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Some Retailers May Embrace Automation This Holiday Season

Verint study shows using tech to work around staffing shortages is key.

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iStock, Vanit Janthra
iStock, Vanit Janthra

As U.S. retailers prepare for the busy holiday shopping season, more than 60 percent say they are having trouble finding qualified candidates to staff their stores, while 45 percent claim to be struggling to fill contact center and back-office positions. These findings are from new research by Verint (Melville, N.Y.), which specializes in customer engagement.

Challenged to meet consumer demands for superior shopping experiences across numerous channels, Verint says this year’s holiday shopping season may be a reckoning for retailers in realizing the new reality of what it dubs “the automation imperative.”

“Leveraging automation is absolutely critical to fill workforce gaps and create a connected customer engagement strategy of humans and bots,” says Jenni Palocsik, Verint’s vice president, marketing insights, experience and enablement.

Based on its research, Verint recommends retailers take the following steps:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, recommendations and returns.
  • Meet capacity through conversation containment. Use service bots and virtual assistants to help manage high-volume, low-effort queries.

The findings did not include any specifics as to why these retailers would have trouble staffing stores — such as employee pay or benefits — and it’s unclear how quickly many small-to-midsize businesses could realistically push to include further automation within the next 2-6 weeks.

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