Black Friday: how to prep your customer service teams

Black Friday, if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail

However, many British retailers were caught off guard last year by the huge demand from shoppers, with in-store staff and customer service channels struggling to cope. It’s therefore vital that businesses prepare themselves, and, in particular, their customer service teams, not just for Black Friday but for the hectic holiday season that follows.

Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail!

So what effect does Black Friday have on the customer service team?So what effect does Black Friday have on the customer service team? Peak shopping days such as these can put a lot of strain on customer support, primarily due to a couple of factors.

New product launches or offers are often kept highly secretive, even amongst an organisation’s own teams. The launch is often held so close to people’s chests that the customer service and support teams are brought in last minute, with marketing departments tending to keep large promotions secret so that their competitors don’t get wind of the deal. Both of these things can lead to a significant increase in not just call, email and chat volume but also the specificity of the questions surrounding the new products, services or promotions. If the customer service and support team is not kept in the loop then the lack of knowledge they share with the customer can lead to a negative and frustrating experience for both parties involved.

Clearly, the first step in addressing these issues is for retailers to break down internal silos and ensure that the customer service team is looped in on product launches, promotions and recalls. Equipping them with this knowledge will help improve customer relations when those spikes in calls, emails and online chats come to fruition. However, getting ahead of the curve is only part of the picture and there are other tactics your organisation can deploy to ensure the customer service you deliver is first class.

Allow data to shape the customer experience

Analytics will help provide you with the support you’ll need during the busy shopping periodWhatever industry you are in, data should be your best friend. When used correctly, analytics will help provide you with the support you’ll need during the busy shopping period. Setting up alert mechanisms and automated coaching for customer service teams based on specific topics or issues will allow retailers to react better to customer needs, business issues and to competitive offerings.

It’s important to stress that analytics will never be able to give you all the answers – but a smart approach to data will help customer service teams make the right decision for more customers, more often.

For example, if a customer that regularly buys from your online store calls up to complain about a purchase, it could be important for the customer service agent to know, not just that the caller is a regular customer, but also what the customer’s past experiences, purchasing history, delivery and payment preferences might be. In that instance, data analytics has the potential to recommend a course of action that helps to resolve the issue and improve the overall experience for the customer.

Deliver proactive Black Friday customer service

Always deliver outstanding customer serviceThe Christmas shopping period is also a great way to build better relationships with both new and existing customers. And the best way to build customer satisfaction and loyalty in the long-term is to take an honest and open approach when dealing with customers.

Proactive customer service relies on customer service teams pre-empting instances when customers are likely to contact them directly, by reaching out proactively. For example, if a children’s retailer has to recall its latest toy, taking a proactive approach to contact customers will put you in control in dealing with spikes in call volumes. Whilst no one wants to deliver bad news, addressing the problem proactively will help earn customers’ trust through openness and transparency.

This year, retailers have an opportunity to capitalise on converting as many sales as possible during Black Friday and the festive period by ensuring their customer service departments are kept in the loop, are fully leveraging the power of analytics to automate the decisions and events that contribute to proactive customer service. When all of these tactics are deployed in tandem, the outcome should result in happier customers during, what will no doubt be a shopping frenzy. 

By Cormac Twomey, Senior Vice President, EMEA, Convergys