What Black Friday taught us: our tips on how to deal with peak demand

This week, we’re blogging about Black Friday and how retailers can prepare for it. Here in the UK, the shopping frenzy which sees shops slash prices by as much as 75% on certain products meant fairly little to most people until 2010.

Since then, an increasing number of retailers have joined in with Black Friday each year. This year was the first time it was widely adopted by retailers such as John Lewis, Argos, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Very.co.uk.

While many people’s lasting impressions of Black Friday are based on the shopping chaos reported on news stations across the country, for retailers, it was one of the biggest days of the year. Combined with Cyber Monday (first Monday in December) and Manic Monday (December’s second Monday), the lead up to Christmas sees demand rise to the point where sales records are broken and deliveries delayed.

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Did you know that this year’s Black Friday saw online sales increase by 37.5% on last year? In December, UK retail sales grew at their fastest annual pace for 10 years. Last year, John Lewis’ Black Friday online traffic peaked at levels 14 times higher than anything it had seen before.

While some retailers can only dream of traffic peaks that high, the question is: how can your business efficiently deal with sharp increases in customers? In the modern retail landscape, good customer service is crucial at times like these.

The vital point about shopping frenzies such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday is that you know exactly when they will happen, so your business can sufficiently plan months ahead. You should already be thinking how your organisation will cope with the sheer demand leading up to Christmas next year – what could you have done better?

We’ve put together our top tips on how your company can shine on Black Friday 2015:

  1. 24/7 customer service is expected of many retailers, especially if your company has a strong online presence. The sheer nature of Black Friday means orders can start at midnight and last throughout the weekend. Make sure you’re prepared for customer queries, cancellations and complaints by making your customer service 24/7 at least over the Black Friday weekend. With mobile sales accounting for more than a fifth of online sales, every company should offer multi-channel customer service. Whether it’s live chat, email services or online FAQs, providing a basic level of service at any hour can really set you apart from your competitors.
  2. Use Twitter and Facebook to update your customers. Social media channels are great at sending out mass messages to make sure all your customers are kept up to date. Ran out of a product? No problem – just let people know, and you’ll have far fewer irate customers contacting your customer service team.
  3. Make sure you have access to the right technology to enable your hard working customer service team to do the best job they can do throughout December. Customer relationship management systems work 24 hours, just like your teams should in these periods of high demand. They ensure customer interaction is seamless, as all liaisons are recorded in one easy to use system.
  4. When customers’ problems are brought to your attention, efficiency is crucial. Although all retailers are exceptionally busy during this period, many will be working hard to go the extra mile for customers. Stay ahead of the competition by employing temporary staff and increasing the numbers of points of service to deal with the sheer amount of customer queries. Online retail giant Amazon recruited 13,000 extra Christmas staff this year.
  5. Respond quickly. In the digital age, a first response within 24 hours simply isn’t good enough. With the increased use of the internet comes an expectation of speed. You can use smart assistant to send personalised replies to each consumer’s query, including tailored advice. Make sure you answer your customer queries as quickly as possible, or your customers may go elsewhere.

Christmas is the optimum time to provide the most competitive customer service. After all, it’s when most people spend the most money. Make sure your company doesn’t get left in the cold next December by following our tips to ensure your business is completely prepared for huge increases in demand.

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