at Christmas those peaks are time-critical. You must have capacity to cope with the spikes—it is not acceptable to spread them out by running backlogs in the week before Christmas. (For advice on managing peaks in the contact centre, see “Top ten tips for managing peaks” in issue 191.)
d. Make sure you have a communications structure in place, which means your contact
centre manager, warehouse manager and merchandisers are all talking to each other on a regular basis during the peak periods so that any issues with backlogs, stock availability or product problems can be highlighted and dealt with in a coordinated manner.
e. Is your staff recruitment and training programme in place for the peak season? Do
you have all the training documentation and trainers in place?
f. What happens if things go wrong? The last two years we’ve seen lots of
weather-related problems that caused real damage to consumer confidence. Whilst it’s impossible to entirely plan for such disruption you should have a what-if strategy that, at a minimum, covers how you will communicate with your customers should problems occur. Examples of good things to consider would be technologies to allow contact centre staff to work from home in an emergency or using overflow call centres in other areas of the country in order to spread the risk.
g. Talk to your carriers about their contingency plans in case of bad weather or
other disruption. What help could they give you by making it easier to access tracking information so that you can keep on top of what’s going on?
h. Finally, don’t forget that when problems do occur the work usually
escalates out of all proportion, and dealing with that will stretch your resources beyond anything you’ve planned. So, try to avoid it happening but, if it does, make sure that it’s all hands to the pumps in making sure that the customer experience is as good as possible.
Have a great season!
Will Lewis is an associate at Sterling Marketing and also works as an independent consultant to niche multichannel retailers; helping them to improve the planning, organisation and infrastructure of their businesses.
Christmas shopping is not just a UK thing 1
Ten tips for international success
Revenues from overseas sales can have an enormous positive impact on your business, just look at Asos or The Hut Group as examples. At apparel etailer Asos, international sales rose 142 percent on last year to £140 million, while at multibrand business The Hut Group, 40 percent of sales now come from overseas. It’s little wonder that more and more
retailers are opening up their websites to overseas customers. But before you do the same, Spring Global Mail, a provider of international mail services, has compiled the following top tips to ensure your international operations— especially at Christmas—are the smoothest they can be.
Market research: Conduct proper research before entering new markets. A competitive
price/service ratio is imperative for online success. You can choose to promote only a selection of your range for international customers, so look for products that are unique, exclusive, or hard to find outside of the UK.
2 3 4
Website: Restyle your website for your target country market. Language, currency, product
offering, and look and feel should be just right. Do not rely on your home market formula.
Search engines: Check your SEO activity. Make sure you are top ranked in the search
engines most commonly used in your target countries. It might not be just Google.
Payment: Don’t stick with credit cards or standard UK payment methods, but find a
payment provider that is able to offer the most commonly used payment systems in your chosen country.
Fulfilment: In the early stages of your expansion into international sales outsource
your fulfilment. Achieving economies of scale, scalability and operational excellence are essential elements for a successful online store.
Compliance: Does your business comply with the rules, regulations and tax regime of your
Parcel delivery: Most of the time, a postal solution is the most cost-effective way to send
your products to customers around the world, but sometimes a traceable parcel service is needed. Free delivery to your customers is a way to boost sales, if you can justify the cost.
Customer service: Customers may need information that is not available on your
site. Make sure you have proper communication channels in place for emails and phone calls. Use a third party supplier to arrange this for you in the local language with a local salesforce.
Returns management: Make it easy for overseas customers to return their items. Do
not make a complicated returns process a barrier to purchase.
Environmental regulations: EU regulations regarding electrical goods (WEEE) mean that branded companies and resellers must take back end-of-life electrical goods. Consumers could be allowed to return these goods at any point of sale, including online stores.
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