Manic Monday: How to handle the extra demand

08 December 2014 / Chris Hancock

Today the retail world will be hit by what is known as ‘Manic Monday’: the last day to order presents for a guaranteed delivery before Christmas. It follows the phenomenon from the USA of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which got social media in a storm with videos emerging of endless queuing and panic buying. As more people talk about these significant days in the shopping calendar, it only draws more attention and therefore inflates the hype and starts the queues around the block earlier.

Retailers planned well this year with their sales widely advertised, and so far I haven’t seen any reports of bad stock management. If we can assume that these shopping days will become a regular fixture for British shoppers, this planning needs to continue and in fact, be more efficient to ensure customers have the best possible experience.

Recently, I wrote about ‘the new science of customer experience’ in The Drum. I talked about using a three-step method to ensuring your customer experience is at the top of its game: audit, improve, and innovate. This includes not only your contact centre resources, but the user experience on your website.

On Cyber Monday, it was estimated that online sales amounted to a staggering £650m (source: IMRG). Brían Taylor, our Digital Managing Director, commented that the winning retailers would’ve been those that provided customers with a great online user experience and particularly, those that have taken a mobile-first approach. For example, they are the sites that have removed the clutter, provided clear signposting, shortened the user journey and given users a sense of control over the experience. They are the ones that offer multi-channel support, provide clear price comparison and guest check out giving users confidence in their purchasing decision.

As users abandon poorly designed websites within the first 10 seconds of landing, it’s so important to get this experience right and get cut through in this competitive environment.

But what about when the customer needs offline support? Customers who place an order may want to speak to someone on the phone about their order or indeed, comment or complain about their experience online. Volumes in calls for these businesses increase significantly between Black Friday right through to early January, when the inevitable returns are made. There’s a distinct time frame for this increase, so it makes sense to prepare.

At Jaywing, we manage the customer service centre for a client that will experience an anticipated increase in calls over this period. So, we have added 50% extra agent resource on top of business-as-usual. However, this figure isn’t just plucked out of the air: we’ve calculated it from a ratio of the current and expected volumes of items needing to be serviced. We then manage the increase in agents through temporary team members and get help from existing permanent agents, who are incentivised with more than just the Christmas spirit.

But what’s really important apart from managing the numbers is ensuring that the agents see each caller as the individual that they are. It’s easy to see the queue numbers and feel the need to plough through them, but that doesn’t provide those individuals with the customer experience they deserve. The Christmas period may generate new callers, or existing customers may need to talk to us too, but every customer will form a perception of the client through our agents. It’s therefore vital to ensure they are satisfied with their experience.

So no matter how you handle your  customer queries – whether that’s online, via a contact centre or both – when demand is expected to be high, it’s important to ensure the processes you have in place can handle it. This may be your long-term processes, such as reviewing the user experience of your website. Or it could be short-term through the creation of additional contact centre agents. But remember among the madness of Manic Monday and the other big shopping days; every customer is unique, so treat them that way.