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Peak preparation: scaling customer service operations efficiently

Peak preparation: scaling customer service operations efficiently

The shift to online shopping is accelerating, even more so due to COVID-19, and retailers are facing mounting pressure to keep up with demands. In fact, research by Zendesk, reveals that following a peak in May, customer service requests continue to remain above pre-crisis levels. With UK eCommerce expected to continue growing by as much as £5.3bn in 2020, never has there been a greater need for brands to take a strategic approach to online customer care to ensure they are effectively scaling customer service operations.

Customers are also turning to alternative methods to reach out to brands. Since last April, global WhatsApp use has increased by 148%. This highlights the need for brands to adapt their customer service offering to keep up with the ever-evolving expectations of today’s consumer.

With peak season just around the corner, what can online retailers be doing to ensure their customers are supported, especially with COVID-19 continuing to cast a shadow of uncertainty?

1. Making customer service a strategic priority

Online brands must treat customer service as a strategic priority. A positive, personalised customer experience can make the difference between an abandoned cart and a lifelong customer. Those who are underprepared risk customer dissatisfaction – damaging their reputation and their bottom line.

Brands need to replicate the personalised and tangible experience that would be present at the in-store experience. For example, when entering a store, customers can expect to receive assistance and recommendations from staff when choosing products, something that can be sorely missed in the digital experience.

To support these demands, brands must ensure effective customer support processes are in place, either using an in-house or outsourced operation. By doing so, brands can drive repeat sales and customer loyalty by nurturing the customer relationship.

Damage limitation is equally as important. With the rise of social media as a complaint tool, enabling customer service teams to prioritise social listening and respond effectively to avoid such occurrences will ensure continued loyalty and preserve reputation.

2. Variety is key

Consumers are getting used to being able to purchase goods from a variety of different channels and will expect to be able to reach out to brands via a range of platforms as a result. Facebook became the latest channel to launch its very own shopping feature in May, whilst the likes of Amazon have used TikTok to drive beauty product sales.

Brands using eCommerce and mCommerce (mobile commerce) platforms must ensure ultimate customer experience through a streamlined approach – offering phone, email, live chat, social listening as well as chatbot support. It’s likely, thanks to the wide reach of online shopping, that your customers order from beyond the UK. In these cases, providing multilingual agents will be crucial to providing seamless and personalised support.

3. Utilising customer intelligence

Although both language and platform preferences are important, ultimately, the experience a brand can provide to its customers is only as good as its customer insight and order intelligence.

By integrating both your website and order management system, agents can leverage real-time order information to make faster, more informed decisions. This enables brands to respond quickly to customer queries and give them instant updates on exactly where their product is within the delivery chain.

Having access to customer insights also puts brands in the position to provide a much more efficient and personalised experience for their customers. For example, by equipping agents with access to notes and contact history they can remove tiresome repetition for the customer.

Tools like Voice of the Customer (VOC) tracking and reporting can also be used to gather positive or negative customer feedback, helping quality and product teams to better understand the customer’s wants and needs, in order to drive brand loyalty.

4. Self-service saves time

Whilst a variety of contact methods is paramount in keeping up with today’s customer, it’s also important to ensure that customers have access to as many of the answers that they might need as possible, without having to leave your website.

This involves providing online support to customers through a range of tools including online discussion forums and FAQ documents. Customers want answers to their questions as quickly as possible, often without having to interact with a representative from the brand. According to a report from Gartner, as much as 40% of live customer queries could be resolved in self-service channels, saving time and money.

5. Scale up or lose out

For a lot of brands, the rising contact centre volumes during peak periods can prove a challenge. For some, this could be due to a lack of personnel, while for others it’s a lack of technology or contact centre infrastructure. 2020 peak will likely look altogether different to previous years causing difficulties in forecasting, so having a flexible partner in place that can scale-up or scale-back depending on activity, means that brands can be agile and ready to respond when needed, harnessing the scalability needed to meet volume fluctuations during peak and throughout the year.

It’s clear that growth in 2020 is going to be a challenge for those who are not prepared for changes in demand and are unable to scale within their existing models. Now’s the time to act and prepare for unforeseen demand fluctuations, ahead of peak, Brexit, and any further issues caused by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Contact us today to learn more about scaling customer service operations and how PFS can help you through peak 2020: [email protected]


Since joining the PFS team in 2016, Mary’s extensive customer service expertise has driven positive results across the organisation. Mary guides our clients to successful solutions through consultation on best practices and optimisation strategies that ensure customer service that reflects positively on each brand.