessing candidates and reducing the workload on HR and hiring managers. Intelligent hiring solutions that streamline the hiring process are becoming fundamental to talent acquisition strategies.

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Lean into private messaging and automation to scale this highly personalized channel. Bots can automate the use of private messaging channels at scale for customer communications in areas such as customized offers and recommendations and returns.

Meet capacity through conversation containment. Service bots and virtual assistants help brands manage high-volume, low-effort queries. Used as a frontline triage, bots should resolve repetitive, simple issues while highly skilled agents are dedicated to high-value interactions—creating big savings in customer service costs.

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