Black Friday (the day following the Thanksgiving Day holiday on the last Thursday in November) is a massive retail sales event, and often regarded as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, is a 24-hour online shopping event that encourages people to shop online, and is now seen as an extension of the Black Friday sales.
As well as a huge opportunity for e-commerce, it’s also an incredibly busy period for customer support teams across the world.
In this post, you’ll learn how the customer support team at a leading online payments company prepared for this hectic period, to help you plan your customer experience for future Black Fridays.
Our recent webinar, which took place in the days before the annual retail discount weekend, discussed Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and customer service.
With a huge amount of online transactions taking place during this period and beyond, there are few better companies to speak about this period with than ViaBill.
ViaBill is a leading provider of payment solutions that empower shoppers to “buy now, pay later.” The flexible payments service has attracted thousands of shoppers and merchants across the world.
We were joined by Viabill’s Customer Experience Manager, Romina Fonseca Allegretti, who gave us some fantastic insights into how they organize and prepare their customer support team for this hectic period.
And, in a year like 2020 when nothing is quite normal, we got her take on what Covid-19 would mean for Black Friday.
So, without further ado, here are the main learnings from our conversation.
During the Black Friday/Cyber Monday peak, the average number of support requests submitted by customers increases by 65%. But is this the case for ViaBill?
Romina says: “It is! When we were preparing the strategy for this year, we were comparing it with previous years and, from the numbers, we could see it was well around that [figure].”
She continues: “And it’s not only on those days, but on the weeks leading to them. Here in Denmark, different stores are releasing different promos on all the weeks leading up to the day. So it’s not only [Black Friday], but way before!"
So they try to get ahead of this influx of requests by being as well informed as possible, with customer data at the forefront:
“We prepare by developing a support strategy based on the knowledge we have of our customers. We look at their preferred channels and shopping habits.”
“This is not our first rodeo with Black Friday,” says Romina, “so we are very well prepared!”
She explains how ViaBill’s team is organized to meet their customers’ needs:
“We have our support teams, made up of agents that are taking care of either merchants or shoppers, and we organize them in tiers depending on the urgency and the complexity of the cases.”
Before Black Friday they have sessions with these support specialists:
“They know exactly what answer to give when, so we can streamline the process and people get answers as quickly as possible.”
ViaBill’s Customer Experience Manager mentions the frantic pace and publicity that surrounds the day as something that they experience when dealing with customer support requests.
“The whole hype around the day is a factor, of course. [There’s] a lot of anxiety around the day because people are waiting for that specific event to buy something they were maybe wanting for a long time. There is also a lot of fear of missing out on the special prices.”
This bleeds into how customers interact with customer service employees, including how patient they are willing to be:
“There are some stock-limited offers that make an impact on the time that people are willing to wait for an answer. So that’s something we need to take into account when we’re planning on the strategy for support.”
This year will also be the first one that they use raffle AutoPilot, the AI-driven customer support tool which operates on the ViaBill website.
AutoPilot understands questions real humans ask and provides instant answers about simple to medium-complex customer requests. If it can’t help the customer, it passes them seamlessly onto their customer support team.
Romina Fonseca Allegretti thinks this will help hugely on Black Friday:
“I think that people will go more through AutoPilot. That’s the tendency we have been seeing since we launched in October: almost half of all the queries we’ve had through the website, people go through the questions and the answers they have in raffle.”
“They get self-served, which is great for us because we can dedicate the time and care that we need to maybe more complex cases that require a phone call or a further explanation.”
And, on Black Friday, time is a luxury few customer support teams have:
“Because people are in such a rush to finalize the transactions right away, having access to immediate answers makes a difference, 100%.”
So what are the common problems that customers report on Black Friday, especially when request numbers rise so much?
Many retailers report inventory problems. According to one survey, 35% of respondents in the United States have already encountered out of stock items often while shopping online this year.
For Romina at ViaBill, however, the issues their customers face are naturally mostly going to be payment related:
“We’re going to have issues regarding processing of orders — maybe people will try to be as fast as they can to get hold of certain products. Also, [about] using payment methods like a specific card that was not accepted by the shop.”
She advises that companies are “thorough with the details,” so they can meet customers' needs for fast order processing with no errors.
The issues don’t stop after Cyber Monday though. After the main shopping rush, the focus will shift to refunds:
“Of course, maybe people end up buying a little bit more than they wanted [or] maybe they changed their minds.”
How did Black Friday 2020 differ from other Black Fridays? The desire and, in some cases, need to stay at home, means that consumers appeared more likely to shop online than ever before.
According to Think With Google, 75% of shoppers were planning to choose to buy products online instead of in-store to avoid crowds in 2020.
Romina concurred: “We believe people are going to prioritize staying home and healthy so maybe e-commerce and online shopping is going to grow in comparison to other years, when people were willing to queue outside of stores, rub elbows trying to find products, and go through clothing racks.”
This has its positives, of course: “[They] are going to stay home being cozy, kind of hyggeligt, maybe by the fireplace, it’s going to be a much nicer experience in that sense!”
For ViaBill, Black Friday is ultimately a chance to go above and beyond their usual level of customer care.
“The volumes are going to be way higher than any other day of the year, and we want to help these people to have a much better satisfaction score with us than any other day.”
“[It’s] our moment when we’re going to shine, that we’re going to do our best, and we want to help them make that purchase they were waiting for.”
Grabbing your chance to impress customers on Black Friday is a great way to ensure they return throughout the year. 90% of customers who received excellent customer service on Black Friday, went on to shop with that retailer again, according to TechRadar.
You’ve read how ViaBill does it, so now it’s time for you to prepare your customer service staff for this frantic period. Good luck, and happy Black Friday!