Busy season is always good for business — but it often spells trouble for overstretched support teams. Luckily for brands, no peak season is more predictable than Black Friday.
According to the National Retail Federation, 196.7 million Americans shopped online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2022. And US digital retailers still pulled in a total of $211.7 billion (and this number doesn’t account for the revenue generated in other sectors like the travel industry).
This shopping spree isn’t fun for everyone, however. While consumers are busy hunting down holiday deals, support teams end up swamped with inquiries. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
With the right plan (and tools) in place, CS teams can breeze through Black Friday — while providing their customers with quality care. We’ve put together 6 tips to help your support team prepare for Black Friday.
1. Start your Black Friday planning early
Every year, Black Friday falls on the last week of November. Use this predictability to your advantage and start prepping early. Anticipate what customers will want to know on the day, and get your team to align on how to respond in these situations. For example:
- If your brand is offering special promotions and discounts: make sure your agents are clear on how these deals can be applied
- For ecommerce brands, if you expect to run out of stock: come up with an empathetic response to send to your customers who miss out on popular items
- For travel companies, if you’re offering savings on bookings: be upfront about the flexibility of these bargains, and whether customers can change or cancel their trips
- If you use a third-party payment processor or other provider: create a plan for how to communicate any outages with customers in case your systems end up overwhelmed
This way, your agents can provide fast and consistent customer support.
2. Empower customers to self-serve
When it comes to contacting support teams, 67% of customers prefer to self-serve over speaking with a brand rep. In the run up to Black Friday, take the opportunity to build out your FAQs page and other self-service options.
Not only does this give your customers more agency to solve issues themselves, but it takes some of the pressure off your team during peak seasons.
3. Make the customer journey as smooth as possible
On Black Friday, consumers are ready to spend: so make it easy for them. To create a seamless buying journey, consider giving customers more options for how they reach out to your brand.
If email is your primary support channel, you could add a live chat widget (or, even better, an AI-powered virtual agent) to your checkout page. This allows customers to immediately resolve any issues or questions they have before purchasing — without navigating away from their basket.
If your customers prefer to reach out via chat, you could add a customized Black Friday welcome message. Try pushing relevant FAQ pages (around your returns policy or standard delivery times) or asking customers up front if their inquiry is related to your Black Friday deals — and then connecting them to the right department. This way, you’ll be able to offer speedy support that reduces cart abandonment rates.
4. Automate your customer service
CS automation can help your team to manage unexpected spikes and seasonal fluctuations in support request volumes. By automating common queries, you can provide your customers with immediate support — without any need for agent involvement. And even for issues that can’t be fully automated, an AI-powered virtual agent can reduce handle times by automatically tagging, routing, and enriching tickets.
Considering recent breakthroughs like generative AI, the tech that powers ChatGPT, the potential scalability of chat automation is rapidly increasing. With solutions like UltimateGPT (a generative AI, LLM-based bot) you can instantly automate your CX without sacrificing on the natural quality of conversations you get with human agents. By tapping into any textual knowledge source — like your help center or your product catalog — your bot can seamlessly imitate your brand tone of voice, regional language variations, and more.
Faster responses mean more joyful customer experiences. With a virtual agent taking care of repetitive requests and manual tasks, your team can focus on the complex cases that require their talents. And it's never too late to get started. Ultimate worked with expondo, a leading European equipment reseller, to get Ticket Automation live in just 5 days.
5. Meet your customers in the channels they already use
You’re probably already making use of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to sell your products or services. So why not support your customers there too?
Customer service messaging is one of the fastest growing support channels. For customers, convenience is queen — it’s no surprise then, that async support is now one of the most important customer service best practices. And customers' expectations are increasing in line with this trend. According to Zendesk, when brands fail to respond to a support query via their social channels, customer loyalty drops by a whopping 50%.
Did we mention that at Ultimate, our powerful virtual agent platform can automate your support across messaging and social? Well, it can.
More on messaging and automation
6. Invest in your team (and look out for each other)
Customer support can be stressful — especially when you’re at the sharp end of complaints. Help your team successfully navigate difficult situations by investing in agent soft skills, and creating a supportive working environment.
Check in with agents regularly on Black Friday, and encourage them to take breaks if they seem overwhelmed. Rather than focusing on the stresses of busy season, try to keep your outlook solutions-oriented and positive. Take a leaf out of Hawaiian-inspired jewelry brand Purelei’s book: instead of Black Friday, they refer to their busiest day as Golden Friday. And remember to be kind to one another, even under pressure.
To sum up
Peak season doesn’t have to be an ordeal for your support team. Make a Black Friday checklist and start planning early to give your team enough time to prepare. Invest in your agents and in smart automation tools, and you’ll breeze through busy season.