How To Handle High Volume Of Customer Inquiries During BFCM


Customer support is tough during the best times, it’s even harder during BFCM. Here’s how you can keep it exceptional.

Be prepared for the biggest tidal wave your shop has ever seen: this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday indicate it’s going to be a wild one.

Following the lockdown and COVID-19 crisis, online sales have already skyrocketed by 44% in the second quarter of 2020. And considering that holiday season sales have also been increasing year-on-year, retailers are preparing for a huge uptick in orders during BFCM 2020.

But here’s the catch: more sales doesn’t always mean better business. There’s a ton to take into account, from ensuring your site can withstand a huge boom in traffic, to being able to deliver outstanding customer service to everyone.

In this article we will focus on:

  • The predictions for 2020 BFCM
  • Why your company needs to provide exceptional customer service during BFCM
  • What providing this type of customer service will look like for your support team
  • How to handle the big influx of customer tickets your team may get

Let’s dive in….

BFCM 2020 – The Biggest Yet?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest events in the online shopping calendar. And while 2020 has so far been a year of cancellations and postponed launches, BFCM is still very much on course for November 27th and 30th of November.

Many retailers will be awaiting the date with high expectations, especially since the previous years did exceptionally well: 

  • Consumers spent $7.4 billion online on Black Friday at a 19.6% growth from 2018
  • By the end of Cyber Monday $9.2 billion was spent
  • Shopify merchants generated over $2.9+ billion in sales during the event

Moreover, consumer habits brought on by the lockdown are sure to help boost sales. As brick and mortar sales decline and buyers turn online, more and more consumers feel increasingly positive about shopping online. In Q2 2020, $1 of every $5 spent by U.S. consumers came from online orders. 

Ecommerce companies have also seen an unprecedented global traffic increase between January 2019 and June 2020, going from 16.07 billion global visits to 22 billion.

The global pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the growth of eCommerce and will have a huge impact on BFCM. This increase in both traffic and sales will also have an affect on your support team.

Why You Need Exceptional Customer Service on BFCM

The message is clear: this upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday are providng an opportunity to gain more sales than ever. 

But as previously mentioned, it’s not just about boosting your sales numbers. These events are also the perfect chance to grow your business by turning both old and new visitors into loyal shoppers by leaving a lasting impression of your brand. And this is exactly where delivering exceptional customer support can make all the difference.

It’s Your Chance to Improve Customer Retention

It’s a widely accepted fact that repeat customers are more profitable than new ones. In fact, a mere 5% increase in customer retention could see you boost profits by up to 25%

This is why taking the opportunity to convert your one-time shopper into a repeat customer by providing an excellent customer experience is essential. In terms of BFCM deals, this is where preparing a customer service plan in advance can reap a ton of benefits. 

From reducing customer uncertainties to answering any questions, it’s important you go above and beyond to satisfy customers, not just the bare minimum. In short, good customer service in eCommerce is a competitive advantage. The quality of the support you provide is a differentiating factor in how many customers you retain.

You Can Differentiate Yourself From Competitors

Imagine buying the same item from two different shops. The first one is unresponsive, sending you a vague confirmation email, and then going AWOL for long periods of time. The second one ensures you can pick a delivery date, gets in touch to remind you when the item should arrive, and asks if everything went fine after you receive it. Which one would you shop with again?

That’s right: in the online world, chances are your products aren’t that unique. So the best way to make a difference in the buyer’s mind is to go the extra mile with outstanding customer support.

In fact, not providing the best support could also damage your brand in the long run… 

What That Means For Your Support Team

The same rules that apply for delivering exceptional customer support all year round apply to the BFCM event. But there’s one caveat: the quality of your support must remain outstanding at scale. 

This is why BFCM can be particularly taxing on your support staff. They will have to deal with:

  • Repetitive Tasks: very few customer support issues and questions are unique. This means that your support team will be busy with lots of repetitive tasks during BFCM, which means they will spend most of their time organizing, reading, and responding to questions that aren’t an effective use of their time. A showed that 48% of customer service leaders say that 30% or more of their team’s tickets are repetitive, yet easy to solve. This can leave your team feeling unchallenged and bored.

  • Stress and burnout: BFCM is particularly intense for your customer support team as staying on top of the increasing customer service demand adds stress to their already busy workload. There may be culture and language barriers and perhaps even different time zones. Customer requests may also be made on multiple different channels, which can be overwhelming when not equipped with the right tools.

You should be prepared to provide them with:

  • A clear action plan: to get an idea of what numbers to expect, potential overtime, and maybe even bonuses for the best-performing agents.

  • Rest and vacation days: hopefully, none of your customer support agents have planned their holidays during BFCM. But ensuring they get enough rest before and after the event is essential in helping with their wellbeing and performance.

Finally, it’s up to you to put everything in place to be able to handle an increase in customer tickets.

How to Handle a Big Influx of Customer Tickets

Ok, you’ve got an action plan in place for your customer support team, and you’ve made sure your store is ready for the sales event. But what about the onslaught of requests and support tickets you’re likely to receive after BFCM? 

Here are tips and tricks that will help you reduce the numbers, and manage them more efficiently.

Provide Omni-channel Support 

Modern customers favor convenience above all, and how they interact with your support team is no different. So to reduce friction and frustration, you want to interact with your customers seamlessly via all of the communication channels they prefer. In fact, research has shown that 9 out of 10 consumers want a seamless service between communication methods. They expect all customer service agents to have access to all past conversations no matter what channel they are interacting with.

Perhaps you provide customer support through a multi-channel approach, offering your customers the ability to engage with your support team via multiple touchpoints. However these touchpoints will be standalone entities, and today customers expect a seamless experience so that they can design their own customer experience journey. 

BFCM is the perfect opportunity to experiment with an omni-channel approach, which will enable your support team to have a 360-degree view of the customer across all channels and respond to them when it’s necessary on their preferred channel. This, in turn, reduces scattered customer information, provides an accurate view of the conversation and minimizes back and forth communication by collecting and gathering all ticket history from different channels.

Create Premade Responses

A good way to quickly reduce the number of tickets is to make sure your customers get the information they want as fast as possible, and this can be done by anticipating their issues. Imagine what issues and questions your customers will have in advance, and prepare a premade response for your support team. 

This can be based on previous interactions following BFCM, or a brand new one that focuses on this year’s offers. You can also use the most commonly asked support questions as a great starting point:

  • What’s the status of my order?: remind users where to find their tracking code, or how to whitelist your communications so they don’t end up in their spam folder.
  • I want to return my order: point them towards your terms and conditions. You could even create a special page on your blog to help them go through the whole process step by step.
  • How do I apply a promo code: assist them in ensuring the format is correct, and confirm that the discount voucher is valid.
  • How to edit or cancel my order? A seemingly straightforward process, but having clear and concise answers in place for the most basic functions on your site can help you score a lot of points with users.

And of course every customer is different, so it does help to make sure that your responses are courteous and well personalized, not sounding like they’ve been written by a support robot. And leave some options for quick customizations, such as using the user’s first name when you address them.

Work on Shortening Your Response Time

This point ties in nicely with the aforementioned tip. But there’s more you can do to ensure your support answers approach real-time, which is ideally how quick customers would like to receive support.

  • Empower employees to answer questions independently: if you have a big support team, you want to make sure there are no delays due to ping pong emails between the staff and managers. So training your agents properly can shave off some precious minutes when looking at response speed.
  • Hire seasonal help: this can be a drastic measure, but if you know that the support requests are coming in and you’re inadequately prepared, you can always hire external help. This could be someone you know to handle social media questions, for instance, or a professional freelancing support agent. 

  • Analyze the metrics: you can easily calculate your first response time (FRT) and use it as a KPI for your customer support team. This is the amount of time it takes an agent to respond to a ticket, and it helps to measure support responsiveness and the effectiveness of the support team. Keep in mind, however, that response time isn’t the only metric that matters. You will also want to look at your “resolution time”, which can vary dramatically depending on the request. This number is completely tied to the quality of your support agents, and their ability to satisfy customers with the right answers.

Provide a Knowledge Base

Can’t help all your customers all of the time? How about giving them the tools to help themselves! For many users, it’s actually preferable to quickly google the answer rather than to go through the process of contacting support. In fact, studies show that 91% of customers would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.

Which is why your goal should be to ensure all the answers are available for them, as easily as possible. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Add more online resources to your site: don’t hesitate to create a searchable knowledge base, that has FAQs, setup guides or how-to articles on payment methods and shipping rules, for example. The more the better, as long as it helps ensure full clarity for your dissatisfied users.
  • Deliver product training to your customers: are shoppers often confused by one of the features of your best-selling item? Then why not ship an extra quick guide or have a video tutorial online to help them? While not specifically related to Black Friday sales, this can be a huge timesaver when the support tickets are piling up.

Be Transparent about the Hectic Sales Event

Most shoppers are reasonable people. If you manage to tactfully communicate that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the biggest events in your calendar, they will likely be more understanding if support is slower than usual. 

The key is to not leave your customers guessing. Make sure you explain on your site, email or phone calls that you are experiencing a larger-than-average amount of support requests, but that you’ll do everything in your ability to tend to users’ needs.

Sure, this won’t actually reduce the number of tickets, but it could definitely help in spacing them out and giving your team time to breathe!

Key Takeaways: Why Exceptional BFCM Support Matters

Huge sales events such as the one we’re about to experience for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday are always a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, they will help you sell more, make extra profits, and attract new customers. 

But on the other, they could also be mismanaged, which will lead to dissatisfied shoppers, poor reviews, and a loss of brand trust. In today’s competitive landscape, this could be a death knell for your shop.

Luckily, customer service can help. By taking care of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopper’s issues and questions, you’re essentially boosting your chances of increasing retention, creating loyal customers, and giving your brand the splendid reputation it deserves.

Special thanks to our friends at Gorgias for their insights on this topic.
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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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