That sound you hear is countless Customer Service managers and teams making their final preparations for the Black Friday deluge. If you’re in the process of making sure your own CS department is ready to perform at its best, we’ve got five pieces of insider wisdom that will help to make it easier. They come from experienced CS Managers with a lot to say on the subject of successfully dealing with this critical time on the ecommerce calendar and you just might find the one piece advice you need to boost your results.
Here are five ways that you can deliver even better CS and win Black Friday.
Hiring can be a serious challenge even in the best of times. Accurately forecasting personnel needs and the recruitment process that accompanies it is time-consuming and strays from your primary mission. As if that weren’t enough, the COVID pandemic has brought additional layers of complexity to the staffing process.
Let someone else with more expertise deal with it. That’s what outsourcing partners are for. Going into the Black Friday season, you need to be sure that you can both avoid being short-handed and retain the flexibility to adapt to unpredictable peaks.
Gavin Scott, Head of Customer Service at Beauty Bay, says the demands of this year in particular are a reminder that outsourcing makes sense.
“As with all years our team will treble in size to deal with the peak period, we work with a range of partners as well as our own recruitment to fill the uplift in headcount,” he says. “Covid-19 has had a massive impact on how we have approached our peak planning this year with all of our staff working from home, bringing challenges on how we carry out virtual training and maintain quality and engagement.”
"Communicate well, and communicate often. People imagine the worst when they don't know what's happening, especially when they are under stress, and this year I think we can anticipate even more consumers experiencing extreme stress"
— Ani King, Director of Content & Operations, All Recovery, LLC
Making it easy for customers to get easy answers to basic questions themselves without having to call, email or chat is a sure way to improve your overall performance. When most of the “How do I return this?”-type questions are removed from your queue, you can dedicate more time to trickier problems that require a deep dive.
Dedicated Black Friday FAQ pages are just the thing for helping simple issues to resolve themselves and focusing your resources where they can help the most.
"Change can happen quickly, it important to monitor your KPIs and if they start to slip have a plan of action ready as delays in actioning this can make a difficult situation a lot worse very quickly!”
— Scott Barker, Head of Customer Operations, ASOS
Once your list is complete, be sure to post it or link to it anywhere customers might search for your CS contact information along with prominent reminders that the answer to their question might be on that list. “Why wait for a Customer Service representative when you can get an answer to your question right here?” Yes, why indeed!
Don’t do anything to suggest that customers aren’t welcome to contact you if they want to, but make it clear that it’s likely they can get their answers quickly on your Black Friday FAQ.
Your brand already has an extensive presence on social media (right???) so why not use it as an additional touch point to relieve pressure on your main CS activities?
While obviously not ideal for more complicated matters, a dedicated social media team can share simple information like contact details, answers to basic questions, links to the dedicated Black Friday FAQ page mentioned above and more.
These days, customers in need of support are likely to go right to your social media pages anyway, so having a ready presence there to quickly deal with simple questions saves time and work for everyone involved.
Benjamin Cohen, Associate Director of Customer Success at WordStream says that:
“If I was limited to one best practice during Black Friday, it’s to start early and be prepared for it before you clients are.”
Being ready for lots of customers to turn to your social media as their first point of contact when looking for assistance is exactly the kind of preparation that can help to manage the Black Friday rush.
“The other challenge is the peak period can be a relentless time for a CS department and maintaining the motivation and good mental health of the team is equally as important as any other part of getting peak right”
—Gavin Scott, Head of Customer Service at Beauty Bay
The nature of working in CS during the Black Friday period can take its toll. The pressure is on and the constant stream of calls, mails, chats and tickets can seem like it will never end.
What can you do to help everyone deal with Black Friday madness and perform at the levels customers expect?
“Empower your agents to do what is right for the customer but letting them make the call without having to jump through hurdles with management.”
— Adam Borzecki, CX Head, SteelSeries
The consensus among those we reached out to seems to be that putting the focus on your team first will go a long way towards getting the results you want. Keeping the atmosphere light but professional puts everyone in the mindset that allows them to deliver the kind of customer experience you expect while dealing with the holiday rush.
Gavin Scott from Beauty Bay puts the focus on the CS team first, reminding us that a happy team is much better at making customers happy.
“This period can be a relentless time for a CS department and maintaining the motivation and good mental health of the team is equally as important as anything else.”
"Respect each other, and work together, and any problem that you're facing becomes much easier to solve"
— Tanner Nelson, Head of Customer Experience
Of course, there is another way to fire up motivation on your team—cash. The workload during Black Friday is way over the normal, so the payday should be too. Paying a premium is not only a just reward for a job well done, but insurance against losing staff at the worst possible time. Otherwise, you’re asking for a situation where staff can earn the same pay for far less work and stress somewhere else. This is not the time for half of your CS reps to walk out on you—do what’s necessary to hold on to the help you need.
"Work in partnership with your suppliers, for us and many others they are key in delivering a successful peak. In addition to that we are continuing to work hard on reducing failure, looking to eliminate and automate whatever we can.”
— Scott Barker, Head of Customer Operations, ASOS
Every CS team gets certain inquiries, requests and issues that pop up much more frequently than others and, at the same time, are among the easiest to resolve. These customers take up a disproportionate amount of your time and attention, diverting your resources away from more demanding tickets and often resulting in costly overstaffing.
Automated customer support in the form of AI-powered chat is the perfect solution here. It uses a simple interface that customers are used to, it’s easy to operate and is extremely effective in resolving common, straightforward issues, especially those related to order status. Options today deliver a level of service that many customers won’t even recognize as an automated experience.
Scott Barker, Head of Customer Operations at ASOS, recognizes the value of chat support, saying that his team is constantly “looking to eliminate and automate whatever we can.”
With a substantial portion of common issues perfectly resolved through automation, your staff is free to concentrate on the cases that need more time and attention. If you’re not putting automated chat to work in your CS, you’re spending too much while keeping customers waiting too long—that’s no way to succeed on Black Friday or any other time.
How much smoother would your CS operations run if you could automate 40% of your volume tomorrow? How much more secure would you be in terms of available staff to handle the Black Friday crush?
You can find out by putting Zowie to work for you and using AI-powered chat to handle customer inquiries. Book a demo now and see how Zowie powers your order status automation and makes customers happy through easy integrations. Plus, you're up & running in 24 hours.