Preparing for the onslaught of holiday shopping madness


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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest days of the year for shoppers – particularly for online which last year broke records with online shoppers spending $4.45 billion on Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

Now is a crucial time for retailers to ensure they are ready for the onslaught.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for retailers ahead of the holiday shopping madness:

1. Set exceptions
Surprises aren’t welcome until we open our presents! Ensure you publicize holiday hours and new ways for consumers to connect with your business. And don’t forget – it’s not all about online, people still call. Make sure you update your phone greetings to include key information (holiday hours and closures) as well as notice of potential longer wait times. Once these expectations are set, you can then over deliver.

2. Be ready for the influx
In this increasingly interconnected world, the influx will be multi-channel – phone, online, mobile, in-store. You need to make sure each of your channels is ready:
• Test and review your web presence – make sure your website is easy to navigate and emails are properly routed for specific inquirers or issues.
• Make sure your phone system (Interactive Voice Response/IVR) is current and optimized to properly direct calls for key seasonal inquiries.
• Vet and update your social channels to make sure they are on brand – as much as you want to attract new customers, you don’t want to confuse and turn off repeat customers.
• Also sense check if you are operating in all the channels you should be – don’t have a mobile app? Maybe you should.

Furthermore you need to make sure your customers know all the ways they can reach you:
• Do your customers know about your mobile app? Can you offer a small incentive to get them there?
• Is there an online FAQ that can help answer simple questions? Is it also available via search/phone/mobile?

3. Give your company holiday spirit!
Create a personalized holiday-spirited help option. This could come in the form of customizing chatbot messages to lead/close with a “happy holiday” greeting, or you can proactively respond to customers through social forums to wish them well for the holidays.

Perhaps more importantly though, you need to ensure the holiday spirit is boosted and maintained within the ranks of your company; it’s easy to lose morale when dealing with frustrated, harried shoppers. Start by reminding your agents: “the customer isn’t mad at YOU; they are just in the midst of the madness”. Also make sure you have internal support and training to help your agents recognize and defuse potentially inflammatory situations. Which leads us to our next point.

4. Empower your elves! / Empower your agents
Are your customers deciding between your product and another, wondering about free returns, wondering about price guarantees? You must inform and empower your agents to offer refunds, discounts/incentives and the confidence to answer difficult questions. Encourage in-house information sharing. I have a moto: “Never answer the same question twice”. If one of your agents is asked a tricky question and has a good response, encourage them to set up a knowledge bank to share the information with other team members.

5. Get in the giving spirit.
Know what deals you are willing to do for your customers and make it company-wide knowledge. Holidays are a stressful and financially draining time of year for consumers – they will remember long after the holiday season which experiences made this time easier and which companies were difficult to deal with. For example, if your customer buys a product today and the price goes down tomorrow are they penalized? Should you offer an automatic refund – or does the customer have the right to submit for one? Building a strong relationship with a customer during a stressful time can pay dividends far beyond the immediate financial exchange; you need to think about long term value, over short term cents.

6. Hindsight is 20/20…
What trends have you seen in the past? In general, the market has seen a shift to digital and last minute peaks in shopping volume. Learn from this. Leverage past knowledge and analytics to make real time decisions to improve experience; upskill and up staff where possible to reduce hold times and improve first contact resolution rates. Making the experience easier for your customer ultimately drives more revenue and lower costs for you.

7. Don’t rest on your laurels
The holiday season doesn’t end with Christmas; in fact, post-season can be just as – if not more – important. Your team needs to be prepared for the influx of refund and exchange requests. Post-holiday audiences also provide opportunity for continued sales efforts and social opportunities as customers are interacting with new products or services they’re been gifted or introduced to over the holiday season.

Laura Bassett
Laura Bassett is the Director of Marketing for Avaya's Customer Experience, Unified Communications and Emerging Technologies groups, overseeing business planning & strategy, product marketing, support and managed services marketing, and sales enablement for next generation solutions. Additionally, Laura is a supporting author of Avaya's Social Media in the Contact Center for Dummies. Laura has over 20 years experience in applications consulting, development and delivery. She has a BSBA in Computer Science and an Executive MBA from the University of Florida.


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