Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the beginning of everybody’s favorite winter holiday season. But this is also the most high-pressure shopping period of the year for both consumers and retailers. While shoppers are getting busy chasing good deals, business owners are trying their best to outrun their competition.
According to this survey, 30% of yearly retail sales happen between Black Friday and Christmas. The good news is that you still have time to level up your game plan.
This year you should be especially geared-up: 2020 has changed our holiday plans, with most of us spending the holidays at home. Chances are that all that travel budget is going to be put towards online shopping instead.
Customer service is one of the main ways to win loyal customers that stick around in the post-holiday season. 90% of Americans claim customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to make a repeat purchase from a brand. And if you don’t want to end up like one of the businesses contributing to an annual loss of $62 billion due to poor customer service, you’ll need to closely consider your customer service strategy.
When preparing for the upcoming sales period, make sure to avoid the following customer service mistakes:
Problem: You Are Not Using Automation Tools
Automating your sales and support flow could be the best thing that ever happens to your business. Over 60% of US consumers prefer an automated self-service, such as a website or mobile app, for simple customer service tasks.
One of customer’s favourite automation tools is chatbot. 30% of US consumers rate chatbot interactions as “very effective” in dealing with customer service issues. According to Forrester data, 63% of customers are happy to be served by a chatbot, even if there is an option to escalate the conversation to a human.
But chatbot integrations are not the only tech that can drastically speed up your sales and support during this high-traffic period.
Solution: Use automation tools
From smart chat prioritization and automatic replies to built-in product search and abandoned cart recovery campaigns — you can automate nearly everything in your shop. Multipurpose customer service platforms like Markeaze take care of all your automation needs in one convenient interface.
Here’s what you can also do:
- Prepare a list of replies to your most frequently asked questions, including discount offers and special deals. Use live chat solutions that help you record these answers and use them when chatting with your customers.
- Set up an abandoned cart campaign, which will send out emails to customers who left your shop without purchasing what was in their cart.
Problem: You Are Unavailable
You never know which communication channel will be responsible for landing your next sale. If you think that live chat and email are enough — you’re missing out on so much more! According to Microsoft’s report, 66% of customers are using at least three channels to get in touch with a store’s customer service team.
Being available is only a part of the deal. Too often e-tailers fail to keep records of their customer data and readdress customers from one rep to another, making your customers repeat themselves.
Solution: Go omnichannel
Your ultimate goal is to be where your customers are (offline, mobile, social) and make all the conversations available in one place. Use omnichannel solutions that allow you to interact with customers via multiple communication channels and consolidate historical data in one place.
Here are a couple of ideas:
- Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are some of the most popular social media communicating channels. Make sure your store has accounts on these social media platforms. If possible, assign a team member to monitor inquiries through each one.
- Set up auto-replies in your live chat, email, Facebook Messenger, and other communication channels. Specify the time when you’re online so that your customers know when they can expect an answer.
Problem: You’re Not Keeping Track of Your Customer Order History
Holiday sales period or not, customers expect you to be on top of your game. Often, they start conversations assuming that you already know all about them — from food allergies and preferred payment methods to the content of their carts.
If your service reps are not well-informed, everyone loses time and patience. The most disappointing customer service issues include: not recognizing return customers and sending irrelevant offers to them, with items they’ve already purchased.
Solution: Keep track of your data
When choosing a customer service software, make sure it collects historical data (meaning that it keeps records of each customer’s “history” with your brand). Nowadays, many of the live chat and CRM platforms provide this functionality.
- Track your customer’s journeys so your service reps are well-aware of active orders, cart content, and products they’ve viewed and purchased before.
- Collect as much customer data as possible — from demographics to personal preferences — and use this information to speed up your service.
- Always check the historical data when talking to customers, and don’t make them repeat themselves.
Problem: You’re Not Learning From Your Mistakes
If this isn’t your first sales season, you have a head start in understanding how to grow. One of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make is to ignore the stats from the previous year.
What was your biggest drawback last year, with regards to customer service? Response time is one of the most crucial factors that can increase conversions or break your sale. Research shows that 78% of customers buy from the company that got back to them first. That means you should be keeping a close eye on this metric.
Solution: Dig into the data
Take a look at what happened a year ago. Did you have enough reps to handle all your requests? What was your team’s biggest struggle?
These ideas might be helpful:
- If you know that quick response time is your weak spot, it would make sense to hire an additional rep for the sales period, or automate your support and sales process.
- If you ran out of products in the middle of last year’s holiday rush, stock up on high-demand goods beforehand.
- Often, sales fall through because of the poor product knowledge of your reps. Monitor their conversations to find any holes in their knowledge, and provide additional training before sales take off.
Problem: You’re Understocked
A common problem for online stores during the sales period is running out of high-demand items. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than spending hours searching for the perfect holiday gift only to find out that the size or color they need is out of stock.
A recent Retail Dive research revealed that retailers might be losing $1 trillion due to being out of stock at crucial periods of the year.
Solution: Bring in some analytics
Deal with this problem with an affirmative approach: use analytic tools to estimate when you need to restock.
To help dive into the data, you can do the following:
- Analyze historical sales data to forecast sales and the amount of products that you’ll need.
- Work with inventory management software to make your calculations easier.
- Calculate reorder points based on your sales forecast, and make sure you can get your orders through on time.
- If you do run out of stock, the second best thing you can do is provide your customer with targeted product recommendations. Or, use Back in Stock Notifications to inform your customers when the items will be available again.
Problem: You Don’t Address Customers’ Pain Points
There is a subtle but vital difference between “we made this product because we thought you might like it” and “you asked us for it, so we made it”. Putting the real, tangible needs and wants of your customers first seems intuitive, but e-tailers often misunderstand what is really driving a customer to your store.
Solution: Listen to your customers
When talking to your customer, consider their needs and interests your top priority. As much as you want to close that sale, you need to focus on solving the issue your customer has, even if it means accepting responsibility for something that might not be your fault.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Take your personal product recommendations to a new level by using data-driven insights, based on demographics or other factors.
- Use the Trend finder app to identify your most popular products, so you can restock them ahead of time (and avoid complaints about sold out inventory).
- Display the “You may also like” section on product pages in your online store.
Based on research by the National Retail Federation, about 35% of consumers start their holiday shopping by the third week of October, so the earlier you start preparing, the better.
Although it’s impossible to avoid every customer service mistake that might occur during the high-traffic season, it’s still incredibly helpful to prepare in advance. Our best advice is to automate your sales and support routine, do your homework, and prepare for the sales boost sensibly and with plenty of time to spare.
Apart from that: remember to analyze past mistakes, and stay flexible in your mindset and available to your customers. Don’t underestimate the importance of collecting customer data, because a little bit of data-driven insight is beneficial for customer service, and selling in general.
Finally, practice a personalized approach to all customer service inquiries, and keep your mind open. With these tips in mind, we know you’ll succeed in having your best selling season ever. So go get ’em!