Black Friday is approaching fast, the day where bargain hunters across the world try and grab themselves a great deal heading into the festive period.
This US-inspired discount day has been embraced by many British retailers, most infamously ASDA, which got into an overcrowding pickle last year that attracted negative press through social media channels.
Brits stereotypically love to queue, but the long lines and crazy crowds during the Christmas season put even the most enthusiastic shoppers off hitting the high streets.
For this reason, the majority (55%) of customers headed online last year to bag themselves the best deal. And many engaged with retailers through social media platforms when looking for feedback on queries.
The scale of interest from UK shoppers around the Black Friday weekend in 2014 was unprecedented – taking many in the industry by surprise and leading to huge spikes in activity that most retailers were not positioned to handle or take full advantage of.
>See also: Black Friday chaos: can UK e-retailers cope?
With 85% of last year’s Black Friday shoppers likely to return this year, retailers need to sit up and ensure they are fully prepared for the onslaught that the day will likely bring.
So what precautions should UK retailers take to prepare for the mayhem of Black Friday and ensure consumers experience the best customer service? Regardless of the business size, here are five top tips.
1. Power to the people: listen to consumers
Retailers should be committed to getting issues sorted first time round. By increasing their social listening, brands will be able to understand their key followers’ opinions and feedback, as well as to pre-empt any potential new issues that arise.
Either way, consumer engagement is about a dialogue and every good conversation starts with good listening, so brands that follow this mantra will build solid loyalty and succeed.
2. Rapid response: every customer deserves feedback
Social media has given customers the power to broadcast their feelings, so a bad experience could be extremely problematic for retailers. Increasingly, customers are taking their queries or complaints to social media. In fact, according to a recent research report by Avaya and BT, one in four consumers are choosing social media for service.
With added pressure on Black Friday – huge amounts of people frantically trying to get their hands on the best deals – retailers must make every effort to maintain levels of customer service and respond quickly and effectively to customer queries and complaints. Every customer is a VIP and needs to be treated as such.
One British iconic brand that nails social media customer service is ASOS. Whether it’s Black Friday or a slow Monday, the company invests the time to listen to customers around the clock and takes their feedback on board without hesitation.
3. Simple and good customer service means an effective omnichannel strategy
Consumer surveys are repeatedly saying people want convenience and a seamless experience when it comes to dealing with brands. The main challenge is that customers are using a fragmented range of channels but expect their information to converge and be available across these media.
In Avaya and BT’s research, four in five consumers said advisors should be instantly familiar with their details across all channels. As a result, the need for retailers to deploy an omnichannel strategy is more pressing than ever before.
Omnichannel meets a primary need of global consumers, which is to seamlessly change how they contact organisations depending on their situation – whether they are at work, sitting at home watching TV, in meetings or on a train.
For businesses, this means improving the customer journey and doing more than just offering alternative channels.
4. Work your millennial magic
While social media proves to be one of the more popular choices to engage with brands, research shows that video is often millennials' first-choice communication method.
A new technology called WebRTC is making it possible for consumers to use video directly through a web or mobile browser, without the need to download video-conferencing software.
This could allow a customer with a question during the check-out process about delivery costs to just click a button and be instantly connected to a video call with a customer service rep, instead of abandoning the basket or waiting for a webchat question to be answered. Innovations like this will save a lot of retailers a headache on Black Friday and throughout the Christmas period.
5. Real-time updates
Retailers should also use social media to update consumers on promotions, opening hours, and even stock availability. If a retailer knows it's running out of a particular item, it should let its customers know so that they don't get irritated if they don't find what they're looking for.
It is estimated that Black Friday 2014 saw sales in the UK of £810 million, more than double the previous year. The big question is: will 2015 pass the £1 billion milestone? If retailers take these tips on board and focus on their customer service game, UK sales should blow 2014 figures out of the water.
Sourced from Simon Culmer, UK&I MD, Avaya