Preparing for the Holiday Shopping Season? Connect the Dots Now!

by Gerard Garofolo

Before you’ll even enjoy the changing colors of fall, the Holiday Shopping Season will be operating in full swing. While retailers prepare for the sales rush, you and your financial institution should be considering one thing: how to establish your transaction account at the top of consumers Holiday Shopping list!

At cbsi, our focus is transaction account benefits and how those benefits translate into loyalty and usage for you with your customers. We have experienced first-hand the impact the Holiday Shopping Season can have on companies like yours. We know that proper planning and effective communication – sooner than later – will go a long way towards creating a satisfied customer base that uses your institution’s payment platform to shop during the Holiday Shopping Season.


Have you ever experienced situations when your call center is suddenly flooded by customers talking of a great new offer? Only to find out you – and the call center – had no idea about the offer or communication? This happens all too often and not because of bad intentions. Rather, some organizations become too busy or too big (or both) to make sure that all the “dots” are connected. Additionally, in some cases, the fulfillment call center is not the customer service center that manages most calls. Both groups may not be “connecting”. Some potential breakdowns include:

  • Creative agencies may position the offer incorrectly.
  • IT groups may not have the ability to load all the necessary terms and conditions into your mobile platform; third-party vendors may miss promised deadlines effecting customer expectations.
  • The direct marketing agency may deliver email, direct mail or other communications without anyone knowing of the drop date or expected received date.
  • The social media team may be fielding messages and never tell the customer service center.

The result is poor ROI, frustrated organizations and unhappy customers. Your ability to make sure all these groups are in sync – especially during the Holiday Shopping Season – is critical if you want customers to think of you and your company first.


cbsi wants your transaction account to be used first when your customers begin to spend this Holiday Shopping Season. To do so, you will need to consider some simple, but important management tactics when preparing for increased customer engagement.

It’s common – and probably very likely – that your financial institution will provide incentives or other marketing ideas designed around using a specific transaction account for purchases such as insurance or free shipping. Such tactics are especially important given the announcement of Apple Pay. New technology payment mediums or shopping aggregators can be attractive news to encourage customers to use your payment platform for their transactions.

Will your promotion be delivered on time? Do your initiatives compete with other activities within the organization? Can your ROI be measured effectively? Is your concept a “me-too” offer to copy your competition or are you creating something truly unique? You will need to have answers to these questions and more as you start to plan for the Holiday Shopping Season.

The least attractive of all topics, compliance, is probably the one area that can most negatively affect your Holiday Shopping Season efforts. With the CFPB, OCC expectations and other regulatory agencies keeping a watchful eye on you and your marketing efforts, being IN compliance is certainly smarter than being OUT of compliance.

You should have all process and procedure documentation evaluated, tested and evidenced at least annually. Any promotion or campaign should be fully vetted with your compliance and legal teams early on and these groups should be part of regular stakeholder updates. Falling short in this category can negate great marketing efforts and a superior customer service experience.

Capacity Planning
Predicting future capacity requires considerable effort. An article in the Wall Street Journal demonstrated nearly every industry connected to last year’s Holiday Shopping Season was essentially unprepared for the increase in online purchases, last-second activity and customer service requests. Furthermore the article stated a spike in last-minute shopping activity overwhelmed the United Parcel Service (UPS) system. “The volume of air packages in the UPS system did exceed capacity as demand was much greater than our forecast,” a UPS spokeswoman said. (“Late Surge in Web Buying Blindsides UPS, Retailers” Wall Street Journal, 12/25/2013).

So while planning for call, email or chat volume, possibly a combination of all, incorporate a slack variable against unforeseen growth from actual activity of last year.

Be sure that when you create your promotion, all related groups – call contact centers, IT departments, compliance, legal and others – are well aware of every detail regarding the campaign. From our experience, communication of programs, marketing efforts and other important customer-based information is often not shared amongst all ‘need to know’ stakeholders. A significant portion of our client support entails creating, managing and evaluating communication channels within organizations and with 3rd party vendors ensuring that every customer touch point is aware of the marketing initiative, tracking to a timeline and reporting on the results.


Thinking about the Holiday Shopping Season may not be top of your list; however we at cbsi know from a strategy implementation view, the season was yesterday. Given the new offers from Apple Pay, Twitter ‘Buy Now’ button, the expected increase in mobile transactions and the obvious need for your organization to benefit from all this market flux, you will need highly organized plan including stakeholder responsibilities, timelines, checkpoints and most importantly an internal communication strategy that Connects the Dots!

To learn more about how cbsi can help ensure your Holiday Shopping Season promotion is executed flawlessly or how we could provide a benefit or service to help place your transaction account platform to the front of your customer’s wallet or Apple device reach out to us at

We have several subject matter experts that provide interesting, relevant and timely information via social media as well. So follow us at @cbsiservices. And remember now is the time to Connect the Dots!

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