The orders will come in heavy, your traffic will spike, and products will fly off your digital shelves.
It's Black Friday and shoppers will be scouring the marketplace of the world wide web for deals — but is your eCommerce customer service team ready?
During the biggest shopping weekend of the year, your customer service employees are your brand's first line of defense, protecting its reputation by making ornery customers happy when something goes wrong. But how do you prepare your support team for the online onslaught of Black Friday?
Skip straight to our tips if you want, but first I think we should remind ourselves why customer service is so important. We’ve all been told ad nauseam that we should care about customer service since our first jobs making cheeseburgers for fast food conglomerates — but it’s not a moot point. Here’s why.
Note: This guide is an extension to our 12-week Black Friday preparation checklist. Check that out if you haven't already!
Why your store needs top notch eCommerce customer service
1. You make more money from repeat customers
A 5% increase in customer retention can produce an increase in profit of up to 25%. And the best way to get those repeat purchases is to keep existing customers happy. They'll remember the experience, sometimes even years later, and come back for another purchase.
Giving your eCommerce support team the resources and leeway to make everyone who contacts them happy will make you money in the long run because it keeps those customers buying from you in the future.
2. Customer service in eCommerce can differentiate your brand from competitors
Chances are there’s probably another store that offers similar products and services to yours, so providing excellent customer service can be the dealbreaker on who your customer chooses. It can also do wonders for customer loyalty.
It's worked for us. At Bold, our customer service is a proven differentiating factor.
As you can see, when customers leave us reviews on Shopify’s app store they almost always mention how happy they were that somebody from our Merchant Success team helped them solve a problem.
This leads us to our next point.
3. Exceptionally good customer service (and likewise, exceptionally bad customer service) motivates people to write reviews
Reviews can be a very important part of a customer's decision to make a purchase. Think about it — last time you bought something online you probably read reviews, or at least looked at the average rating, and steered away from buying anything rated under four stars.
Give your customers a reason to rave, not complain. Your next positive review could help new customers decide to buy from you, just like a negative review could scare them away.
The point is, during Black Friday your reputation is at stake more than any other time of year.
So we want to help make sure your online customer service team is prepared.
1. Have guidelines for potential road bumps
Before the weekend arrives, make a list of what you think some common issues will be.
Ask your customer service team members what clients usually call in about, review old tickets, and anticipate what issues may arise that are unique to the time of year (like increased traffic or disputes about sales that are running).
Once you’ve completed the list, start making some guidelines. Create a document with some rules and suggestions that your employees should follow in those situations.
A great way to do this is to create a script.
Put yourself in the position of a customer who just ran into one of those issues and write down what their ideal story would be. This will help you understand what a customer wants and what solutions your store can provide.
Together with your team, write scripts for a few different situations and practice them together.
Obviously every customer is different, and no story will be the same in the real world. But working on a script with your team can still prepare them for different situations, helping them communicate with customers more effectively so they can provide solutions to problems when Black Friday rolls around.
2. Empower your employees to fix situations independently
Building off our last point, it is important to give your employees the resources and authority to solve your customers’ problems independently.
If an irate customer is threatening to cancel their order, make sure your customer service representatives know it’s okay to offer them free shipping, a discount, or free product. This can turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one, and save you a sale. But it won’t happen if your employees are unsure of what they’re allowed to do.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your customer service team knows exactly what they can offer a customer to keep them happy without having to wait for a superior’s approval.
This will make your customers happier faster, and also let your support people move onto the next ticket faster.
3. Foster friendly competition by awarding prizes for top performance
This can be things like a gift certificate, a paid day off, a week with longer breaks, or a reserved parking spot for a month.
Make sure you frame it as a prize for top performers, and not a competition with a winner. This will foster competition while still keeping it friendly and motivating your employees to deliver quality service.
But make sure you clearly define what quality service is so your employees know how to perform. This brings us to our next point.
4. Define customer service success
Tell your customer support team exactly what success will look like, because you don't want them going for quantity over quality.
If your team is just trying to get people out of the queue as fast they can, customers probably won’t get a resolution to their problems. This means they'll either call back, increasing the total volume of complaints, or worse, leave them with a negative experience.
That negative experience not only means they won’t be a repeat customer, but that they’ll tell other people not to do business with you.
Make sure your team knows what a successfully resolved ticket or call looks like: a happy customer.
5. Create an environment where it’s safe to share mistakes
It’s called “psychological safety” and it’s a key characteristic of top performing teams. That’s because whole workplaces can learn from mistakes when team members feel safe admitting to them.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson discovered this when studying hospital performance. She found that top performing teams seemed to make more errors only because they were "admitting to errors and discussing them more often than other groups did.”
This means a “climate of openness” is crucial to preventing errors and providing the best customer service, and it can also help gather information for a knowledge base customers and employees can refer to.
Make it easy for your team to share their problems, offer solutions, and discuss work in a judgement-free environment. You can do this in meetings, by using group-chat tools like Slack, or by keeping an ongoing list in Google docs. This is also crucial to our next bonus strategy...
Bonus strategy, just cause we care about ya!
Make notes for next year
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
This quote has been falsely attributed to various people over the years, but it still rings true: sometimes the only way to learn how to do something right is to do it wrong the first time!
So have a meeting after the Black Friday craziness is over where your whole team can have an open discussion about what went right and what went wrong.
Apply what's relevant to day-to-day operations, and then save the other notes for when preparation begins again next year.
There's more you can do to prepare for Black Friday
We hope these pointers on how to improve customer service were helpful; Now, tell us what you think!
Have you already used one of these strategies? What kind of results did you get? Or do you have your own strategy you want to share? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.
And if you want to read more, check out our 12-week Black Friday checklist, and stay tuned to our blog for more articles about how to prepare for the most hectic, money-making weekend of the year.