With Black Friday weekend fast approaching. You’ve thought about your inventory management, order processing, on-site and social media campaigns, and seasonal content. However there’s another crucial piece of the holiday puzzle - customer service.
The holidays can be stressful for customers for a number of reasons. They might be worried about whether or not a gift will arrive on time, or perhaps they’re not sure if a product is right for their intended recipient. In these cases, they turn to your customer support. In order to deliver a memorable experience, you need to also deliver exceptional customer support.
Why support is important to customer experience
Customer service has a huge impact on customer experience, retention, and loyalty. 93% of customers are likely to do business again with brands who offer excellent customer service, whereas nearly 50% say they’d switch to a competitor after just one poor support experience.
However, customer support isn’t just reserved as part of the post-purchase experience, as many customers will have questions before they place an order. It might be about shipping costs and times, or they have a specific question about a product. Customer service at this stage is crucial, as 78% say they’ve backed out of a purchase after a poor support experience.
With the influx in orders and traffic over BFCM and the holidays, it can put extra pressure on your customer service team. This can then impact response times, slowing down the service process and leading customers to become frustrated when they don't get the answers they need when they need them. In order to prevent this, merchants need to be proactive and develop a strategy that delivers the fast, excellent support experience customers want.
How to deliver an excellent customer service experience
Between planning inventory, managing fulfillment, executing digital campaigns, and more, Black Friday and the holidays afterwards can be a stressful time for teams big and small. Therefore it’s important that in developing your customer service experience, you aren’t adding more work into your team’s to-do lists. Equally, you want to give customers a seamless support service that maximizes convenience and gives them the answers they need. That’s where a little forward content planning, self-service, and automations come in.
#1 - Update your FAQ
The first place a customer will go to when they have a query won’t be your contact options, it will be your FAQ page. When they can’t get the information they need, that’s when they’ll get in touch with your team - over half of consumers say the reason they cannot resolve an issue themselves is because there isn’t enough information online. If you see a lot of enquiries coming through your customer service team around specific, easily resolved issues such as shipping prices, delivery times, product information etc. then that could indicate that your FAQ needs to be reviewed and updated.
During the holidays and BFCM especially, customers will want the most recent and up-to-date information about shipping and fulfillment. To help answer these queries most effectively, include a holiday specific FAQ section and highlight it on key landing pages throughout your site. This will ensure any customer who is concerned about fulfillment will be able to get answers quickly and easily, without contacting your team.
Some common queries that you may want to cover include:
- Dispatch and shipping times during the holidays
- Product availability
- Changes to courier services
- Returns policy information
- Discount code terms and conditions
- Validity period for gift cards
This will go a long way in reducing the number of repetitive questions your team have to answer, giving them more time to focus on more complex enquiries that require their attention.
#2 - Self-service options and communication
Self-service is an excellent way to reduce customer service’s impact on your team, and also satisfy your customers. It’s also what customers actually want, as 77% of consumers have said they’ve used a self-service solution in the past and 67% prefer self-service over speaking to a customer service representative.
As well as updating your FAQ, there are other ways you can offer a self-service solution for customer issues. A primary concern around the holidays is whether or not an order will arrive on time, and the easiest way to reassure customers is by offering real-time tracking. This allows customers to see exactly at what stage their order is at, and where it is every step of their journey. If they’re concerned about the status of their order despite this, they will still have the most up-to-date information should they contact your team. Shopify merchants can easily implement this by using an app like Order Lookup.
Another option for self-service is to use a chatbot or automated responses that will be able to deal with more basic and common questions. Depending on the app you use, some will even be able to use machine learning to give appropriate responses based on how the customer reacts to different information.
If you want to bolster your self-service options, add more automated email and SMS notifications and additional information into your workflows:
- Include links to your FAQ and other self-service support in transactional emails.
- Send additional emails between the order shipping and arriving that direct customers to your customer support options.
- Send SMS messages with a direct link to their real-time tracking information.
- Give customers the option to opt-in for SMS notifications for when their order status changes throughout the fulfillment process.
This added communication around their order will boost the customer’s trust in and positive perception of your brand. 83% of consumers expect regular communication about their order, and 54% will give repeat business to a retailer who can predict when their order will arrive.
#3 - Make it easy to get in touch with your team
Let’s say a customer has used your FAQ, and spoken to a chatbot, but they still don’t have the answer they’re looking for. The next step is to get in touch with your team, and it’s up to you to make that as easy as possible for them. 30% of consumers say that the most frustrating part of customer service is when they can’t easily get in touch with a real person.
Display contact information on your website
Clearly display on your FAQ and “Contact Us” page the options a customer has to resolve their issue. Let them know the sort of issues that can be easily resolved using the FAQ, chatbot, or real-time tracking, but that if they have additional concerns that they are welcome to get in touch. Include details of how they can do that - email, message through your site, contact form, phone - and rough response times that they can expect.
Send additional info via email
Include your customer support information in transactional emails once a customer has placed an order. This will give them an easy reference point should they have any questions about their order, along with all their order information in the email that they may need when they get in touch such as their order number. If you want to make it even easier, send additional emails between when they place their order and when it arrives specifically about how they can get help with their order.
Give your team a script
Dealing with similar enquiries over and over again can take up a lot of your team’s time. To help them deal with these faster, create a workflow of pre-scripted responses to common queries. This gives your team an easy reference point of how to deal with these situations and how to escalate them if need be. It also creates a standard for how these queries are handled, creating consistency in your customer support so that every customer receives the same standard of service. Moreover, it will help improve your response times which customers will appreciate.
#4 - Follow up with customers
When your customers do engage with your customer service be that your FAQ, a chatbot, or a representative, it’s important to follow up with them. Whether that’s asking if they’re satisfied with the service they received, or asking for feedback as to what you could do better. This demonstrates to the customer that you care about their experience, and can offer additional support should they need it. 77% of consumers say they view a brand more favorably if they proactively seek feedback, and 52% believe that companies need to take action based on feedback.
Use feedback or review apps to help automate the process, to help follow up with customers at scale and also to ensure your team doesn't have to do this task manually. It can be as simple as asking them to rate the service they received and how satisfied they are, and if they’d like someone from your team to personally follow-up with them. This adds a much needed personal touch to an automated process, showing customers that you’re happy to offer that additional assistance.
If you want to go a step further, then do additional follow-up after the holidays. Once the holidays have passed, you can get in touch again asking the customer if they have any additional feedback. This can prompt them to want more information about your returns process if they need to return an order purchased as a gift, or even a review once they’ve had a chance to give the products their orders to a gift recipient.
To say BFCM is a busy period is an understatement. Your team will inevitably be under more pressure, and your customer expectations will be higher. However, with proper planning and implementation of automated and self-service options, you can deliver the excellent service experience that your customers are looking for without impacting your team.