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Shopping Season Strategies: 5 Ways to Prepare
 — November 4, 2019

It’s no secret that Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is the biggest retail and ecommerce event of the year. According to Internet Retailer research data, online shoppers spent $122 billion during the 2018 holiday season, a staggering number that marks a 17.4% increase from the same period in 2017.

This retail extravaganza trend shows no sign of slowing down either: In 2019, online sales are expected to grow by as much as 12% to reach a whopping $764.8 billion, and a significant amount of that revenue will come from holiday shopping.

This kind of massive growth means that plenty of shoppers—returning and new—will be seeking customer support from businesses. This sudden surge in digital traffic and customer demand often translates into a flurry of questions and headaches for your online sales and support teams.

Here are 5 strategies to help your team smoothly sail through BFCM

Strategy #1 – Predict your workload

The key to making the most of BFCM is to build a strong plan by looking back at key historical data that can help you accurately predict outcomes and prepare for the storm. Businesses can look at data during the same period for the past few years to ascertain the trends and anticipate the increase in customer demands.

To calculate your workload, you can use this simple formula:

“Last year, we had X unique customers over this period and handled Y customer queries.“
Y queries / X customers = Your contact ratio.

For example, if you had 25 queries and 100 customers, your 25 queries / 100 customers equate to a contact ratio of 0.25 and you should expect 25 questions to come in for every 100 customers. Another metric to consider is the number of site visits. At Heyday, we’ve found that an average of 1 to 2% of our site visitors  use the live chat widget to ask a question to customer service.

From this number, we can assume that, if your website gets 1,000,000 visitors per month, you would get roughly 10,000 to 20,000 customer interactions over that same period.

Help customers help themselves

Your key to surviving the Black Friday and holiday season spike is to help customers help themselves by providing them with tools that allow them to find answers on their own.

If you’re able to equip clients with the right tools or fix the reason the question is being asked in the first place then your contact ratio will go down over time.

Once you’ve defined the numbers of your predicted workload, you can start brainstorming and strategizing to draw up a solid plan that will allow you to maintain your expert service level throughout the holiday season. 

Strategy #2 – Analyze past customer queries

If you can identify 80% of recurring inquiries–which are your brand’s low-hanging fruit–you’ll be making your first step towards turning BFCM tsunami into a leisurely swim at the beach. From our experience, the questions we listed on the previous page will make up the bulk of questions your customer service team will face once the BFCM retail wave hits. For example:

  • “How do I apply a promo code?”
  • “How fast do you ship?”
  • “Where do you ship?”
  • “Where’s my order?”
  • “I need to make a return. What’s your refund policy?”

With the data from past customer queries at the ready, you can focus your efforts towards strategically identifying your company’s quick wins thereby lightening your team’s workload and helping their overall performance.

Strategy #3 – Use software to reduce workload and boost sales

Rather than customers having to do the heavy lifting to get access to service, it should be immediately accessible to them. If users are presented with options before they even need to ask for them, you’re removing friction from their experience. Eliminating such pain points from the customer journey is the easiest way to boost your sales, especially during the chaos of holiday where everyone is shopping with a sense of urgency. Here are a few ways you can leverage automation to reduce your team’s workload and help customers help themselves:

  • Revamp your site’s FAQ
    Making your FAQ page visible, intuitive, and mobile-friendly can streamline your support team’s service.
  • Automate email marketing
    Use email marketing automation and customer service messages strategically to answer popular questions like shipping  or promo codes queries.
  • Add a chatbot to your checkout page
    Adding chatbots can help you automate FAQs, and help the sales team by capturing, pre-qualifying and dispatching leads.
  • Offer delivery reminders within Messenger
    Automate order tracking reminders within facebook messenger to reduce the response burden on your customer service team.
  • Sign up leads to alerts for when products are back in stock
    Sign up leads to product alerts and continue boosting sales long after the BFCM rush has come and gone.

Strategy #4 – Train your team

Before the holiday season falls upon you, it’s good to ensure everyone on your team is on the same page, and is following the brand voice and message to communicate with your customers. Here are some pointers to get you started

  • Create an internal Black Friday playbook
    Outline the discounts, detail your brand voice and equip your reps with company’s FAQs to maintain consistency in communication.
  • Build an integrated company-wide knowledge base
    Connect the customer experience management software to an integrated knowledge base to help your team personalize conversations, while being aware of inventory.
  • Draw up ready-made quick-reply templates
    Leverage canned responses as shortcuts for your team so that they can respond to your top FAQs with the simple push of a button.
  • Distribute authority
    It’s important for employees to have the autonomy to solve the issue on their own without having to escalate it and helps resolve the issue on the spot.
  • Leverage every customer interaction to ease the sale
    Chatbots can step in easily to help our customers during their moments of doubt and questioning like offering promo codes or free shipping on checkout pages.
  • Design contingency plans for worst-case scenarios
    Here are some classic problems that should be on your radar—a popular item out of stock, delivery delays, lost packages and third-party outages like payment processors.
  • Monitor everything
    Even if you experience hiccups this time around, you should track every interaction—quantitatively and qualitatively—to make your process even better next year.

Strategy #5 – Automate what can be automated

Your end goal for this process should be to remove all scheduled, redundant, and mundane tasks from your team’s workload so that they can focus on what they do best—sell your products and serve your customers. Rule-based inventory management, email segmentation, and FAQ automation are only a few tasks that can help you unlock value at every step of the customer’s journey, from engagement to acquisition and customer service.

Here are the top items you should automate to make the shopping experience as smooth as possible:

  • Cart abandonment recovery
  • Retargeting, by sending push notification in Facebook Messenger, for example
  • FAQ, like tracking orders or providing information on promo codes
  • Store locator and opening hours
  • Email marketing drips
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) entries and segmentation
  • Deal alerts
  • Product search and recommendations
  • Personalized upsells

How chatbots can save the day 

When faced with the overnight 70% workload increase on BFCM, it would be understandable for any company to be in a state of shock. However, there’s a way to lighten the load for your team by equipping them with the right technology. For example, your employees shouldn’t be wasting time answering the same questions over and over. Especially, when you consider that their response time will always be much slower than an immediately available chatbot. In short, leaving the repetitive burden on their task list is a lose-lose situation for both your agents and your customers.

Whether it’s via Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Lightspeed or Prestashop, chatbots can help online merchants automate up to 80% of their customer service questions on Black Friday. Conversational software can free more time for human customer service teams to spend on high-value interactions, paving the way for a win-win.

The Heyday platform has seen many instances in which this kind of in-depth automation has worked and hugely benefited companies, and we have the numbers to prove it: ‍

‍Here’s what one of our top clients has to say about Heyday:

“We are super happy with our new live chat solution. More than half of our customer conversations are now handled by our Heyday chatbot each month.”
—Camille Ract, Customer Service Leader at DECATHLON

To know more about how AI-powered chatbots can revolutionize your customer service to drive customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty during the holiday season, click here.

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