Black Friday and Beyond: How AI Helped These Top Brands Navigate Peak Season

Still recovering from the whiplash of busy season last year? 5 top brands weigh in on how their support teams braved the added bustle with the help of AI-powered automation.

Familiar with the horrors of dealing with a totally overwhelmed support team, frustrated customers, and high staff turnover? We’re talking about braving busy season. Whether that be the surge in shoppers around Black Friday, the spike in travel around the summer holidays, or unexpected upheavals like the Covid-19 pandemic presented. 

We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be horrific. Customer support automation offers a solution for handling surges in requests — while saving your business money, helping retain employees, and keeping customers happy. 

But you don’t have to take it from us. From ecommerce to travel, we’ve gathered the stories of leading brands in industries that are closely familiar with the challenges of busy season — and how AI-powered automation helped them stay prepared for those seasonal and unforeseen spikes. 

Lush: How Black Friday turned them from automation skeptics to AI enthusiasts

Having to hire and train additional agents just to help handle Black Friday can be infeasible, especially as many support teams are tasked with doing more with less. And if you’re starting out as an automation skeptic like Lush, weathering busy season while keeping your brand promise of offering customer-centric support might seem impossible. 

“We’ve always resisted too much automation because we never wanted to replace personal interactions. With the pandemic and now a global recession, we’re not in a position to make our Customer Care team bigger and bigger. So we needed to make agents’ jobs easier by taking away the repetitive questions.”
Naomi Rankin, Global Customer Care Manager, Lush

The solution for them was to take a balanced approach to automation by using a bot to cover the most repetitive queries, while allowing their human agents to handle the more complex cases.

Naomi Rankin from Lush explains how their support team balances AI-powered automation with personal connections

On day one, their bot — affectionately known as Marvin — was already able to handle 37% of requests. And as for customer experience? The results speak for themselves. Even during the combined challenge of Black Friday and a Royal Mail strike, they maintained a 93% CSAT score — all without having to hire any new agents.

Read more about how Lush is saving 360 agents hours per month with automation. 

Finnair: Why adopting AI had them perfectly prepared to weather any unexpected storm

Finnair had just implemented chat automation when the pandemic hit and request volumes skyrocketed by up to 900%. To combat this, their CS team added pandemic-specific messaging to their AI chatbot’s welcome message and built dedicated support paths to manage cancellations and refunds. At the height of the pandemic, Finnair reached a 50% automation rate.

"We wouldn't have survived without automation! The biggest hassle was naturally Covid, but 2024 has also been busy with political strikes in Finland. When the demand for help doubles or triples or quadruples overnight, our customer service simply wouldn't be able to scale up without automation." 
Satu Karaksela, Service Manager (Digital Customer Service), Finnair

Although they didn't know it at the time, automation positioned Finnair perfectly to handle a sudden surge of requests. And now, they've built a robust contact center that is prepared to weather any future storms. 

Discover how Finnair managed a 900% increase in requests with chat automation.

TeleClinic: How automation helped them effortlessly handle surges in requests

Whether you’re bracing yourself for an expected seasonal surge in requests or adapting on the fly to the unexpected, customer service automation can help you take whatever might be looming around the corner in stride. Take TeleClinic as an example (yup, even telemedicine has a busy season). 

They sought out support automation to better future-proof their support after their business growth was fast-tracked with the pandemic — where they saw a 500% surge in support volumes. But it has also helped them handle seasonal spikes due to things like hay fever season.

During peak hay fever season or if there's ever a flu or a stomach bug going around, TeleClinic can always clearly see the volume of contacts increasing. But because they use the bot as a first line of defence, their agents never have to take on this additional workload.

"That's when they really appreciate having a bot to structure and support the requests." 
Philipp Weidenbach, Head of Patient Operations, TeleClinic

They have maintained a steady 8.5/10 NPS score through it all, as patients get faster support and the doctors are able to provide care with more ease. Their bot helps to structure and categorize requests — securely — so sensitive information is organized and prepped for doctors to provide more efficient support. 

Learn how TeleClinic is using automation to save 18.9 hours per ticket.

DiscoverCars: How a chatbot allowed them to cruise through the summer holidays

During the summer holiday season, car rental booking platform DiscoverCars, is well acquainted with the need to speedily scale their support — without sacrificing on the quality of their CX. Their bot Carla can speak 5 languages to support customers across their European markets. With the help of API integrations, Carla can even help customers manage their bookings, 24/7. 

“We are a support team of 66 members, but with Carla we are 67. She’s already an agent here, and we even want to promote her! We expect her to take on the work of 4 or 5 agents in the coming years.”
Guleysha Hasanova, Automation and Helpdesk Manager, DiscoverCars

Thanks to Carla, they’ve not only been able to stay on top of their requests during busy season but have even begun to clear their ticket backlog. They’ve even seen their CSAT score increase 5 points from 68% to 73% since launching their bot.

An examples of Carla in action and completely resolving a customer's request without agent involvement. 

An examples of Carla in action — completely resolving a customer's request without agent involvement. 

See how DiscoverCars uses generative AI to upskill its agents and save €128K per year.

Papier: How automating their support actually made it more human during wedding season 

Finally, automating your support isn’t about eliminating your human agents from the picture. Having your bot manage surges in volumes by taking over those mundane tasks, doesn’t only help keep your support running smoothly. It also enables your agents to go the extra mile where it counts.

This is something that can make or break your brand during a holiday rush, as an overworked agent is far less likely to have the bandwidth to offer that extra bit of empathy or effectively deploy their creative problem solving skills. By using automation as a tool to handle the repetitive requests, you will elevate your human support into a white glove service.  

Take the stationery brand Papier, as a case in point. During the summer wedding season, the stakes can get high as brides deal with the pressures of having everything just-so on their big day. As Susan Duffy, who runs global support, put it:

“Our bot is for making sure our customers around the world get 24/7 support, but the second it’s a mishap with wedding invitations with a bride on the line, it’s immediately escalated to my human agents.” 

And when you're using the right automation tools, escalating the most important cases to a human agent is seamless. And the bot can help your agents solve the query faster by collecting some context up-front. 

Read more about how a bot helped paved the way for Papier's expansion to the US.

How to get started with customer support automation 

Hearing automation success stories is inspiring and all, but you might be wondering how to actually get started. The good news is, at Ultimate, we've developed the Road to +60% Automation: a gradual approach that makes it easy to get up and running fast, then improve and optimize your bot as time goes on.

You can start automating in minutes with UltimateGPT, our generative AI-powered bot. Simply connect a knowledge source — like your FAQ page or your knowledge base — to start resolving requests right away. 

After that, you can add control and personalization to your bot with scripted dialogues and backend API integrations. Then finally, you can review data in our Analytics Suite to scale what's working and tweak what's not to reach automation rates of +60%.

Your support team will not only become more efficient and provide better CX, they'll transform into a revenue center that drives growth, customer (and agent) loyalty, and cost savings at scale. Not to mention, you'll be able to handle Black Friday — or any other peak season life may throw at you — with ease. 

Be prepared for peak season