Conducting a PostMortem During the Holiday Shopping Season

During the holiday shopping season, companies often feel overwhelmed at trying to keep up with customer demand while still providing excellent service. It’s sometimes all you can do to simply grab hold of the rails and hang on for the ride (and hope that somewhere along the way, dancing trainmasters will serve you some hot chocolate).

During the holiday shopping season, companies often feel overwhelmed at trying to keep up with customer demand while still providing excellent service. It’s sometimes all you can do to simply grab hold of the rails and hang on for the ride (and hope that somewhere along the way, dancing trainmasters will serve you some hot chocolate).

When it’s all over, however, there is a lot you can learn from the experience. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses you experienced during the previous holiday rush, you can be more prepared to handle the next one. That’s why we suggest conducting a holiday post-mortem.

How to Conduct a Holiday Post-Mortem

A holiday post-mortem is an in-depth analysis of trends and behaviors that differentiate the holiday shopping season from the rest of your business year. It’s an opportunity for you and your whole team to come together to determine what worked and what didn’t so that you can make improvements long before the next holiday shopping season is breathing down your neck like an eager reindeer.

Holiday Post-Mortem: Resource Analysis

As you review the way your online holiday shopping rush was handled, analyze inventory trends. Were there products you could have sold more of had you not run out? Were there huge surges in orders during the holidays that left you short on resources (human and otherwise) to meet the need? Did you lose customers because you didn’t have convenient live chat hours or lose a lot of time explaining information that you could have provided via a FAQ page on your website? Once you determine where you had weakness, anticipate those needs for the next holiday. Bring in additional inventory, add live chat personnel, and flesh out your staff to handle the holiday influx. Develop a plan to communicate with your staff about low-inventory items and suggest items that should be pushed.

Holiday Post-Mortem: Do You Need to Beef Up Your Website?

Unlike employees, who fall asleep if you keep them working 24 hours a day, your website can work even when you aren’t, so you need to make sure it can handle the volume of customers it will receive during the holidays. Start by examining your analytics to identify peak volume times. Make sure your website is easy to navigate. If it has been a while since you viewed your website from the customer’s point of view, go shopping and see how easy it is to search the site, find the items you want, and check out. (You would be shocked at the number of customers who abandon full shopping carts simply because the checkout process is too complicated). If the check out process is cumbersome, make adjustments to streamline it.

Holiday Post-Mortem: Prepare, Plan, and Polish

You may still be nursing bruises from the unanticipated issues you faced this year, but by conducting a holiday post-mortem, you can plan early to prepare for the next holiday shopping rush. The time to start that prep is now – immediately after the previous rush has ended – so that you and your staff remember the issues and challenges you faced.

From developing a more user-friendly website using responsive design to creating an email campaign that encourages and rewards early shoppers, you can use your holiday post-mortem to help you go into the next year feeling ready for anything.

For more tips on how to handle your online holiday shopping rush, download Velaro’s 52 Tips, Tricks, and Insider Secrets for Handling the Online Holiday Rush.

6 Building Blocks to the Perfect Complaint Response Plan

Preparing for complaints will help streamline the customer experience of having their complaint dealt with.

We’ve all been there. Many a moment of business well-being has been tarnished with the news of a complaint being lodged against you by an unsatisfied customer.

Sadly, complaints are almost inevitable in any customer service environment, but what sets the best from the rest is the way you respond.

Preparing for complaints will help streamline the customer experience of having their complaint dealt with. Having a pre-planned response to complaints will also generate consistency in your customer service. You’ll be surprised at how much better your customer service team operate when they’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. Here are our 6 building blocks to a complaint response plan that turns complainers into advocates.

Stay Calm

This is fundamental in providing a good response to a complaint. Unhappy customers are, well, unhappy, and sometimes even noticeably angry. Staying calm will reflect positively on the company. Customers aren’t angry at you personally; you just happen to be the face of the company at that moment. Compose yourself and don’t take anything personally.

Refer to the pre-written guide

Pre-written responses have a bad reputation and a lot of people believe they don’t work, but they are vital to creating streamlined process and maximizing productivity. When we say ‘guide’, we don’t mean script. Agents should be able to act with a little flexibility whilst sticking to a pre-prepared route. Personalization is key in customer service. Scientific research has shown that when the customer hears their own name in a customer service situation, a positive chemical reaction happens in their brain. Regardless of the science, learn the customer’s name.

Deploy empathy

Customers are never annoyed with their bad experience with your company alone. A number of things in their lives will have amounted to the level of frustration required to call customer services to have a shout at an agent. It is important for agents to empathize with the customer. Encourage your agents to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and call on their own life experiences.

Take responsibility

Telling an angry customer that the problem isn’t your fault is just going to make the situation worse. The customer knows that it isn’t directly your fault, so don’t try and bounce responsibly to another individual or department. It is your job to fix the issue, so focus on doing that.

Be positive

Try and be proactive. Offer solutions, use positive language and be forward thinking. “Let me find that out for you” will always be a better response than “I don’t know”.

Be even more helpful

Once the problem is resolved, see if there is anything else that you can do for the customer. Customers will often have other issues that they didn’t think warranted a call to customer services that your agents may be able to help with. This is the point where you turn satisfied customers into company advocates.

This guest blog was written by mplcontact, a UK based contact centre solutions provider.


Visit the blog again soon for the related Velaro Live Chat resource: How to Handle Angry Customers.

Live Chat Integration: Needs VS. Wants

Keep your organization fit, not flabby! Make sure your live chat solution makes things easier and leaner first, then worry about the “tasty” bonus features–though you may be able to find a solution that provides both!

There are so many software tools that have become indispensable parts of doing business, but getting those tools or systems to “talk” to each other proves a significant challenge.

Keep your organization fit, not flabby! Make sure your live chat solution makes things easier and leaner first, then worry about the “tasty” bonus features–though you may be able to find a solution that provides both!
Keep your organization fit, not flabby! Make sure your live chat solution makes things easier and leaner first, then worry about the “tasty” bonus features–though you may be able to find a solution that provides both!

How can live chat integration make this easier rather than compound this problem? Not all live chat can!
Depending on how your business operates, there are 2-4 integrations you will need your live chat solution to “talk” with. On top of those non-negotiables, there are a handful of other live chat integration possibilities you may want to explore, as additional sources of value for your organization. But it’s important to distinguish the nice-to-haves from the need-to-haves.

Non-Negotiable, Need-to-Have Live Chat Integration

No matter how your business operates, your live chat needs to integrate with Google Analytics and with your company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Google Analytics gives you engagement stats for your website, including stats on how many people are clicking the “click-to-chat” button, accepting chats, and trying to reach a chat agent when chat is unavailable. Google Analytics also provides this data by date and time, so you have the intelligence you need to determine whether you need to consider expanding (or scaling back) the hours that chat is available on your website, to optimize the efficiency of your lead generation and/or customer service.

Live chat integration with your company’s CRM is the big one. If you don’t have a Google Analytics integration in place, you’ll be shooting in the dark, but if you don’t have a CRM integration in place you will struggle immensely to keep your facts straight about your customers – which is not good for efficiency nor for customer experience. Without a live chat integration, you will not be able to easily connect your live chat session data with the other interactions your Marketing, Sales, Support and other customer-facing teams are having. This greatly diminishes the value of live chat and so you should not consider a solution that does not integrate with your CRM in at least some basic capacity.

Depending on what kind of work you do, you may also want to add your e-commerce platform (e.g. Magento) and customer support/ticket management tools (often the same as your CRM, e.g. NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, etc.) to the list of need-to-haves for a live chat integration. You can read more about that at the end of this blog post:Third Party Integration with Live Chat.

Negotiable, “Nice-to-Have” Live Chat Integration

As noted above, live chat integration with your e-commerce platform and customer support software systems may be absolutely necessary, or it may be largely irrelevant, depending on the nature of your products and services. Other integrations that can add value for your organization, but are probably not necessary for most businesses, include live chat integration with:
• Customer knowledge-base tools, like Get Satisfaction
• Translation software, allowing your agents to chat in multiple languages
• Phone and chat coordination, so your sales or customer service system doesn’t assign phone calls to a rep who’s already engaged in one or more chats
• Newsletter integration, making it easier to keep chat visitors engaged after they leave

Hard Choices?

This blog post may leave you thinking about what you are willing to settle for. No settling may be necessary! Velaro live chat is designed with these live chat integration wants in mind and excels at satisfying every one of the non-negotiable needs of live chat integration.

Velaro’s open access structure also provides the flexibility to integrate with other types of solutions, not mentioned in this post. You can read more about live chat integration, such as what open access tools can do for your organization, here:

Live Chat Is More Than Just the Fastest Channel

Speed and convenience are the de facto virtues of live chat customer service. It goes without saying that you need to be providing some sort of live chat channel on your website to assist customers and other visitors.

Live chat is the fastest way to address customer inquiries without compromising quality.
How can live chat help you provide speedy and convenient customer service? What stats can help you improve?

The question then becomes: how can you ensure that you are providing the fastest, most convenient live chat service, without compromising the quality of the customer service your team is providing?

The online reviews site, Software Advice, (Review us on their site here.) recently put together an infographic on live chat that can help illuminate this (find it at the end of this article, or here).

As you’re looking at it, you should note some key stats from the infographic:

  • 60% of consumers dislike being on hold even for just 60 seconds.
  • 33% of consumers prefer live chat if only to avoid calling and waiting on hold (at all).
  • 49% of all online shoppers prefer to ask their questions via live chat.
  • 56% of Americans 18-34 *always* prefer live chat to phone.

It’s clear that speed is critical, but also that there are simply some people who prefer not to use the phone, even if they aren’t kept waiting very long.

Ensuring Live Chat Quality

So, how can you keep your live chat response time impressive without compromising quality?

First, your goal should be to respond to a request for chat in seconds, not minutes (recall the 60% figure above). Second, consider how you will measure both speed and quality for your live chat customer service. Some metrics you might consider include:

  • Wait Time (already noted)
  • Handle Time – how long does it take a live chat agent to resolve a visitor’s inquiry?
  • Abandonment Rate/Missed Chat Rate – how many visitors initiate chat but leave before being helped?

Other data-points that might be valuable for you to pay attention to, to balance live chat speed with quality, are:

  • First Contact Resolution – was the visitor’s inquiry resolved entirely in this first interaction?
  • Bounce Rate – how many visitors exit your website after receiving a proactive invitation to chat? These may be individuals who would have entered chat but chose to leave because your invitation to chat was ill-timed, ill-designed, etc.
  • Queue Size Trends – if you find your live chat agents are overwhelmed with a surge in chat volume, or are bored out of their minds because there’s not enough active chats to merit all of the agents you have staffed at the moment, it may be worth your time to investigate what live chat volume trends your site might experience (i.e. surges and lulls) based on time of day or time of year. Making sure your staff size is commensurate with chat volume ensures both convenience for your customers and efficiency for your company.


How to Use ECommerce Live Chat to Improve Online Customer Service for Holiday Returns

In the ecommerce world, the holiday buying rush is followed soon after by the holiday returns rush.

In the eCommerce world, the holiday buying rush is followed soon after by the holiday returns rush.

Just as live chat was useful for speeding along those sales, it is a critical piece to making the returns process as positive an experience for your customers as possible.

As Shep Hyken noted last week: the way you handle returns may be the reason a customer continues to do business with you – or the reason why they never do business with you again.

Use the return of unwanted holiday gifts as an opportunity to provide excellent online customer service via live chat. Demonstrate the benefits of being a customer of yours. Failing to do so only demonstrates an unwillingness to help your customers.
Use the return of unwanted holiday gifts as an opportunity to provide excellent online customer service via live chat. Demonstrate the benefits of being a customer of yours. Failing to do so only demonstrates an unwillingness to help your customers.

Here’s how live chat can help you handle holiday returns in the most customer-friendly manner possible.

Anticipate and Provide the Info Customers Want—Quickly

The most immediate way you can use live chat to help improve online customer service for returns is to make your return policy easier to find.

Customers looking to return holiday items care most about the following questions:

  1. How do I avoid paying for shipping?
  2. How do I need to address the package I’m returning?
  3. By when do I need to send everything back?
  4. How long will I need to wait to get refunded, and how will I be refunded?

Make sure all of this information is clearly stated in your return policy, and make sure your live chat agents have the URL for your return policy page handy.

If your live chat agents are not yet customer service pros, you may want to be explicit with them that after providing a link to the return policy page, they should provide the answer(s) to any of those questions individually as well, rather than just re-iterating “it’s all in our return policy.”

You will also want your agents to clarify the customer’s reason for the return and offer an exchange for a more suitable product where appropriate (you may want to provide your agents with suggestions for commonly returned items and what reasonable exchanges to propose might be).

It’s very important that the replacement product conversation feels to the customer like an attempt to remedy the situation and not an attempt to upsell them or you will be doing more harm than good to your customer loyalty efforts.

That takes care of the easiest holiday returns customers to serve, who really just need some basic information and will take care of the rest themselves – but what about the more difficult customers?

How to Talk About Your Return Policy with Difficult Customers

There are going to be customers who ship things back late, who don’t have the original package used to send the merchandise, who don’t understand why they need to pay for shipping, and/or why they can only be refunded with store credit.

You will have complete documentation of your customers’ conversations with your live chat agents, in which it is 100% clear that these more difficult customers were made wholly aware of your return policy and that their requests are plainly in violation of that policy- but proving that you’re right and that your customer is wrong is not always the best business model.

You do not want your live chat agents to stop at “that’s against our return policy.” While it’s ok for live chat agents to remind your customers of what your return policy is, not moving beyond “that’s against the rules” suggests an unwillingness to work with your customers to find a solution to their issues-which does not inspire loyalty.

Just like customer complaints are often opportunities for you to do better and recover a customer who wants to be happy and loyal, requests for exceptions to your return policy are similarly opportunities to show that you care more about your long-standing relationship with your customers than with nickle-and-dime-ing them on every purchase and every return.

Live Chat is the Rockstar of the Holiday Season

Live chat arguably matters more during the busy holiday season than at any other time of year, but it’s not homogenous.

Live Chat
Offering live chat staffed by responsive, courteous agents creates a memorable online holiday shopping experience.

You don’t need me to remind you that the holiday season is upon us.

Between non-stop seasonal music, children sitting with a Santa in every mall, and endless promotional materials bombarding consumers, there is no avoiding the run up to the busiest time of year for many retailers. While preparing for the holidays can be a major headache for contact centers and e-commerce businesses, with a little planning and focus, many of the season’s challenges can be mitigated so that delivering exceptional customer experiences can be maintained.

Live chat arguably matters more during the busy holiday season than at any other time of year, but it’s not homogenous. The season can really be divided in two, with sales dominating one side and returns the other. Equally important to both parts of the sales season is the live chat agent and in order for live chat to work best, there are a number of preparations that should be made before it gets too hectic.

  • Scheduling—key to servicing customers during the season is first ensuring that you are properly staffed. Customers prefer live chat over other communication channels because they have come to expect quick response times. Don’t get disappoint customers, whether old or new, with long wait times. Use historical data from past holiday seasons to find patterns of high volume days and times, and then plan accordingly.
  • Beef up self-service—a robust FAQ page and intuitive self-service features on your website go a long ways to helping out live chat agents. Don’t burden agents with having to spend valuable time answering questions that can be easily answered through other means. Just as agents feel overwhelmed during the holidays, so do customers. Make it easy on everyone by providing easy-to-answer, or easy to access self-serve features.
  • Holiday short cuts—by looking at historical data, you can readily identify those questions that customers more commonly were asking. Creating short cuts for more common questions will cut down on typing time and will allow for more customers overall to be helped. These shortcuts often dovetail with the types of questions that you try and answer on your FAQ page, but if a customer reaches out to an agent for easily answered questions, make it easy by creating simple, one-stroke shortcuts to these answers, i.e. “When is the last day I can place an order to receive it for the holiday”, “What are your holiday hours”, “What is your return policy?”, etc.
  • Dress it up—your customers have likely decorated their homes with holiday themed items, from menorahs to stockings, so why not dress up your live chat with holiday images and greetings. In addition to adding some pizzazz to your live chat emblem you can also preemptively answer some of the questions addressed on your FAQ in the live chat greetings. For instance, “Happy holidays, Janice will be with you shortly. Orders placed by Thursday will arrive by Dec. 24th” or “Before we connect you with a live chat agent we want to let you know that all orders over $25 receive free shipping!” There are a number of ways to cleverly reduce agent typing time by pre-empting questions before they arise.
  • The courteous return or exchange—making a sale is great, but equally important is how customers are treated when they want to return or exchange a product. This is especially the time for agents to make a positive impression with new or returning customers, so don’t miss out on training that teaches how to graciously accommodate a customer even when they are returning or exchanging a product.

Live chat help is already a popular choice for consumers, so don’t disappoint by making them wait longer than usual during the holidays. Everyone is pressed for time during the season. With a little pre-season analyzing, planning and organizing you can set your live help agents up for success. When the work environment is well structured and organized it’s much easier for agents to ramp up and deliver the types of experiences that bring customers back to your brand or product. Whether it’s selling merchandise or helping a customer with a return, the opportunities for wowing the customer are there, make sure your live help agents have all the resources and tools they need to deliver!