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Labor Shortages Leave Retailers Scrambling for Solutions Before the Holiday Season

By Tracey E. Schelmetic November 10, 2023

For retailers, customer engagement is the spice of life. Customers want and expect personalized service whenever and wherever they choose to seek it, via whatever communications channel they choose. While customer engagement remains a challenge for most companies, it’s particularly hard to pull off for companies that don’t have enough staff.

New research from customer engagement solutions provider Verint examined how retailers are heading into the ever-critical holiday shopping season. The study highlights key customer engagement challenges and opportunities amidst a backdrop of labor shortages.

For example, more than half of the retailers surveyed said that effectively staffing stores will be the greatest challenge this year, with 86% facing at least one challenge related to hiring and staffing customer-facing roles for the upcoming holiday season. 50% of respondents reported issues finding qualified people to work in their stores, while 30% are struggling to fill positions in the contact center and back office.

While hiring more people may seem like a panacea, many companies are finding they don’t have enough people to hire more people. Labor issues persist beyond the struggle for customer-facing candidates, with 34% of retailers reporting not having enough human resources staff to handle the number of vacancies needing to be filled.

In the age of labor scarcity, automation to support modern digital customer engagement can be of tremendous value for the retail sector, where customer experience is paramount, according to the Verint report’s authors. In fact, 55% of individuals with roles of director or higher consider chatbots to be a key part of their customer engagement strategy, an increase of 10 points compared to last year’s survey.

“Retailers need strategies that provide rich customer engagement and fill the gaps that exist due to labor shortages,” said Jenni Palocsik, VP of Marketing Insights, Experience and Enablement for Verint. “By providing in-channel automation through bots, private messaging, and self-service options through knowledge and community forums, it can lessen the demands and the workloads of human agents. Leveraging customer experience automation also lowers the cost to serve and creates a more seamless experience for customers.”

Edited by Alex Passett
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