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Overflow: How To Successfully Manage Customer Inquiries During The Holiday Season

There may be no such thing as a stupid question, but there are plenty of questionable questions. Just ask anyone who has sold on Amazon for over a year.

To be fair, there’s plenty of questions which are legitimate, well-intentioned and entirely fair. But during the holiday season when you’re gasping for air just to ensure every last shipment is accounted for, even the most reasonable question can seem like the very definition of absurdity.

But are customers to blame for your difficulty in managing inquiries—or are you?

Delays: The New Two Day Shipping?

A major draw for many Amazon Prime customers isn’t just amazing discounts. It’s also Prime's free expedited shipping. But even for non Prime customers, Amazon has always enjoyed their well-earned status as setting the bar for eCommerce fulfillment and delivery. After all, they practically invented it.

That changed in 2020. Not only has the coronavirus entirely disrupted our everyday lives and interactions, it’s forced us to adapt in ways none of us ever imagined. And for the most part, consumers have been able to adjust to the inevitable delays and restrictions with understanding—even if conditions are far from ideal.

But for many Amazon Prime customers, those delays aren’t just a nuisance. They’re a source of frustration. In May, it was reported that over 11 percent of reviews left for third party sellers were negative—more than twice the amount reported during normal holiday operations. Nor were these orders necessarily the nonessential items Amazon temporarily suspended orders of in March.

To be fair, these lapses shouldn’t necessarily be attributed to Amazon’s fulfillment process, nor to the US Postal Service. They’re essentially the result of confronting a public health crisis few of us were in the slightest bit prepared for. But many Amazon customers can be as fickle as they are fanatical. And if there’s an overflow between supply, demand and fulfillment, sellers should be forewarned they may expect to hear an earful from irate customers.

Streamlining The Customer Inquiry Experience

1. 2020 Will Not Be The Same As Last Year

No matter how consistent your sales volume has been in previous years, the 2020 holiday season will be similar to the previous ten months: absolutely unpredictable. Everything from a non stop barrage of questions to limited disposable income can and will affect your business. And you had better be prepared to stay on top of things. Before you cave in to the pressure, ask yourself the following:

  • How detailed is my Amazon listing?

  • Is there a FAQ section which can eliminate the need for repetitive questions?

  • Do I have an inventory management process in place, including a backup to handle increased demand?

  • Should I consider outsourcing customer service and order fulfillment?

  • Am I prepared for increased sales? Am I prepared for a decrease in sales?

  • Should I use 2020 as a benchmark for forecasting? Or is 2020 an anomaly?

2. Set Customer Expectations Ahead Of Time

Just because you’re expecting business to be unusual doesn’t mean your customers necessarily will. Even if you’re a one person operation, there’s a good chance customers will be expecting you to have taken on additional help in managing during the holidays—regardless of your budget.

While Amazon automatically calculates and updates delivery times, make certain your listing also includes a notice that customers may experience potential delays. If there’s any change in availability or if you’re offering an extended return period, update your FAQ section accordingly. You may also want to set a maximum amount of orders per customer if you’re expecting any potential shortages in your stock.

3. Mobile Security Is Critical

It’s been estimated that mobile shopping will account for approximately $314 billion by the end of 2020. And a large chunk of that figure will be the result of holiday shopping.

Unfortunately, the increased reliance on m-commerce also means a spike in fraud and identity theft during the holidays by almost 43 percent, according to a recent report from Experian. As consumers grow more comfortable with mobile shopping, they’ll also be expecting businesses to contact them through smartphones and tablets to confirm orders. Amazon suggests accepting Marketplace Payments as a secure alternative and we agree. Additional outside expertise can also be invaluable in addressing security breaches if you’re currently lacking a fraud detection infrastructure.

4. Automate Your Shipping Process

When we said earlier that business during the 2020 holidays will not be conducted as usual, we weren’t kidding. But if you’re thinking of relying on spreadsheets to keep accurate track of orders and shipping? Think again.

Amazon FBA services and third party logistic providers are unquestionably your little helper during the holidays. But you’re also going to need shipping software with an all-in-one dashboard which allows you to manage orders, compare rates and invoice accounts for your own internal operations. Relying on an outside party for order fulfillment is one thing. But during the holidays, keeping track of your own in-house processes can be as confusing as it is time-consuming. And the clearer your operations are, the easier it is to keep your head above water during the holidays.

5. Outsource Your Account Management

No one will know your business better than you will. But no one can predict your success. Not even you.

There’s a lot riding on the growth of your business. New product lines. New markets. And new challenges. At the end of the year, the last thing you need to worry about is inventory and visibility. Outsourcing your account management helps you meet the challenges of growing your business without worrying about optimizing your marketing campaigns or fulfilling orders. You might not have the time, but they do. And during the holidays, they can be the dam between customer overflow… and calmer waters.


Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your ecommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.

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