A few weeks ago I hosted a webinar for Solid Cactus customers where me and my panel of guests discussed some things every eCommerce store owner should be doing to make sure their customer service department is ready for the holiday rush.
I know most of you are probably concentrating on getting your website updated with new products, creating special holiday sections, maybe getting ready to launch a new holiday theme, or adding new features to help with conversions. Those are all things you should be doing, but you can’t overlook the fact that customers will also be turning to you to ask questions, place orders and get advice on which product is best for that special person on their gift list.
Whether they reach out to you via phone, email, fax or live chat, you need to attend to them quickly and give them the proper advice and answers they’re looking for.
Next week, I’ll be doing the webinar again, this time for Monster Commerce, Network Solutions and 1ShoppingCart customers. In case you missed it the first time, you can register for it here, or watch the replay on YouTube.
If you want the Readers Digest condensed version, here are some take-aways:
The 2013 holiday shopping season is expected to be huge!
This is good news considering many eCommerce store owners have felt the pinch of the economy the past few seasons. Take a look at two predictions that should have you salivating to get a portion of the money that is set to be spent:
- Dedicated Media reports that $640-billion will be spent during the 2013 retail shipping season.
- Practical eCommerce estimates that eCommerce sales will reach $262-billion, which is a 16.4% increase over the 2012 holiday season.
The 2013 holiday shopping season is shorter this year.
With Thanksgiving falling late in November, this means there are only 23 days between Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve, making crunch time even… crunchier. Several big name bricks-and-mortar retailers are starting their Black Friday sales before Black Friday due to the shortened season, so you may want to consider doing some pre-Cyber Monday sales as well. Here are some important dates to be aware of:
- Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 28, 2013
- Black Friday – Friday, November 29, 2013
- Cyber Monday – Monday, December 2, 2013
- Free Shipping Day – Tuesday, December 17, 2013
- Last Saturday Before Christmas – Saturday December 21, 2013
Lets do a customer service checkup!
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your customer service to see if you’re really that “customer friendly.”
- Are you available when your customers are? Your customers are all located in different time zones and 5pm in New York is only 2pm in California. If you turn off the lights and go home at 5pm ET, you’re not serving your west coast customers very well.
- What days do you provide service? Customers don’t just shop Monday through Friday! If you’re not having some type of customer service availability on weekends, you’re losing out.
- Are all time zones being serviced? Many stores don’t take into account that customers live in time zones outside of their own. Like I mentioned in the first bullet point, it’s important to take into consideration all time zones when planning your customer service hours.
- Can you add coverage for the busy season? The last thing you want is to have customers receiving a busy signal, getting your voice mail, or just a constantly ringing phone. If you expect additional holiday demand, staff your customer service department appropriately, or look to an outside call center for help.
- How can your customers contact you? Your telephone number should prominently be displayed in the header of your site, on your About Us page as well as on your Contact Us page. An email address or contact form should be provided on the Contact Us page as well.
Don’t overlook social media.
By now I hope you have at least created a Facebook page for your store and have begun to cultivate a fan base. More and more customers are turning to Facebook to contact a store than going directly to the store’s website. Why? Because people spend a great amount of time on Facebook! They are comfortable there and it’s just plain easy for them to punch in your company name and contact you through Facebook than leave and go to your own site. Be sure you’re answering questions from customers in social media as quickly and efficiently as you would if they asked the question on your own site.
Are you ready for increased call volume?
Good question, right? Chances are most eCommerce store owners are not. If you’re one of them, here are some things to consider before the phone starts ringing off the hook:
- Can you hire additional in-house staff? If so, you still have time to hire some reps and get them trained before Thanksgiving. They may not be the best reps you have because training time is limited, but at least they will be able to answer the phone and help to the best of their ability.
- Would you consider outsourcing to a call center? Call centers can take all your calls, overflow calls, after hours calls or just weekend calls. This is a great option for providing after hours support once your own reps go home for the day, or for weekend coverage.
Are your customer service policies “customer friendly?”
Chances are they’re not. Lets face it, Zappos and Amazon.com have taught customers that orders can be shipped fast, be returned hassle-free and customer service is still king. Here are some tips to ensure your store’s customer service experience is pain-free:
- Publish realistic order processing and shipping times. Shoppers want to know when their order is going to leave your warehouse and when they can expect it on their doorstep. Give them that information! Don’t hide it.
- Consider extending your return window to make it holiday friendly. Most people are shopping now to give their purchase as a gift on Christmas day. That alone makes a 30 day return window a turn-off to many shoppers. Consider extending returns until January 31, 2014 to avoid disgruntled customers trying to make a return.
- Post your shipping deadlines on your site so customers know the last day they can place an order via Ground, 3Day, 2nd Day and Next Day Air so it arrives before Christmas – and make sure you nail those days! You don’t want to say an order will arrive before Christmas and you end up blowing it on your end making for one unhappy customer.
- If you drop ship items, verify ship dates with your vendors and note items that have a different shipping schedule so you don’t end up with disappointed customers who won’t have a drop ship item in time for the holiday.
You only have a few more days to get your customer service department in shape, so hopefully these tips will get you off on the right foot. Now crack to it!