Black Friday customer support

Less than 30 days to go until the busiest shopping day of the year. . . Last year, over $717 billion was spent between November 1st and December 24th with the 5 days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday accounting for 20% of that. And online shopping has trumped traditional retail for the past two years. That means plenty of customers, old and new, who will be shopping with you. And who will be looking for help from your customer support team.

With the inevitable spike in the demand for support your systems and processes will be under pressure. But it’s also a tremendous opportunity to build a fantastic customer support reputation.

The good news is that investing a little time now in preparing for the inevitable will go a long way towards helping you maintain excellent customer service. Not just for Black Friday but through this holiday period and into 2020.

Be prepared for holiday customer service

We know we’re three months out from Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holiday season in general. The thing is though it’s worth putting a plan in place now. It will allow you to ramp up the necessary processes and training. This period before the madness of the holiday shopping season offers you a unique chance to prepare yourself and your team. If you’re lucky enough to have one. This will be the most intense customer service rush you will experience in a calendar year. Making small tweaks and improvements now will help you cope with the higher volume of orders and support requests.

Build stronger relationships through social media, but keep your agents focused

Connecting to the messaging apps you already use to bring all your conversations into a single location. Whether through your helpdesk or integrating them into your eCommerce platform, it makes it easier to respond to questions and build relationships with customers. Implementing it through the helpdesk or eComm platform allows you and/or your agents to handle omnichannel support in a much easier fashion.

Predict the most likely problems for Black Friday customer support

Context is everything. The best business decisions are the ones that are fully informed by your historical context. That gut instinct you have is more likely to be based on past experiences. You can create a list of service situations that are either going to be the most frequently occurring or the most complex to resolve during the holiday rush. These are the issues that are unnecessarily causing backlogs and volumes in your Black Friday customer support. If you are pushed for time or need more concrete stats, the Cx Moments platform can provide you with the answers. Here are some common examples many eCommerce stores encounter:

· ‘Out of stock’ on a popular item.

· Delivery delays or lost packages.

· Third-party outages in systems like payment processors.

For each of these problems, you should create, review, or revise your canned responses. And also ensure your agents have training in how to respond. An answer created in advance will likely be more thorough than one written in the moment. It also allows you to be proactive in your customer support responses.

A few quick tips

· Increase clarity. Concise responses will reduce the chance of confusion. And thus reduce the chance a customer will need to ask additional questions (a situation you’d both prefer to avoid). For example, if a customer emails about an order status, providing them with an update but also where in their account they can find this minimise the chance of a ticket being reopened.

· Add links to further information. Educating customers so you can help them help themselves is a great way to make your customer support exceptional. Are there any common follow-up questions you can answer in the first response? Make clear how your customers can access more information if they need it, such as in the FAQ section of the website.

· Update your FAQs. You can also work with your website and marketing teams to give customers the answer to their question. Before they ever have to ask it. Ensure you’re sharing accurate information and that the answers are easy to find. For example, you can link to an FAQ page from the order confirmation emails, shipping update emails, and the contact page of the website. The perfect FAQ questions are the which are commonly occur and the same answer applies across the board.

Identify quick wins

Whether you search your memory, talk to your support staff, or use Cx Moments to identify issues it’s helpful to consider previous issues that could have potentially been avoided with some preparation. Look for low-effort, high-impact improvements that can be made immediately. Again working with the website and marketing team now will allow you to minimise the reasons to contact.

A few more quick tips

· Maximise relevant product information on the product page to reduce the reasons to contact. This reduces the need for agents to answer each one individually. Are people asking about product sizing or color choice? Do they need to know the materials an item is made of?

· Revise your contact form to ask for specific details upfront, such as order numbers and email address. This avoids having the first reply be a request for additional information. Add these fields to your contact form to encourage customers to provide this information upfront. Meaning you can aim for a first contact resolution.

· Improve your product page layout to minimise confusion. If you see your customers asking questions where the answer is already listed on your website, information design and layout may be the cause. Common examples include making the currency obvious, making shipping costs and delivery estimates appear upfront. Also including size charts links from each product page can reduce contacts from customers.

You can use Cx Moments to build reports that help you surface root causes of common support requests. For example, if you spot a surge in questions tagged as “pricing” you’ll be able to investigate and respond with improvements quickly, reducing the number of incoming questions later around the holiday period.

Expand your internal information

Even if you’re running a smaller enterprise or dealing with the customer support directly, making a document of what you know and making it easy to surface responses when you need them will save you time and effort. You might have notes on tricky problems you’ve solved that can be shared. Particularly with any seasonal or temporary staff who are working Black Friday customer support shift.

And if you do have other departments, then sharing any knowledge you have from the support side will help them get changes implemented now. And save you all from a major headache during the shopping season. If you can share your processes, insights, internal tools, and guides, support will no longer be a bottleneck. Other departments will be able to work with you and your support team to implement.

Stepping into the breach: Managing the chaos of Black Friday

When the time comes and you’ve prepped as much as you can. The shopping rush has finally started, there are a few practical steps you can take to help stay on top of the chaos.

Use your triage skills

Triage is the process of deciding which tasks or tickets need to be handled in what order. When your incoming support queue is large, it’s important to be able to see in realtime what the most urgent or highest occurring issues are so they don’t get lost in a flood of lower priority issues.

While your help desk can make this job easier by enabling you to set up workflows and automation to handle common tasks, the crucial thing is that you see the issues first. Using an AI solution will let you see volumes and trends that allow you triage effectively. For example, you might filter out a high volume topic, such as payment questions, to assign to a designated agent who is trained to handle them quickly, flag questions containing words like “urgent” to prioritise in the queue or even assign issues such as bugs or crashes with the website out to the relevant team.

Communicating with customers

You know this your busy time, and we know that you and you’re agents are working hard to answer every query, but the thing is, your customers won’t know unless you tell them.

Online shopping still involves a lot of trust on the customer’s side, and transparent and visible communication will help build their confidence in you. By taking a few simple steps you can ensure customers know their questions, issues and concerns are being heard loud and clear.

1. Set up automated replies that let customers know their query has been received, and let them know what your typical response times are. It will reassure the customer, build trust and reduce their need to contact you again to find out what’s happening.

Tip: Don’t make the automated email sound impersonal or disengaged. Ensure the email uses personalisation and has a friendly open tone. Embed their initial query in the email to acknowledge that you see their problem and close it out with the predicted response time.

2. Set realistic expectations on your contact page, help centers and any chatbots by letting customers know the time frame to expect an answer (e.g in < 3 hours, one business day or whatever you feel you and your team can commit to). It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than to leave customers feeling ignored. Nothing will kill a brand faster.

3. We said it before and will say it again. Keep everything in your helpdesk. If you have omnichannel support condense all the channels into your helpdesk. That way your attention isn’t pulled across multiple inboxes.

4. Don’t be afraid to be human. Making a human connection will go along way, and usually helps people be more understanding about small delays or the occasional mixup.One of the stand out Black Friday ‘business-nightmare-turned-brand-win’ is undoubtedly Gymshark’s 2015 saga. When Gymshark’s website went down for 8 hours straight, CEO Ben Francis didn’t hide behind press releases or automated canned responses. Instead, he penned 2,500 handwritten apologies to customers affected. He owned the mistake and in communicating with customers put the brand back on an even keel with shoppers.

Exceptional support under pressure: why effort matters

You know your business best: your resources, and your constraints. Taking the time now to think ahead, make plans and implement small changes will allow you to create a Black Friday customer support experience for you and your customers that is stress-lite and memorable for the right reasons.

Every improvement you make now to maintain your level of service through the crunch times will stand to you and your company as you continue to grow.

We’ve put together an eBook of insights, tip, tricks and checklists to help you manage your Black Friday customer support