Holiday Business Risks: Avoiding Seasonal Pitfalls

Avoid seasonal pitfalls with tips to mitigate holiday business risks. Protect your business and ensure a successful season. Learn more.

Jon Tucker
CEO HelpFlow
Holiday Business Risks: Avoiding Seasonal Pitfalls

In e-commerce, a significant portion of your sales occurs during Q4. While it’s a favorable time of year, it can also become challenging if any issues arise in your business, especially related to holiday business risks.

One or two small problems can kill your revenue for the quarter and leave you waiting for next year to recover. Here’s a few things you need to anticipate.

Don’t blow it this holiday season ; )

Holiday Business Risks: What If Your Key Employee Leaves?

No matter how much you trust your team, there’s always a risk that people will not be there when you need them.

While Sarah, your right hand in customer service, may never intentionally leave you hanging on the day before Black Friday, unforeseen emergencies or unexpected events can disrupt her availability. Regardless of the cause, it remains your responsibility to ensure the business stays afloat during such critical times, especially considering holiday business risks.

Take a look around your office or virtual team roster and ask yourself…

  • If this guy disappears without notice, what would I be scrambling to handle?
  • Who else could handle that woman’s job?
If they leave, what the hell am I going to do?

Hopefully this doesn’t happen to you, but it happens to everyone at least once in their entrepreneurial career.

Here are a few specific things you need to do in order to be able to handle this when it happens. And it could happen this quarter…

Document Your Processes

You don’t need to map out your entire business and every single button your team presses. But having basic documentation of how key things in the business are handled is important.

For example, if a return needs to be processed, how is that decision made? Once a return is approved, what are the logistics of making it happen in a great way for the customer?

While someone specific on your team might handle these things right now, it’s important to have a basic checklist of what is being done in case someone else needs to step in to the role.

Don’t Use Odd Ball Systems

If you use a home grown customer service system that you or someone on your team built over time, this can become a huge hassle when you try to bring in new people.

For example, if your key team member bails and you need to hire temporary help, your odd ball customer service process is going to be a nightmare to train them on.

You might not be able to refine your customer service system before the holiday rush, but at least be aware in advance if that’s going to be a problem when you go to train new people. Maybe address it next year.

Have a Hiring Plan

You don’t need to hire a replacement for someone that’s reliable now, but you need to know how you would replace them quickly.

For example, where would you find a replacement, what types of qualifications would help you quickly filter applicants, and what’s the maximum amount you can pay to get somebody good in a crunch?

Websites like can be really helpful to find people quickly, but you need to know who you’re looking for and what your budget is to move fast.  

Holiday Business Risks blueprint

Bulk Up Your Customer Service for the Holidays

If you’re only offering customer service during business hours, and not on nights and weekends, this doesn’t cut it for the holidays.

People use e-commerce for convenience, which during the holiday often means doing their shopping at night after the kids go to bed or on the weekend when they’re working.

If you’re not available and responsive nights and weekends, your (almost) customers will just go to a competitor.

This doesn’t mean you need offer 24 hour seven day per week coverage, but you do need to be available more than just 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. If you’re mainly selling to the North American market, make sure you’re available 15 hours per day, with coverage into a late evening around 11 PM. More people will be buying late at night versus early in the morning.

Holiday Business Risks risk

You can find additional customer service help for after hours by using websites like Upwork and having a simple process on how to handle tickets. Yes this will take some training time, but not being available outside of business hours will hurt you this holiday season.

Make It Easy to Ask Questions – Use Live Chat

People are often in a rush when doing holiday shopping. They are on multiple websites and just trying to crank through their shopping list while they have time.

  • If you only offer email support, that’s not fast enough. People want responses quickly so they can finish up their order.
  • Phone support allows for quick response, but has a few big downsides. First, it’s costly to staff a phone support team that can handle multiple calls at the same time since you’ll need multiple people. Also, most visitors with quick questions won’t pick up the phone because it’s a bit too high friction for them

The best option is to provide live chat at all hours, and respond to messages quickly. Visitors prefer live chat over other support channels because it’s fast and easy, and fits into their workflow while multitasking.

Holiday Business Risks blueprint 2

Here are a few things you must get right with live chat, otherwise it can actually hurt your conversion rate

Don’t Use Pre-Chat Forms

Don’t require visitors to complete a form before they can ask their question. This just puts a wall in front of them. Make it easy to click the checkbox and ask a question.

DONT Do This

Holiday Business Risks don't use

Instead, Do This – Just allow them to click to chat

Holiday Business Risks click

Automatically Invite Visitors to Chat

Don’t just offer a “click to chat” option. Invite people to chat based on what they’re doing on the site. This enables you to connect with people when they likely have a question and help them through the purchase process.

Holiday Business Risks 3

Response FAST – 4 to 6 Seconds

When somebody clicks on the chat box and asks a question, you need to respond within 4 to 6 seconds.

Live chat is one of the few channels that will hurt your conversion rate if you do it poorly.

If you take longer than 4-6 seconds, the entire website’s conversion rate will go down. People sit there and wait for a response, they get frustrated as the seconds pass, and then they leave.

Visitors that would have purchased without live chat being there get frustrated and leave – do chat, but do it well ; )

We’ve Helped 100s of eCommerce Stores

At HelpFlow, we run live chat for a ton of ecommerce stores:

  • We can be available all day every day, to answer visitors’ questions on live chat
  • We have a methodical way to learn your business.
  • We can be up and running in 1 week!

Adding HelpFlow to your website can increase conversion rates 10-30%, which is tracked directly within Google Analytics. Below is a Client of ours showing before and after results. The ONLY difference between these time periods was adding HelpFlow.

Holiday Business Risks blueprint 4
Your Store Needs a 24/7 Live Chat Team

HelpFlow can drive sales by having our team of human agents available on live chat 24/7 to predict and save abandons before they happen, proactively reach out and engage with visitors via SMS and email after they abandon, and by answering visitor questions live on your website to convert visitors.

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