Latest 08 Nov 2021 | Customer Service | 4 min read

Preparing Your Contact Center for Black Friday

Black Friday is the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. It was apparently the name police in Philadelphia gave to the day after Thanksgiving in the 1960s because of the level of traffic on the city’s streets as people headed to the stores to start buying presents. It may have begun as a major shopping day confined to the US, but has become an enormous global retail event.

 

It’s an incredibly lucrative time for retail and eCommerce brands, with more than 30% of retail sales in the US happening in the period between Black Friday and Christmas, hitting a total of £7.4bn in online sales alone. 

Black Friday, which some retailers manage to stretch out to an entire week, and Cyber Monday are clearly huge events and incredibly important to retail and eCommerce brands and being prepared not just to make the sales, but also handles the customer queries that follow that is vital. If you look at the graph below, it shows the huge spike in conversations with our retail partners on our platform that begins right around the end of November. 

The first big increase in volume is when global lockdowns began, but the second big spike tells a story. Clearly the digital shift in consumer habits is a huge consideration to help prepare your contact center and create seamless and efficient customer experiences that don’t put agents under unmanageable pressure. 

 

Retailers saw a huge spike in customer conversations during the holiday season in 2020

Customer conversational intents with retail partners between Sep '19 - Sep '21

 

Update and Refine Self-Service Channels

Aim to create a system that both eases the pressure on your contact center agents and helps customers to get the information they need in one effortless interaction. Intelligent automation can be your best friend. 


The first step is to identify the most common intents that customers enquire about – both across the entire year and Black Friday/Cyber Monday in particular – and build bespoke flows that address the most common intents, like order tracking of FAQs. With the nature of Black Friday involving purchases and delivery, automating WISMO (where is my order?) is an excellent place to begin. 63% of all queries are actually before shipping, so automating proactive notifications at every stage of tracking and delivery is an excellent place to start.

WISMO (where is my order) is easily automated and creates a better customer experience than an agent

Contact Center Staff: Agents and Bots

 

Optimise your Chatbots 

As I mentioned above, CX automation is your friend when customer conversation volume rises. Private messaging channels are designed to be scalable, so unlike human agents, their performance won’t suffer in the face of a spike in customer queries. 

It’s not necessarily enough to just employ bots and assume they’ll provide the conversational experiences that your customers are looking for; seeing a reply of “sorry, I don’t understand” will be hugely frustrating. So create well-designed bots that address the most common customer intents and know when to hand over to an agent who can deal with more complex queries.

 

Increase Contact Center Staff

It can’t be done on bots alone though, so ensuring you have enough agents to work in conjunction with automation to provide the best conversational experiences possible is important. With the period between Black Friday and Christmas accounting for nearly ⅓ of all annual retail sales, making seasonal hires to fill the potential gaps is a wise move. Don’t forget to account for training and onboarding of new staff, because an untrained agent is nearly as bad as no agents.

 

Forecast and Schedule Your Staff Early

Making sure your contact center is fully-staffed at peak times is one surefire way to benefit everyone involved, so preparation is key. Using customer engagement analysis tools to analyse data from previous Black Fridays and the run up The Holiday, you’ll know whether the queries are likely to be early, late or peak across the whole day and create a staff schedule from that. 

Knowing you’ll be staffed accordingly from the earliest date possible relieves a huge amount of stress around the start of the busiest retail period of the year. It helps you as a brand maintain high levels of customer experience, your staff will be able to know early on their schedule and plan their own holiday period accordingly and it means your customers will be receiving the best care possible. 

 

No Time To Waste

When the turkey’s been carved and the last mouthful of pumpkin pie finished, consumer thoughts turn to Black Friday deal, Cyber Monday steals and what to buy their loved ones when they do it all again in a month’s time. There’s a lot of work that needs to go into creating exceptional experiences for your customers and it needs to start early. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your customers’ experience, head to our digital customer experience hub.

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