This article focuses on how creative and cultural individuals and organisations can keep customer service running smoothly during the festive period. The run-up to Christmas is a busy time for shopping online and customers are even more anxious to make sure they receive orders on time for the big day. The combination of large order volumes, over-stretched courier networks, and any bad weather, such as snow, can create large volumes of calls and emails to your customer service team.
In this article, we highlight 5 best practice tips to proactively manage communications with your customers and minimise workload for your customer service team
1. Learn from last year
Take a moment to reflect on what happened in your eCommerce last year over the festive period. Did your order volumes increase? What effect did this have on your customer service team? Were customers happy with your delivery service? Were there any particular questions from customers that came up a lot?
Reflecting on your experience last year can help you pinpoint areas for improvement in the festive season to come.
2. Calculate a realistic ‘last order’ date and ‘cut-off’ time
Customers want to know that their order will arrive in time for Christmas, therefore your organisation needs to set a realistic ‘last order’ date and ‘cut-off’ time. The ‘last order’ date is the last date that a customer can place an order and expect it to arrive before Christmas. The ‘cut-off’ time is the time on that day, before which they must place their order.
You will need to calculate a different last order date for each delivery service you offer – i.e. the last order date for your Next Day delivery service, will be different to that of your Standard delivery service. If you offer International delivery services, these will of course need to be much earlier and can vary significantly by country.
How to calculate a ‘last order’ date
- For your chosen delivery service, identify the last day of posting. These dates are published online, for example: Royal Mail last posting dates.
- Decide if you want to build in any buffer days – 1 or 2 extra days, to give some extra peace of mind that orders will definitely arrive in time.
- Calculate how many days are required for your team to pick and pack online orders. This is the time it takes between an order being received online, to it leaving your building for delivery. Bear in mind that order volumes are likely to be higher close to Christmas, so make sure you factor in enough time for this.
- Using this information count back the days to reach the last order date for your organisation.
3. Make information about your delivery service easy to find and understand
Make sure it’s easy for customers to find information about your delivery service and in particular those vital ‘last order dates’.
- On your Delivery page, clearly display your Christmas last order dates for each delivery service. It’s a good idea to put this at the top of the Delivery page.
- Make sure your Delivery page is clearly signposted from your site footer and from your menu navigation.
- If your Product pages show delivery information, update this to show Christmas last order dates too.
- Consider using site wide header banners to highlight your last order dates.
Make sure information about your delivery service is easy to understand.
- Specify your delivery service commitment in working days for each of the different delivery services your offer.
- Publish a cut-off time for expedited services such as Next Day delivery. For example, ‘Orders must be placed by 2pm for Next Day delivery’.
4. Proactively manage customer expectations
‘Where’s my order?’ is the number one customer service enquiry in the run-up to Christmas as customers anxiously wait for gifts for loved ones to arrive. The more you can proactively communicate with customers and manage their expectations, the more you can reduce this workload.
- On your Order Confirmation email – highlight which delivery service a customer has chosen and reiterate how many days this is expected to take.
- Send your customers an email when their order has been shipped. ‘Order Shipped’ is a major change of order status in all eCommerce platforms and can be used to trigger an email to your customer. This will reassure them that their order is on its way. Again, reiterate the delivery service commitment, i.e. in how many days they can expect to receive their order.
- Offer a tracked delivery service – this is the best way to give your customers peace of mind about where their order is. The tracking code can be provided to customers in the Order Shipped email.
5. Proactively respond to disruptions
Even the best laid plans can run awry, so your organisation needs to be ready to respond to any disruptions to your service. The most common disruption is bad weather, namely snow and ice, which causes back logs and delays in courier networks.
- Be ready to make last-minute changes to your last order dates. If there are problems with snow which are affecting delivery dates, it can be prudent to move your last order date.
- If delays are affecting deliveries, consider adding a note and explanation on your main Delivery page. For example, explain that bad weather is causing delays of 1 to 2 days.
The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn and LinkedIn for the latest updates.