Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Shoppers are Ready. Are Your Communications Systems?

By Adam Simpson, CEO, Easy Office Phone

Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent two of the year’s biggest sales days, generating billions in revenue. Chain stores, shopping centers and even partners need to be prepared for the onslaught of consumer demand.

After the shopping bonanza comes the surge of customer returns and requests. While retailers focus heavily on marketing and merchandising products and services, many fail to have the foresight to strategically implement the tools needed to cover the entire shopper experience – from point of purchase to consumer care. It’s vital for chain stores and shopping centers to have the proper communications systems in place to handle consumer demands efficiently and effectively.

In today’s virtual world, businesses must mind not only the crowd but also the cloud. Communications systems must be up to the task, and retail operations that have already moved to cloud-based phone service are ahead of the mob.

The following tips will help ensure that you’re ready for the rush, and that you’re able to get the most out of your cloud-based phone system during the industry’s busiest season:

Tip 1: Use call queuing. Queues allow you to distribute calls to multiple staff as calls arrive, and will also hold calls in priority sequence if all your agents are occupied. This is a powerful tool for handling calls in an orderly and efficient manner. You can easily change which agents belong to a given queue, and even give call preference to your top performers. 

Remember that agents can be spread across multiple physical locations and still tied into the same queue, a helpful option for stores with multiple locations and staff working from different geographic areas.

Tip 2: Set target service levels and measure whether your teams are meeting them. Responsiveness is critical during peak shopping periods; consumers will gladly shop at a competing store if your team can’t get to them in time.  Determine an optimum response time, and then the target service levels feature will then report to you on how frequently your targets are actually being met in practice.

In addition to target service levels, use deep tracking and reporting tools to understand how your contact center teams are performing across a wide range of metrics and where they might have room for improvement. Remember to make these evaluations in advance of the busiest days so that you can make any necessary adjustments without the added pressure. Metrics can include: total number of calls; how many calls were answered versus abandoned; average hold time; average call length; and much more. A good tracking and reporting suite will include the ability to easily export data to your favorite spreadsheet format. 

Tip 3: Consider implementing ‘spillover’ queues. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that at some point the influx of Black Friday or Cyber Monday calls will overwhelm your staff, despite their best efforts. The ideal solution is a spillover or backup queue that will receive those excess calls and pass them to a second group of agents who are standing by as a contingency. If your business brings on staff on a temporary basis, and pays them based on calls taken, you can use the tracking and reporting tools from Tip #3 to ensure the accuracy of your payments to these temporary agents.

Tip 4: Create logical separations between departments. Companies with multiple departments, products or services may need separate phone numbers and call queues for each in order to handle request volume. Use your cloud-based phone service provider’s Web interface to ensure that each product or service has a unique phone number, pointing to a call queue staffed by appropriately trained agents. For queues handling the most time-sensitive inquiries, you may want to deploy skills-based routing. This feature lets you “rank” your agents by skill level, and incoming calls will first “seek” the agents you’ve set as most capable before moving on to other agents.

Tip 5: Announce approximate wait times. Your shoppers may or may not be patient enough to tolerate a reasonable hold time, but if they are going to wait on hold, be sure you give them a rough idea of when they can expect to reach an agent. This small but important feature is not only easy to implement through your provider’s web interface, but will be a big win with customers.

By implementing these simple tips, your business will be better prepared to handle customer demands more efficiently and effectively, and ultimately, ensure that your business runs more smoothly this holiday season.

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