How to Prepare Your E-Commerce Call Center for Black Friday

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Black Friday shopping is expected to move online this year. For e-commerce, it means that this day will be similar to Cyber Monday and the holiday rush will start a bit earlier. How to prepare your e-commerce call center for these virtual crowds? Let’s try to figure out.

A Bit of History

The most commonly repeated story links Black Friday tradition to retailers. When doing accounting, American retail companies used to record their losses in red and profits in black. They allegedly had the entire year of loss... until the Friday after Thanksgiving came. That day they launched the holiday shopping season and earned a lot of money on discounted merchandise (“went into black”). That’s where the term Black Friday is said to come from.

Black Friday shopping “spawned” another “retail holiday’ - Cyber Monday. It made its debut on November 28, 2005. Cyber Monday takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving and is invented to encourage online shopping. Why Monday? At that time, a lot of people had high-speed Internet connection only in the office so the first workday of the week was the time when they could buy something on e-commerce websites.

Nowadays, both holidays are popular and cause a lot of rush every year. This time call spikes are expected to be higher than usual because of lockdown. The recent global research from McKinsey showed significant changes in shopping behavior. 37% of respondents said they are going to spend more online during the holidays this year. But their brand loyalty has changed: only 12% of customers want to buy from the same retailer they bought the previous year. How to prepare your online shop for these challenges?

Improve Your Self-Service Channels

In 2019, Aircall conducted a survey that showed the top six reasons why customers need support:

  1. Returns and exchanges - 59%
  2. Delivery status - 48%
  3. Billing - 42%
  4. Cancellation - 31%
  5. Product information or advice - 31%
  6. Account updates - 17%

We can draw two important conclusions from this. The first is that you need to improve your self-service options in these areas. If your customers are able to check their delivery status via the IVR menu or a chatbot on your website, it will reduce the number of calls and web chats your agents are handling. It is also time to test and update your IVR menu as well as to review the FAQ section on your website. All these steps will allow you to reduce the agents’ workload and keep customers happy.

The second conclusion is that half of your customer service reps should be ready to answer questions about returns and exchanges, delivery statuses, and billing issues. As to other areas customers may need help with (cancellations, product information or advice, account updates), you can prepare a smaller number of agents.

Also, don’t neglect call scripting software features. Voiptime Cloud call center solution allows you to easily create and edit call scripts of any complexity that will be available for agents during conversations. You can also create knowledge bases, structuring the information for answers in a user-friendly way. It will be of great help to your employees during a holiday rush both for newbies and seasoned agents. 

Define the Right Channels of Customer Service

What are the right communication channels of customer service?  In 2018, global Genesys State of Customer Experience research indicated that consumer satisfaction with voice/IVR/video and mobile messaging are highest (35% and 34% accordingly). Web chat satisfied 30% of respondents and email was at the last place (25%). Businesses assessed the channels’ effectiveness a bit differently: 65% for voice/IVR/video, 60% for web chat, 55% for email, and 53% for mobile messaging. As you can see, text channels of interaction are as popular with customers as voice ones.

However, the most important thing here is your buyer’s persona. If it includes an older target audience then you should expect them to make more phone calls than web chat conversations. Younger customers prefer texting but only if they don’t have any urgent issues. Otherwise, they will also contact you via phone.

No matter what channel you prioritize, give your customers a choice. In Aircall’s survey that we’ve already mentioned, 91% of respondents said they strongly preferred brands with multiple customer service options. And last but not least, do not forget to offer them a callback. There are no customers who would like to wait on hold on Black Friday.

Do Not Pinch Pennies on Training

Training always matters, especially when your agents have to handle such call volumes as those on Black Friday and other “retail holidays”. As we have already mentioned, this year the number of customer queries is expected to be bigger than usual. It means that your agents’ skills will matter even more. Therefore, do not try to pinch pennies on training. This investment will definitely pay back.

Another reason to pay more attention to training is a work-from-home mode. The communication here is asynchronous: an agent may not receive an instant response from a manager if something happens. Moreover, they cannot learn from more experienced colleagues as they do in the office. So your training program has to be as detailed as possible.

To learn more about hiring, onboarding, and engagement work-at-home agents, read our article.

Pay Attention to Data Security

This Black Friday is expected to be the day when vast amounts of personal data will be exchanged via e-commerce websites. Make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to protect your customers’ data. Your agents have to undergo extensive background checks as well as security and fraud certification to understand acceptable security behavior and practices. Their workstations have to be updated regularly and enable firewall monitoring, spyware, adware, and virus protection.

Implementation of cloud-based call center software is also a good way to protect your customers’ data. All the necessary information is stored on the cloud servers of a certified data center. Moreover, call center software settings allow you to hide sensitive data from agents. For example, they will be able to see only a part of the customer's phone number, email address, or credit card details.


This Black Friday is expected to be unusual in many respects. There will be no crowds near brick-and-mortar stores, waiting for the opening. But these crowds are anticipated to move online so the more your online shop is prepared, the more you can benefit from this holiday rush.

Tanya Gonchar

Expert in call center process automation, Head of Marketing at Voiptime Cloud. Interested in customer service, B2B sales, marketing, business analysis.

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