E-Retailer StartUp Holiday Planning: 5 Simple Customer Experience Secrets You'll Wish You Knew One Year Ago
Preparation now may save you a lot of headaches come mid-December.
If you're a start-up entrepreneur, you know how it feels to experience growing pains around the holidays. These times present a lot of opportunities for businesses to thrive and at the same time, a lot of operational challenges that can affect customers negatively.
How you prepare now will determine how you react when issues do surface.
Customer experience seems to be the major focus these days, and while that seems to be the case, it's best that we turn our heads to all areas of the business to ensure our customers are satisfied. As such, I've pulled together a few high-level items to put on your to-do list that may benefit you as the 2015 holiday shopping season approaches.
Gather Your Sales Projections
Where are you now in relation to last year in terms of revenue? Are you experiencing growth or a plateau? Pull these numbers.
Communication with Vendors and Fulfillment Partners
Do you outsource your fulfillment operations or do you keep them in-house? If you keep fulfillment operations in-house, you likely know your material supply numbers needed to meet projected customer demand during the holidays.
In contrast, if you partner with vendors like One-World Direct, SpeedCommerce or another partner, it's critically important that you provide projection numbers to them NOW in order to have ample materials and personnel on-hand for timely shipping after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
If there's a massive spike of customers ordering and your fulfillment partner does not have enough staffing and materials on-hand to ensure the shipping times you promised to your customers, your brand is about to be on the social media chopping block. The last thing a customer wants is for a Christmas gift to arrive later than planned, especially if they have pre-arranged travel plans before the actual holiday.
Customer Support Ticket & Call Metrics as a Percentage of Orders Received
Sometimes these metrics can be overlooked as a new start-up, but keeping the pulse on these numbers surface many issues in customers' experiences. Take a look in your customer support center (ZenDesk, Desk.com, Intercom, or whatever tool you use) and gather the numbers from last year around this time of year through the end of December. You can expect a similar number of tickets or double if you're in a significant growth phase.
Customer Support at Scale
Now that you know your support ticket metrics, think about how you will react if you suddenly receive 1,000 support tickets overnight upon your return to the office when you normally receive 50 tickets a day. Something crazy is bound to happen around the holidays with so many moving parts.
- How are you going to scale to meet appropriate wait-times for customers?
- What kind of team do you have in place to respond? Can you pull from marketing, sales and operations to assist customers?
- Could you quickly bring in an outsourced team to assist temporarily on-demand?
If you find yourself in this conundrum (hopefully not!), I highly recommend partnering with a company called Metaverse ModSquad. The company is tech-savvy and the representatives are simply fantastic with customers - and they will learn your brand fast. The last thing you want is customers waiting for simple answers. Sometimes all they want to know is when to expect their order around the holidays so they don't have to buy another gift while hoping the one they ordered from you arrives on time.
Plan for Transparency on Social Channels & Use FAQs to Your Advantage
Your community and customer support managers are on the front lines every day, and they know what the frustrations that customers experience. Listen to their perspectives; their insights will help your decision-making during crisis.
As such, there may be a point in time when mass communication is appropriate on social channels regarding long-wait times for customer support and that you're working diligently to satisfy each customer. It's better to be transparent rather than silent, as if nothing wrong is going on. Customers will call you out on social media if that's the case. Trust me.
In addition, be sure to use your FAQs in your support center to their full advantage. Support centers these days show all kinds of metrics about what kind of answers customers are searching for. If you discover a trend around a specific issue that's growing during the holiday season, it may be a good time to dedicate a few FAQs around the topics (updating them as needed) to minimize support tickets when answers can be easily listed via a FAQ.
As you're gearing up for the best time of year for your business, I hope these tips are valuable to you - ensuring exceptional customer experiences with your brand.
Have you experienced any major growth pains around the holidays?
How did you handle the challenges?
I'd love to hear your story and how you made customer experience a priority!