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

6 min read
Oct 13, 2020
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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 who’ll help you handle the increased volume of customer service questions. However, Black Friday is only the beginning of a hectic time for ecommerce business owners between November and the end of December.

Ecommerce sales in the US are growing despite the pandemic

Digital Commerce 360 reports that, while offline spending has been abnormally low in Q2 this year, ecommerce sales managed to offset a $41.23 billion decline. To make it even more interesting, this is the only recorded instance of an online channel saving the day during an overall drop in retail sales when in-store buying has declined.

When it comes to ecommerce sales alone, consumers spent $200.72 billion with U.S. retailers, moving up 44.4% from $138.96 billion for the same quarter in 2019. That means that more than 20% of total retail spendings in Q2 in the U.S. came from online purchases. In other words, out of every $5 spent, more than $1 was spent online. This brings us to the most significant increase in ecommerce penetration that hit 20.8%, compared to 14.7% in Q2 2019. To put that into perspective, no other quarter over quarter or year over year has increased ecommerce penetration by more than two percentage points.

The data provided by Statista only proves the trends we’ve seen in the past few months. Take a look at the quarterly share of ecommerce sales of the total U.S. retail sales:

The quarterly share of ecommerce sales of the total U.S. retail sales.

The retail ecommerce sales in million U.S. dollars:

We’ve yet to see the Q3 results. Still, it’s safe to assume that we’re about to experience another record-breaking holiday season. The differences in the money spent and the percentage points this year compared to previous years are going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Busy, booked, and not enough time

The most often quoted problem by entrepreneurs 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 a part-time job 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.

It shouldn’t surprise you that the holiday season drives 28% more traffic to online stores. 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 entrepreneurs 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 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 64% 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. Just like Walmart did. The big-box retailer is looking to hire 20,000 workers to help pack and ship online purchases this year. While it probably won’t be necessary for you to hire that many people, 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 telling a visitor 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 the payment methods available, 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 arises 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.

This means planning some of your activities ahead of time and dividing responsibilities wisely. 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 who 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.