What happened over peak?

In retail there is one critical four letter word. Peak. 

Peak can make or break a year. And for most retailers it falls right around the end of the year with Black Friday, Christmas, January sales and any manner of spin-off promotions. If you don’t have a good peak, you aren’t coming back.

For customer service teams within retailers, a good peak is a double-edged sword. Because the better it goes, the more orders that come in, the more that things can go wrong. 

If you had a tough peak, then you are not alone. Across our customers, there was an average increase in tickets of 15%. Some of that growth will be organic because the business itself is growing, but any increase poses problems for retailers. 

Let’s take a deeper look. 

Where Is My Order queries are massive, but not as big as 2022. 

The good news for most retailers is that peak period 2023 was not as bad for WISMO (where is my order) queries as 2022. 

2022 in the UK saw a perfect storm of post office strikes, IT system failures among other fulfilment companies meaning that lots of parcels were not arriving on time. This year, however, the situation was not as bad overall so if you had a bad time, it was probably due to something internal in your business, or you just got unlucky. Sorry.

WISMO is still the most likely single reason why a customer would get in touch, but the overall WISMO numbers were down 8% year on year across November and December. Considering this is against an average ticket growth of 15%, then the effect is more stark. 

If you want to find out how you and your team can avoid having to answer WISMO questions again, make sure you join our webinar on January 31st. 

WISMO queries peaked on December 4th, a week and a half after Black Friday. Black Friday itself saw a small dip in the number of WISMO queries, a calm before the storm as customers started to fret about getting their orders in good time. 

The graph below shows how large the peaks are compared to a typical day (in this case August 1st), so you can see how WISMO grows to around 80% higher than normal volumes. 

Christmas itself was when WISMO queries fell to their lowest over the period – so it’s nice to know that most people got their presents in time. 

Quality issues increased massively this year, while changes to orders increased modestly

On the flip side, there was a significant increase in queries related to the quality of the product (product arrived damaged, would not switch on, faulty). There was an increase of 41% across our customers this year compared to last. 

Reasons for this will vary from retailer to retailer, and can include items that were damaged in transit, factory or warehouse issues, as well as quality issues resulting from the rush to get orders out for Christmas. 

A frustrating category of queries are those we group under “Change Order”. These include cancelling orders, changing the items in an order, or the shipping address plus other issues. These saw an increase in volumes of 8%, well below the average increase in tickets but still a notable increase.

A top tip for these tickets is to delay processing the order for an hour as many customers realise that they’ve made a mistake with their order in the first hour, so many of the problems can be caught before they create adverse consequences for the business – such as having to handle returns or replacement orders.

Takeback Tuesday is not a myth, but it was not the peak for returns questions

The Royal Mail termed the 2nd January 2024 as “Takeback Tuesday” – the day that shipping return orders peaks. 

According to our data, the 2nd January is one of the highest days for customers to ask questions about returns – whether it’s how to return, getting a return label, or any other questions you could think of – but it’s not the highest. 

This isn’t a great surprise as people will ask questions about returns before they actually choose to do it. 

Like WISMO queries, there is a bit of a lull around Black Friday when queries about return are below a typical day, but once Black Friday is out of the way, the peaks jump up and they keep on coming. 

Unlike WISMO queries though, Christmas Day sees a step up in questions about returns – and Christmas Eve is one of the lowest days in the whole peak period. Christmas Day is below normal levels, but there are still a significant number of people who are not happy with their gifts and want to deal with it immediately! 

Conclusion

It’s no surprise that peak trading results in massive jumps in questions for customer service teams. This has always presented a resource-planning headache for customer service teams as they try to delight customers during the most critical time of the year.

Remember that this period often means heavy discounting in the hope of winning new customers, that then become lifetime customers. If customer service can’t rise to the challenge and provide excellence over this period, then these customers can be lost forever. 

The good news is that tools like DigitalGenius can help you to resolve some of these common, repetitive questions to the same effectiveness as an agent, only much much faster.

To find out how you can stop your team from dealing with WISMO queries and start focusing solely on issues where they can provide value to customers, make sure you sign up for our webinar today.