2020 has been challenging for many, yet turned out to be remarkable for e-commerce. Since the beginning of the year, the e-commerce market has experienced impressive growth due to the pandemic and the changing habits of consumers. It is still expected to keep the pace and reach 22% of all retail sales worldwide by the end of 2023.
This was also one of the reasons why Black Friday 2020 sales online hit record-breaking $9 billion, up 21.6% compared to 2019. Although the COVID-19 situation is still not 100% in control, vaccines and health measures give shoppers more confidence this year. Therefore, the upcoming Black Friday is predicted to be the busiest United States holiday shopping day of 2021.
However, with big opportunities come even bigger challenges – and customer service representatives will be the ones who will feel this the most.
Continue reading to learn how to streamline your Black Friday customer service and take advantage of the tips below to save a lot of frustration for both customer support agents and shoppers this year.
When is Black Friday 2021?
Black Friday is a shopping event that happens the next day after Thanksgiving. And as Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, the date changes every year.
In 2021, Black Friday falls on November 26th and is likely to be extended through the whole weekend (so-called Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend) as per usual.
Why does preparing your customer service team for Black Friday matter?
Your customer support team is a direct touchpoint between your business and your store visitor.
These interactions can either leave a good impression, signaling that “hey, it’s a business that cares about me and I want to continue shopping with them,” or make shoppers never come back to your shop. Worst case scenario – even share their negative experience with others, aka your potential customers.
Just like Alex here did:
Therefore, preparing your customer support team for Black Friday matters for at least two reasons:
- Great customer service is the best Black Friday marketing strategy (and actually, one of the best marketing strategies overall) there is. Delivering excellent support can improve customer retention, make them more loyal to your brand, thus helping you grow in the future.
- Peak times like Black Friday, Christmas, and similar holidays not only require specific customer service skills, but also knowledge and energy to deal with different situations. Not preparing your key people for this might set you up to fail.
This is especially important today as the pandemic has significantly changed consumer expectations, making them pickier and more demanding. It’s now easier than ever to look for alternatives, jump between different sellers, and any little mistake can and will cost you a sale.
During more intense days, you will experience even more situations that can determine the future of your business. So below you will find some Black Friday customer service tips to follow to minimize the possibility of chaos this year.
Black Friday survival guide for customer support teams
1. Stay patient
"Stay patient" should be one of the customer support mantras not only during the whole Black Friday shopping madness but always.
Usually, people who reach out to customer support representatives are frustrated and annoyed about something. They’re looking for their problems to be solved at the exact same moment, and have very little patience to be kept waiting.
However, a good customer support agent cannot let emotions take over. It might be difficult when a lot is going on, but it’s crucial to always be prepared to listen and maintain a calm, understanding presence for the best results.
2. Make it easy for customers to get in touch
No customer is the same, and the ways they want to contact a business vary a lot, too.
Some might prefer to call, and some feel more comfortable using the good old email. It's up to you to choose what channels you're on, but it's also totally up to them to choose the brand that it's easier to engage and get in touch with.
Look at the Moment's website here. They're present on the most popular social media platforms, enables you to reach out via live chat, and also includes their email address at the bottom of the page:
However many channels you use, make sure they work as one. Even a single customer is very likely to jump between different channels. They might drop you an email in the morning and send a message on Facebook 3 hours later just to check if you're on to it.
As they do that, they still expect you to be capable of providing them with the same excellent service, without having to repeat their issues over and over again.
Sounds challenging, right? Then the next tip should help to ease the pain.
3. Use a customer service app or software
Dealing with different people and inquiries daily is difficult enough, not to mention higher intensity days like Black Friday. Without the right tools, even the best teams might fall short.
On the Shopify app store, you can find plenty of solutions that can help you streamline your workflow and save some valuable time. To be more specific, no customer support team is complete without a help desk ticketing system that's an invaluable player in this whole online shopping game.
A help desk can centralize all your communications in one place so that you wouldn't have to jump between different channels. These apps typically come with many other internal tools, like tags, pre-made templates, automation rules, etc. that help to better organize your tasks and tickets, and be more in control.
Put simply, you can and deliver faster and more thorough support while saving a decent amount of time.
4. Enable self-service by creating a killer FAQ page
FAQ, or frequently asked questions, has been out there for a long time, and the fact that it’s still so widely used simply proves its effectiveness.
Consider building it for your store or, if you have it already, review the current questions and update them with the latest information to prevent recurring inquiries during the upcoming Black Friday.
A strong FAQ page, that is well-structured, well-written, and easy to navigate, can noticeably improve customer experience, show your expertise, and reduce customer support time by allowing your website visitors to find the necessary answers themselves.
To build an FAQ page on Shopify, you can either use a third-party app or do it manually, following the steps on your Shopify dashboard.
PRO tip: You can also go through the most common issues that you faced last year, turn them into a list, and see if there's a way to avoid them this time. Consider preparing the answers in advance, this will save your team unnecessary confusion.
5. Use automatic responses
Automatic responses can be sent for many different reasons. For instance, to acknowledge the receipt of every inquiry or during specific hours of the day.
When a customer receives a confirmation that their issue is going to be addressed shortly, it reduces the anxiety that comes when encountering a problem. It's always better than the silence and buys you some time to actually delve deeper into the issue and provide better answers.
6. Equip your team with pre-made templates
Writing a response to each and every customer from scratch sounds like a luxury during the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
The truth is that most of the inquiries that reach your inbox are more or less about the same issues, just asked differently.
You can manage them in advance with pre-made templates that your customer service reps can adjust to specific situations – by adding names, relevant details, and so on, which would certainly take less time than starting from nothing every single time.
7. Enable communication via live chat
Live chat is a tool for the most impatient ones. Using a live chat, a visitor or a customer can get in touch with a responsible person instantly, right on the store.
Besides, a possibility to solve issues via live chat can noticeably increase the customer experience. 83.04% of customers globally were happy about the option to get in touch via live chat in 2019, according to Statista.
Depending on the software itself, the functionalities of this solution might vary a lot so make sure that the specific live chat app aligns with your goals before installing it on your store.
8. Prioritize inquiries
Even though every customer is equally important, it’s impossible to provide great customer service to 10 people at the same time.
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, consider the urgency of each inquiry.
Think of things like how long a customer is already waiting, is it a new customer or a regular, and how much time you might need to resolve a problem. Focus on a single issue to do your best – this will be appreciated in the end.
9. Stay transparent about the shipping process
One of the biggest challenges caused by an increased demand is to ensure smooth shipping. Although it’s difficult to prepare for some things in advance, you can still make sure that your business stays completely transparent about the process to avoid customer support crises.
Updating your website and stating that customers might expect shipping delays can help them be more confident about placing their orders. Additionally, you might want to add relevant information to your transactional emails and set up automated order delivery updates to reduce post-purchase anxiety.
10. Remember that communication is key
Honesty can go a long way – just informing a customer that you will get back at resolving the issue shortly, or that you need some time to research the problem might already put out some fires.
Meanwhile, you might offer shoppers to look into your FAQ page if you feel that the problem could be solved in such a way, or provide other relevant information to win some extra time.
Ready to rock Black Friday 2021?
Fast and reliable customer service is always a challenge, yet Black Friday this year is definitely going to put some extra pressure on customer support agents.
The opportunities it brings are huge, but it’s important to divide the focus between offering great deals and providing an excellent customer experience to succeed.
It’s still not too late to consider these Black Friday customer service tips and get the essential tools ready for a big day to seize every opportunity that will come your way.