The media coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) has focused mainly on the customer experience and the corporate, but there has been far less coverage of the employee experience. We all know that it’s a really busy time for retailers, so how do the people working on the customer service frontline experience the BFCM weekend?

We asked our own team at Webhelp. Over 800 people responded to a detailed set of questions that took each person around 15 minutes to complete. We think that this feedback is essential because it means we can capture the experience of those providing service to retail customers, and the learnings can be applied to make improvements in 2019.

Out of the 831 people who responded to the survey, 741 of them worked on the BFCM weekend, so this was a great sample of real experiences from that weekend. In terms of differences during the BFCM weekend compared to a normal sales period, the most common observation was that the agent handled significantly more customers than usual (34.4%) or slightly more than usual (23.8%). Interestingly, 29.3% of the agents surveyed said that it was about the same as normal.

There were lots of drivers for customer contact during the BFCM weekend. The most selected responses included: price enquiries (20.6%), product enquiries (16.3%), and delivery enquiries (12.6%). So it’s clear that price and questions about products were the main contact drivers for customers – as might be expected when customers are searching for deals.

It was great to see that most customers were in a good mood when they called. We found that 42.5% agents reported a pleasant interaction, 32% said that they dealt with a happy customer, and 23.5% customers were excited. Only 9% of agents reported that a customer had been rude to them – not that this is ever desirable – so overall it seems that most customers were enjoying their bargain hunting.

The employee experience was also mostly positive. 35.5% agents reported a great buzz about working through BFCM, and 29.4% said that they just felt that it was similar to normal. The number saying that BFCM was stressful was far lower at 14.4%.

We also found that good rapport was created during the weekend. One customer realised that the agent was in South Africa and asked if they can offer tips on where to visit in Cape Town! One agent said that it’s great to start the festive season buzz with BFCM and they hope the same atmosphere can continue through to the end of the year. Several agents reported that they got a real buzz from the joy of the customer getting a great bargain from a retailer or their phone company.

Our agents even reported some interesting and sometimes amusing stories from the BFCM weekend. One customer has been saving to buy an engagement ring and he spent a long time speaking to an agent, but in the end he found that even with all the Black Friday deals, he was still going to have to save up for a bit longer before popping the question! One agent ended up talking about their favourite beers with a customer who was calling for help while enjoying a pint. Another customer called to complain about a missing item, which they found inside the packaging during their complaint call, which led to the customer and agent both laughing about the situation.

Although filled with funny stories and customer interactions, there is some serious insight presented by this feedback. What is abundantly clear from the findings and, in particular, the verbatims, is the extraordinary role our advisors play. Far from ‘just’ answering calls, they empathise, build rapport, solve problems, make people laugh, allay their concerns, reassure, represent the brand, share experiences… the list is endless.

From a practical point of view, we can see that the planning for BFCM often means that many agents don’t even notice a change in their workload. While this is not always the case, to see that nearly ¼ of the respondents didn’t notice a difference means that the planning teams planned ahead and met the challenge well. To conclude, there was a huge amount of interesting feedback – mostly positive – from which we can learn lessons, and we will! What’s for certain is that BFCM in 2019 should provide many more opportunities to laugh with even more customers as they hunt for bargains!

Thanks to the team at Webhelp for the participating in the survey and sharing your experiences. Interested in how we help our clients manage peak periods? Get in touch – we’d love to talk. E: