11 sept 2023
Kelli is the senior content strategist for Order Proteciton.
It’s coming. The eCommerce Super Bowl. The Big Show. The Main Event. Whatever name you have for it, the two busiest shopping days of the year are rapidly approaching: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) referred to as BFCM by those in the industry, this massive shopping event attracts millions of consumers each year looking to take advantage of deals and discounts. And while historically, Black Friday was largely an in-person event (hence the later addition of “Cyber Monday” geared towards eCommerce), gone are the days (mostly) of camping outside storefronts and dodging stampedes of shoppers rushing to get to the best deals (good riddance, tbh). Research from Criteo shows this preference shift from the physical experience to shopping from the comfort of your own home, with online transactions trending up 13% YoY.
And despite a pandemic and rising inflation, retail sales in general continue to grow YoY during BFCM. Online shoppers spent a record $9.12 billion on Black Friday in 2022, and a staggering $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, according to a report by Adobe.
With record-breaking sales comes—you guessed it—an influx of customer service tickets. Merchant data from customer service platform Gorgias shows that the average eCommerce business will see a 20% spike in ticket volume during BFCM. If you’re following all of these stats and doing the math in your head thus far, it should be clear that making sure your customer service or support teams are well-prepared to handle BFCM is a top priority for any eCommerce business.
In this article, we’re going to explore some key steps and proactive strategies your customer support team can take ahead of BFCM to reduce the number of tickets that come in during this peak season.
1. Update your customer service policies and SLAs
One of the first steps you should take in preparing your customer support team for BFCM is to update your customer service policies and service level agreements (SLAs). These policies should provide clear guidelines and information on shipping, returns, lost packages, and other important aspects of the customer experience. By ensuring that your policies are up-to-date and clearly communicated to both your support team and customers, you can reduce the number of repetitive inquiries and empower customers to make confident purchase decisions.
Policies for shipping and fulfillment during BFCM
Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are geared towards holiday shopping, customers are particularly concerned about delivery dates to ensure their orders arrive on time for the holidays. Be sure to clearly communicated estimated shipping times to customers ahead of purchase, along with any opportunities for expedited shipping at an additional fee. Consider common customer expectations around fulfillment, such as fast, trackable, free, and convenient shipping options, and ensure that these expectations are addressed in your shipping policy.
To inform your shipping policy, work closely with your fulfillment team to determine the absolute last day orders can ship and still arrive in time, taking into account potential holiday shipping delays. Once you have this information, make sure to include it in key areas of your website, such as the checkout flow, order confirmation emails, FAQ page, and product pages. By proactively addressing shipping concerns, you can reduce the number of inquiries related to delivery and provide a seamless customer experience.
Since consumers are likely making larger purchases thanks to the deals and discounts offered during BFCM, this is also an opportune time to highlight shipping protection or shipping insurance options offered by your brand. And if you’re not already working with a shipping protection provider, you may consider implementing a solution ahead of the busy BFCM season. Providers like Order Protection will actually serve as an extension of your customer support team, meaning that not only will you and your customers be covered for issues that may arise during shipping, but any related tickets will be completely handled by this extended team, freeing up your support team to handle other issues that may arise during this time.
Addressing lost packages during BFCM
Unfortunately, lost or damaged packages are common during the holiday season, so it’s important to have a clear policy in place to address these issues. The influx of online shopping leads to an increase in package theft—while customers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of all of their BFCM purchases, so too are porch pirates. A report from Signifyd found that porch package thefts increased by 47% in November 2022 compared to the previous year, and in December 2022 thefts rose to 87%.
All the precautions in the world can’t always stop a porch pirate, so it’s important to have a process in place to provide resolutions when theft or any other kind of shipping issues happen. And providing a clear, upfront customer-facing policy about what to expect when the worst case scenario happens is extremely important for the customer experience and retaining those relationships.
To address lost packages, ensure that your customer-facing policy includes information on coverage limits for damages, the process for reporting lost packages, and what is required to submit a claim (like photographs of damage, shipping confirmation emails, etc). Additionally, make sure your support agents have clear guidelines on troubleshooting missing packages, including available macros and escalation procedures. By having a well-defined process in place, you can handle lost package inquiries quickly and consistently, while reassuring customers that their concerns will be addressed.
Shipping protection is especially helpful in cases of theft or lost packages. When customers opt in to protection at checkout, they can rest easy knowing they’re covered in the event that porch pirates strike in their neighborhood. It’s great for brands as well—providers like Order Protection not only handle the claim with the customer, but will also cover the cost to reship or reimburse, keeping the customer happy and protecting the brand’s bottom line.
Find out how Order Protection can support your CS teams during BFCM—get a demo today.
Policies for returns and exchanges during BFCM
Returns and exchanges are another important aspect of the post-purchase customer experience. During the holiday season, customers may have specific reasons for returning or exchanging products, such as items not matching their expectations, late deliveries, or receiving the wrong product. To reduce returns and exchanges, it's essential to provide detailed product descriptions, set clear expectations, and address common concerns in your return policy.
Consider creating macros or canned responses for your support team to address frequently asked questions about promotions, combining discount codes, and the exact terms of the promotion. By providing prompt and accurate responses to common queries, you can reduce response times and improve overall customer satisfaction.
To streamline the returns and exchanges process, ensure that your FAQ section is easily accessible on your website and that articles related to shipping, billing, and returns are up-to-date. Additionally, consider creating an email template to inform customers in case you run out of inventory, providing alternative options or expected delays. By proactively addressing customer concerns and providing clear instructions, you can minimize the impact of returns and exchanges on your support team.
2. Implement automation to reduce inquiries
Automation is a powerful tool for reducing the number of incoming support inquiries and improving the efficiency of your customer support team. Automation also makes it possible to provide self-service options to customers, allowing them to find answers to common questions on their own and reducing the need for direct support interactions.
There are several key areas where automation can be beneficial that we'll dive into now.
Create a thorough FAQ page that anticipates commonly asked questions and provides clear, up-to-date answers. Organize the FAQs by category to make it easy for customers to find the information they need. Additionally, consider implementing customer self-service tools for tasks such as making returns or tracking orders. By empowering customers to find answers on their own, you can significantly reduce the volume of support tickets.
Chatbots and live chat
Utilize chatbots and live chat to automate tasks and provide immediate assistance to customers. While customers are in the flow of shopping, the most important thing is to keep them in that flow. With a live chat feature or chat bot, you can set up automated chat messages that can drive customers to relevant sales pages or initiate chat conversations for personalized support. Whatever support need they might have in the moment, these chat features keep them on your site while they receive that support. Research from Gorgias found that chat can actually boost conversion rates by as much as 12%!
Additionally, chatbots can save your support team from handling more routine inquiries, allowing them to focus their time on more complex issues while customers get quick resolutions. Clothing brand Oh Polly does a great job of guiding their customers through the chatbot experience to ensure they get the support they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Automated email footers
Add a footer to your support emails that promotes your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. This ensures that customers are aware of your promotions and can take advantage of the deals. By including this information in your support emails, you can leverage the existing customer interactions to drive sales and increase customer engagement.
3. Staff your support team appropriately
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday period can be incredibly demanding for your customer support team. To ensure that your team can handle the increased volume of inquiries, it's important to staff appropriately. Assess the expected increase in support volume and determine how many additional support agents you will need to maintain a high level of service.
Consider hiring additional part-time support staff or outsourcing support to a business process outsourcing (BPO) company. By scaling up your support team, you can provide timely responses to customer inquiries and prevent a backlog of tickets. Communicate response time expectations to customers through email auto-responders to manage their expectations and avoid negative publicity.
Working with a shipping protection provider like Order Protection allows you to scale your support without adding headcount. Since our reps handle all shipping-related claims and inquiries, this can mean huge time and cost savings for brands during BFCM, and allows their support teams to dedicate their time and resources to all other potential issues.
4. Streamline support processes with standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are essential for streamlining support processes and ensuring consistency in customer interactions. SOPs provide step-by-step instructions for handling common support tickets, allowing your team to efficiently resolve customer issues.
Create SOPs for frequently encountered scenarios, such as product exchanges, lost packages, and billing inquiries. These SOPs should include suggested responses, detailed policies, and escalation procedures. By providing your support team with clear guidelines, you can streamline their workflow and ensure that customer inquiries are handled consistently and effectively.
5. Communicate openly and honestly
Finally, open and honest communication is crucial during peak shopping holidays like BFCM. This is a good policy to operate by throughout the entire year, but it becomes critical during times of high stress.
Encourage your support team to communicate openly about challenges they may be facing and provide them with the necessary support and resources to address those challenges. By fostering a culture of transparency, you can empower your team to work together and provide the best possible support to customers.
And on the public-facing side, your customers will appreciate honesty and transparency more than empty promises. Set clear expectations for response and shipping times, and stick to your policies.
Provide better support during BFCM and retain customers for the long haul
Black Friday and Cyber Monday is like the grand finale for the eCommerce shopping season. And while many brands work toward this massive shopping event all year, it’s important to keep your eye on the real prize: customer retention. And how your support teams perform during BFCM will certainly have an impact on customer retention beyond the holiday season.
By implementing the strategies in this article, you can equip your support team to handle the increased volume of inquiries and provide exceptional service to customers. And ensuring your CS team is well-prepared for peak times will have a ripple effect on customer satisfaction, sales, and overall business success outside of the holiday shopping season. Because if you can show customers that your focus is on providing the best experience, even at your busiest, they'll remember that at other points throughout the year.
How Order Protection supports your CS teams during BFCM and beyond
One way to make sure the customer experience stays front and center all year long is by making sure your support team is, for lack of a better word, supported.
While the strategies laid out in this article will certainly help prepare your CS team for BFCM, don't let that focus slip once the holidays are in the rearview mirror. You can provide relief to your support team and scale your support without adding headcount by partnering with Order Protection.
At Order Protection, our mission is to absorb as many post-purchase support tickets as possible, freeing up your CS teams to focus their time on more complex issues. We support your CS team by:
Providing 24/7 support, response times within minutes, and faster time to resolution
Handling all shipping-related claims from start to finish, including issues like lost or damaged packages, theft, missing or wrong items, return to sender, and more
Providing full visibility into all claims and customer communications
Offering insights into your shipping experience so you can identify prime areas for optimization or where reoccurring issues are happening
Schedule time with our team today to see Order Protection in action, and discuss how we can help solve your biggest pain points this holiday season!