How to prepare your business for the eCommerce peak season

The eCommerce peak season can be a make-or-break time of year. To get ready, businesses will start scaling up their supply chain and distribution and delivery to get prepared for increased demand. With good preparation, businesses can capitalise on the increased peak season sales — or, without it, get buried under a deluge of customer inquiries and support requests. 

But there’s another side to your operations that businesses need to prepare: customer service. This is just as important as distribution and delivery. For many online retailers, Christmas season performance secures the entire year’s financial success.1 More customers mean more customer service interactions: almost 40% of eCommerce seasonal sales are returned during peak season.2 So without a well-prepared customer service function, customer satisfaction can decrease, endangering the increased revenue businesses see during the peak season.

Even the most perfectly prepared delivery and distribution operation won’t bring in the expected revenue if customers aren’t satisfied with the service they receive. But with a fully prepared distribution and delivery and customer service function, businesses can meet — and exceed — customer expectations and secure peak season revenue. So how can you get prepared for the eCommerce peak season? Read on to find out…

Further reading: If you want to learn how to keep customer service agile during eCommerce peak seasons, download our eBook — A New Approach to Customer Service is on the Horizon…

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Get the best agents

Peak season can be a stressful time. But with the right customer service agents, it doesn’t have to be — for you, your customers or your agents. Customers no longer stay loyal to companies or brands simply because of price. They stay loyal because of a positive overall shopping experience with the company and the service they receive.

Customer service is the face of your business and one of its most important functions. In fact, it’s so important that customers — 67% of them — will pay more for a better customer service experience.3 Customer service is the direct link between your business and its customers. If a customer has a less than stellar experience, that’s how they’ll view your business, and potentially how they’ll talk about your business to friends and family. 

You want to avoid damaging customer satisfaction all year round, but particularly during the peak season, when potential revenue is so high.

Peak season expertise

During the eCommerce peak season, certain tasks become extra important. You’ll need high-quality agents who understand the policies and procedures around these tasks and can respond to the following issues:

  • Returns and refunds: Returns and refunds are inevitable. Customers are going to ask your agents about your company’s policy, refund time estimates and how to return items. You need agents who know your policies and can communicate this.
  • Discounts: Discount queries can see a spike during peak season, with potential issues around promotional deals, new customers, or faulty codes.
  • Handling complaints: It’s important to resolve complaints quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction. This will leave customers feeling happy with your service, your business and your products. 
  • Payment issues: These issues should be resolved swiftly so customers can make the necessary purchases and your business can continue to grow — in revenue and reputation.

Customer service outsourcing gives you access to a diverse talent pool of agents. They are chosen for your specific brand and can provide service across multiple channels. And they’re not your stereotypical customer service agents. New distributed customer service models mean agents can work from home, bringing in people who are: 

  • Often older with more life experience
  • Educated to a high level, often holding degrees 
  • Have experience working in your industry.

Scalability

With so much business done during the eCommerce peak season, and therefore an increase in customer service demand, more front-line support is often needed. Smaller companies might need an entire call centre function while bigger businesses need additional, bolt-on support. In this case, bigger businesses need agents to work with in-house customer service teams through easy scalability — they don’t want to go through a drawn-out hiring process.

Scale smartly

Scaling your customer service function can be straightforward. It’s best to prepare so you’re ready when the eCommerce season starts, but with the right outsourced customer service function, you can also deploy agents rapidly to quickly scale up.

Target the season

It’s important to target the season and scale to match demand without compromising on customer service. It’s not good preparation if you’re keeping, and paying for, excess capacity every year or quarter because you anticipate that you’ll need it during peak season. Good preparation means targeted preparation. 

Rapid deployment

Sometimes the busy season can be even busier than you anticipated. Or maybe the high-quality agents you’ve got in are doing such a good job that the ROI is better than you expected, and you want or need to bring in more agents. That’s when you need agents who can quickly be deployed to your business to start helping out rapidly. This means agents who are quickly trained to get to know your business and policies. 

These high-quality customers service agents: 

  • are trained quickly and can be deployed to your business rapidly
  • are ready to support your customers during busy times such as the holiday season
  • can scale up or down with demand and you only pay for what you use
  • let you get on with distribution and delivery.

But not just any outsourcing will do. Scalable outsourcing with high-quality agents gives you the flexibility and quality to give your customers the support and service they need during peak season this year, helping your business sail smoothly through peak periods like Christmas, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. 

Omnichannel support

The peak season is a busy time for your business, but it’s busy for your customers too. Perhaps they’re holiday shopping for the whole family. Or the item that got delivered wasn’t what they ordered. Or they’ve changed their mind and would like an exchange. 

Omnichannel support means being available to your customers through their preferred communication channels. An omnichannel customer service function lets you meet customer expectations through:

  • Live chat
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Website
  • And, of course, phone support.

Your customers want to contact you through different channels and at different times of the day and night. This means businesses need to offer 24/7 support. Overprovisioning in-house agents to man these channels means higher costs. Using outsourced agents to manage these channels through a distributed customer service model, in a scalable way, can reduce customer service costs while making sure customers remain satisfied.

Social media

Social media is a 24/7 advert. If someone contacts you publicly with an issue on social media or your website, anyone can see the interaction, including existing and potential customers. You need to be able to deal with that quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction. To succeed at this, you need:

  • 24/7 availability: You don’t necessarily need this on every channel, but you need customers to be able to speak to someone through at least one channel at any given time to resolve their issues.
  • High-quality agents: Agents represent your brand professionally and are trained to resolve issues how you want them resolved. They provide customers with the service they need regardless of when, how, or through which channel they request it. 

Outsourced customer service: the key to eCommerce peak season preparation

You know how important the peak season is to your eCommerce business. That’s why you’ve been preparing the distribution and delivery side. But preparing your customer service function can be just as important, as it:

  • Ensures you’re dealing properly with customer queries and issues, ensuring you bring in all the potential revenue for this important time of year  
  • Provides satisfying customer experiences, helping them return to your business after the peak season has ended
  • Lets you focus on delivering and distributing your products.

An outsourced customer service function lets you do this — but not just any outsourced customer service function. The right partner helps you create a customer service strategy plan by scaling to match demand and securing agents trained to respond to the influx of inquiries during this season. And by providing omnichannel support you can ensure that no one gets frustrated by a lack of available support options.

Odondo provides access to high-quality, cost-effective customer service agents from the UK who are trained to deliver better outcomes to grow your business and retain your customers.

By getting the support of high-quality outsourced scalable agents, you’re not just preparing your customer service function for the eCommerce peak season, you’re preparing your whole business for the peak season. 
Odondo can help your business prepare for peak season with experienced, high-quality customer service agents. Get in touch for a quote today.

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1  Peak Season Sales 2019: Retail Lessons Learned.

2  E-commerce peak seasons: A guide to distribution centre planning

3  Why Customer Service is Important: 16 Data-Backed Facts to Know 

Aamir Baloch

Aamir is one of the Co-Founders at Odondo, where he obsesses over the details to deliver a strong and compelling proposition for each of his clients.

Prior to Odondo, he was CTO at one of the UK's largest price comparison websites, with contact centres in the UK and India. In his spare time, he loves reading, politics, tennis, and playing the piano (badly).

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