Are you ready for the biggest shopping weekend of the year? Remember that being prepared also means having a plan in place for after sales are made, including how you'll handle shipping and customer support.
We’ve previously shared advice on how to prepare your store and ready your shipping strategy for BFCM. Now, let's review what you can do to ensure you’re geared up for the accompanying customer support rush, too.
How to prepare for an upcoming support rush
As BFCM approaches, sales will rise and the stakes will, too. Despite handling more traffic, orders, and tasks, your available time will stay the same, which is a perfect storm for problems to arise.
That’s why it’s crucial to prepare your shop in advance, from your deals and discounts to your support plan. Here are a few tips on how to tune-up your customer service before your seasonal sales go live.
1. Lighten the upcoming workload
Before the big rush, try offering loyal customers a chance to access deals in advance. Extend this early special to a segment of previous customers, such as anyone who’s purchased multiple products or has spent over a certain amount with your store.
By encouraging your current customers to shop early, you can lighten the sales and customer support load and focus on shoppers who may have just found your business through a doorbuster sale. The early-bird deal you offer should ideally be just as good, or even a bit better, than the one you’ll share with all other shoppers during BFCM.
2. Be ready to chat
If you use live chat to provide customer support, ensure you’re ready to staff it throughout BFCM. By being easy to reach, you’re less likely to lose sales due to questions a customer may have leading up to checkout.
Consider adding the option to chat to key areas of your site, like when a visitor is viewing their shopping cart or reading your FAQ page. Consider where a potential customer may get stuck or face inertia and aim to be there to help them through. If possible, make chat accessible from smartphones and tablets, too. Shopify data shows mobile sales accounted for 64% of overall orders last year.
The Great Divide provides the opportunity for customers to message them on Facebook directly from their Shopify homepage. This option ensures that, even if they can’t reply right away, customers will still get a notification when the support team answers their question.
3. Answer likely questions
Before your big sales kick off, work proactively to answer questions you’re most likely to receive. For example, you can add sales-specific details to your FAQs, your contact page, and in the footer of your transactional emails to answer customer questions before they ask.
If you sell physical goods, provide holiday-specific information such as important “order by” deadlines. If ordering on Black Friday means a customer will receive a product in plenty of time for gift giving, make that clear to ease any hesitation they may feel about completing their purchase.
Here are a handful of questions to consider ahead of time:
- How does the sale work? What items aren’t included?
- Are shipping and delivery processes changed or delayed?
- What are your return and exchange policies?
- How do holiday return and exchange policies work? Do you offer gift receipts? Is there an extended return time-frame?
The Last Hunt offers a full Black Friday FAQ to set shoppers’ minds at ease. By putting important answers all in one place, it’s easy for shoppers to browse through—it may even answer questions they didn’t know they had.
4. Choose promos that won’t add too much work
You may want to organize your promotions around products that require little intervention from you when making a sale, and that you can deliver quickly.
If you offer customized items and usually provide a quick turnaround on proofs, consider allowing purchases through a gift certificate system instead so they can be redeemed later on. This is an excellent option for holiday gifts since it will allow the recipient to choose the customizations they want, plus it will spread out the work on your end.
5. Prepare canned responses
If you aren’t already using pre-written responses to speed up your reply times, BFCM is the perfect time to start. Write up standard answers to the most common questions and have them ready to paste and personalize into your replies through a tool like TextExpander, or even by simply copying and pasting from a list.
Although some of your replies may require specific details, such as information from a customer’s account or purchase, even writing a basic template with room for additional context and personalization can save a significant amount of time. You’ll also ensure a level of consistency across your team if there’s more than one person answering questions.
6. Write great product descriptions
Clear, compelling product descriptions go hand in hand with making the purchasing process easier. Before BFCM kicks off, double-check that every product page includes all the details a customer may need to make a decision.
When appropriate, include size charts, the materials used, and specific shipping information. Brainstorm questions from the customer’s perspective and try to provide the answer right on the page—you’ll save yourself another support request and may even save the sale.
Love Hair distills their product’s benefits in a single, crisp paragraph, but also provides details about how their product is made and shipped, an important consideration for many customers.
7. Set expectations
If your shop has a contact form, include a message right on the page or in an auto-reply that lets customers know how long it usually takes to receive a response. If a customer sends a message and can’t discern when they’ll receive an answer, it often feels like an answer may never come, and that makes for an incredibly frustrating experience.
8. Ensure all the pieces work together
Customer support isn’t confined to just one channel. The hallmark of effective support is how everything works together—from your FAQs to messages in your transactional emails, to search on your site, to the one-to-one support you provide over various channels, all serve the greater purpose of helping customers get the solutions they need.
By using several approaches to anticipate and answer customer questions, you’ll provide a smoother purchasing experience and keep time-consuming one-on-one replies to a minimum.
All hands on deck: Getting your team ready
Preparing your business for the surge of activity during BFCM also means making sure your team is ready for support rush, too. From staffing your most-used channels all the way to planning for emergencies, here are my top tips for getting ready as a group.
1. Use teamwork to make the dream work
A successful BFCM creates significant demands on your customer support, so it’s wise to ask your team to focus on making the weekend go well.
If you’ve got a current team member who typically helps out on social media and knows a lot about your business and products, why not bring them into internal support channels for a few days, too? However you choose to staff support, aim for complete coverage throughout where possible.
2. Hire temporary help
If you lack the staff you may need over the sale period, consider hiring someone temporarily to pitch in. Instead of throwing them straight into the Black Friday rush, create space ahead of time for them to learn your processes and tools, and to practice supporting your customers.
If your support setup includes several channels or segments customer questions into various queues, it may be best to have this temporary hire prioritize on one specific area of support—like questions about shipping and returns—rather than trying to do it all right away.
3. Empower staff
Your support staff will need a certain level of freedom to solve issues quickly without excessive approval. Discuss reasonable solutions to likely problems or create a reference document for everyone to refer to, noting that you’ll be available if they run into any questions they can’t answer.
4. Triage incoming issues in your helpdesk
If you use a helpdesk tool for customer support, look for common questions to tag and batch together so you can reply to them all at once.
Alternatively, if you’re supporting customers via an email inbox, you can build a quick plan for how to efficiently handle emails with tags or folders. Consider searching for specific product questions, shipping inquiries, or other questions related to the sale and tackling those first.
5. Engage with customers on social media
If your team has the availability beyond your usual support channels, try to monitor your social accounts throughout BFCM. By watching replies and mentions of your business, you’ll be able to jump in and offer support, answer questions quickly, and generally provide that extra nudge a potential customer might need to make a sale.
6. Make an emergency plan
What happens if things go wrong? If a team member comes down with the flu and can’t help out all weekend, what will you do? Having a backup option available can be a lifesaver if a plan falls apart.
That might mean identifying friends and family who could step up to help, or a freelancer who can step in at the last minute—either way, thinking through your options ahead of time is preferable to a last-minute scramble.
Sales and support requests go hand in hand
An increase in sales always comes bundled with additional support obligations. It’s worth asking what happens if BFCM brings about the “good problem” of more sales to capture, orders to fulfill, and customers to support? You‘ll need to be ready for what comes next: delivering on your promises.
Take this checklist one step at a time and tackle each item over the next few weeks to get your shop and your team ready to handle the rush. Once you’ve made it through BFCM, take the time to write up notes about how it went. Record what worked well and what didn’t, so next year you have a blueprint ready to go so you can do it all over again with even more success.