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How To Handle Increased Customer Service Demand In Your Ecommerce Store This Holiday Season

7 min read
Nov 16, 2021
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You’re an ecommerce store owner waking up on the morning of Black Friday. You’ve been preparing your promotional campaign for a few weeks or even months ahead of time. Now, it’s time to get busy. You might want to consider hiring a few part-time employees or adding a chatbot to your live chat. Keep in mind — Black Friday is only the beginning of a hectic time for ecommerce business owners between November and the end of December. Whether it’s additional hands on deck or a chatbot, they’ll both help you handle the increased volume of customer service questions.

Ecommerce sales in the US are still growing, but slowly

Digital Commerce 360 reports that “after 12 months of huge online shopping surges while COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., ecommerce growth slowed significantly year over year during the second quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.” This is something we all could expect since more and more people have been getting vaccinated. With declining coronavirus cases, people who spent most of their budgets online last year are now spending some of that money in brick-and-mortar stores. 

While there’s certainly been a shift in where we spend our money, digital sales still hit $211.70 billion in the second quarter of 2021, which is a 9.3% growth from $193.62 billion in Q2 of 2020. This marks a much slower growth rate compared to a record-breaking year-over-year growth of 43.7% between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020, and quarter-over-quarter growth in the 30-40% range between Q2 2020 and Q1 2021. 

All of this led to decreased ecommerce penetration that dropped from 20.8% to 18.6%. What does this really mean? In 2020, out of every $5 spent, more than $1 was spent online. Now, in 2021, this amount has dropped to less than $1. So, if you expected slower traffic in your ecommerce store this holiday season, you might be in for a surprise. While the growth in ecommerce sales has slowed down, in general, we’re spending more and more online.

US retail landscape during Q2 2021

When it comes to this year’s predictions, eMarketer forecasts the season's ecommerce sales will rise to a record-breaking $206.88 billion — 11.3% more compared to last year.

US retail ecommerce holiday season sales between 2016 and 2021

Busy, booked, and not enough time

The most often quoted problem we hear from business owners is having too little time to handle the higher volume of sales during this period. This increased work demand impacts the part-time labor market because many students find part-time jobs at ecommerce businesses. If you plan to add some firepower to your customer service department, start hiring early. The more time you have to train your part-time employees, the better job they’ll be doing for you during the holiday season.

In 2020, holiday season online shopping traffic increased 82% in the first week of November. This impacts the support needed for the customers at your online store. If you fail to deliver, customers will likely buy from another online store that has better service. Increased customer support efforts have a significant impact on businesses focused on providing individual service. Think about adding a chatbot to your arsenal too.

How to make things work during the holiday season

You’re already aware of the issues you experience during that time of the year. I’m sure you love seeing the impact of the holiday season on your sales results. Going through this time doesn’t need to be full of stress and anxiety. Take a look at a few tips that business owners use to maximize their store’s performance.

Plan your social media campaigns in advance

Posting on social media is fun, but it takes a lot of time and resources. Luckily, you can prepare and automate your posts in advance.

The holiday period is not the best time to think about another Facebook or Instagram post you’d like to publish. Instead, use social media scheduling apps like Buffer or Hootsuite to completely plan social media campaigns in advance. Design your graphics with DIY design tools, like Canva or Stencil, and set up a publishing schedule. Throw in a few photos of your team working at the office during the holiday season into the mix too. 

This will save time for completing other tasks, and it keeps your fans engaged and more likely to buy from your store at the same time.

Hire additional support representatives

It might not be the case for each ecommerce store out there, but you’ll likely experience a significant increase in customer support questions during the holiday season.

With 41% of consumers saying that they plan to spend more online than last year, it might be a good idea to hire additional staff to help you during the holiday season. Do you still think it’s not worth hiring part-time workers? Keep in mind that 99% of consumers will do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year and 13% will do all of it online. Make sure your team is big enough to handle the increased demand. At the end of the day, having poor customer service can be a deal-breaker during the holiday season. 

Set up a chatbot to automate responses for the most common questions

Communication with customers provides you with a vast amount of data about the most common issues. If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same questions, it’s time to automate things. Why not set up an automated chat response informing visitors about the estimated delivery time when the question arises?

Take a look at your chat archives and use them to create predefined chat scenarios for your store’s most common questions. For example, if you tend to get a lot of questions about available payment methods, you can set up an automated message whenever a visitor asks about payments.

Plan out your logistics, and divide responsibilities

Nobody can prepare for every problem or issue that comes up during the holiday season. There are simply things we’re not able to predict, like an electricity outage or delivery delays. Still, make sure you’re in control of the issues you can manage.

Plan some of your activities ahead of time and divide responsibilities. Put your plans into Google Calendar. If you’re looking for more advanced ways to manage your projects, use project management tools like Trello or Jira.

Focus on your customers

It’s easy to become tired and unmotivated when you have so many things on your mind. While the advice to focus on your customers might seem obvious and simple, it’s often a nightmare, especially to smaller ecommerce businesses.

Because you’re handling a lot of things at the same time, it’s easy to forget what's most important. It’s your customers, and they require the best customer experience. Equip your team with the best customer service tools and keep them motivated. Make sure your team members are fresh. After all, these are the people on your team who will determine your holiday campaign’s success or failure.

Maximizing the profits and minimizing the effort

If you still believe the amount of work you put into your business during the holiday season translates into more profit or sales earned, why don’t you test another approach? Sometimes shifting your efforts towards planning ahead of time and optimizing your work might make you and your team more productive.

Equip yourself with as many additional resources as you need, plan your work, and maximize your holiday season’s efficiency. LiveChat, integrated with your online store, is one of the customer support tools that can help you. However, it’s you and your team who will handle the chats and make or break your holiday season.

Originally published Oct 13, 2020, updated November 16, 2021.