What was bothering customers this peak period?

22 Feb 2023

6.5 min read

We are now coming to the end of February and are well out of peak period. However, we wanted to wait for things to settle before we finalised any data. During peak period, there were a lot of problems with deliveries being late. Evri issued not one but two apologies between November and January, Royal Mail workers went on strike in the lead up to Christmas, and DPD temporarily suspended next-day deliveries for 5% of UK postcodes. 

While none of those issues are retailers’ faults directly, it didn’t stop consumers from asking “Where is my order?” (which we’ll abbreviate to WISMO from now on). 

Plus, with unwanted Christmas presents, was there a spike in questions about returns in January as people looked to check whether they were entitled to return the present they received.

With these questions and others in mind, we took a look at our data to see what the story was during the peak period. DigitalGenius uses AI to detect the intent behind customer queries with a high degree of accuracy. So if a customer is asking a retailer “Where is my order?” or “My order hasn’t arrived” or any other variation, our platform can detect it. Once detected, the retailer can then automate its responses.

We’ve looked at ticket volume (the number of shopper queries) across the retailers we work with, and the intents within those customer queries. Here’s what we’ve found. 


Ticket volumes spiked by 20% across the peak period 

We took a look at the ticket volumes in each month up to and including peak period. Taking August 2022 as a baseline, by December 2022, this figure was 23.5% higher, and continued at that level into January. Even February is seeing 15% more tickets per day than August.

For retailers with limited capacity, a 20% increase in tickets is a massive increase to accommodate, and without customer service automation this means either increasing your customer service team by around 20%, or providing a much worse customer experience.

Ticket volumes were higher this year vs last

When we compared like for like across customer data during November to January, the peak months, it became evident that there was a higher volume of tickets this year than last year.

An interesting trend we've come across while doing our data research revealed that in 2021, November had the lowest number of tickets per day compared to December and January, which had an 18% and 12% increase respectively. However, November 2022 saw a significant increase in ticket volumes, with a 65% higher volume than the same time the previous year, making it the highest month for tickets for this group of retailers.

Why is this? Part of it is because we work with a number of high growth retailers who will naturally be receiving more questions this year compared to last year. There are many other variables at play, including if retailers have used tactics to reduce their tickets overall with more self-service tools. But, even with those factors, such a large growth suggests that there was a significant increase in tickets caused by problems in the supply chain. 


WISMO queries were 51% higher during peak than before

Looking at this same cohort of retailers – if we compare the period from the end of the last peak period, i.e. February 2022, until the beginning of the next, we see that the number of WISMO enquiries retailers get each day jumped a whopping 51% on average. 

While overall volumes of tickets increased, as we have seen, this is a particularly high growth for what is already the most common query retailers receive. Let’s give an example for a sense of scale: the number of queries asking “How to Return” jumped by 20% during this period, a much more proportional rise. Meanwhile queries about the status of a return were almost exactly flat over peak period compared to the period before. 

Change in volume of select intents from non-peak period to peak 

Although this is a comparatively simple query to automate, if retailers are not automatically resolving the majority of these queries without agent involvement then they are creating inefficiencies in their customer support processes.

On top of that, looking at the table, we can see that a large proportion of queries are asking retailers to change the delivery address on the shipment. This could be for presents that were on their way to the wrong house for example. A good thing for retailers to consider might be putting in a suggestion to the customer screen telling them to double check the address to avert them sending it to the wrong address, stopping these queries at source. 

Similarly, there was also a large jump in requests to cancel orders, which posed a different problem to retailers as they try to negotiate a complex series of orders over the peak period. Again, with the right platform the responses to these queries can easily be automated which will make it easier for retailers to handle them.

Consumer Goods and Food & Beverage saw the most WISMO queries

WISMO enquiries are almost always the top query any online retailer faces, and it’s a particularly frustrating one because it depends so much on the performance of third-parties. Some verticals are more prone to it than others, however. 

We saw that while WISMO queries were around 25% of queries across all our customers this peak period, for those in consumer goods and electronics that figure was over 33%. Over a third of queries were related to a simple question.

By comparison, WISMO queries made up around 16% of queries that footwear retailers saw. These retailers were the exception that proves the rule, because they saw more questions about the status of returns than WISMO queries.  

Proportion of all tickets that were WISMO or asking about return status

There were more queries about missing items this year compared to last

Peak period is a time where all processes get tested to the extreme. One of the toughest to deal with is missing items, because it means that retailers have to pay twice for delivery on the same order. As a proportion of overall queries, missing items made up just over 4% of all queries this year, up from 2.8% the year before. 

However it does not look so bad when complaints about Missing Items are combined with Faulty Products and Arrived Damaged. All three queries make up 8.1% of all queries this peak period, slightly down from 8.2% the year before. 

Missing, faulty and damaged items

Using AI-driven image recognition, retailers can automate their responses to some of these queries by detecting damage automatically and following processes accordingly. 


So what was bothering customers this peak period? After all the analysis, it’s not a great surprise that customers mostly wanted to know where their orders were. For retailers this presents a familiar challenge – as they look to scale their systems to deal with the strains of peak, any increase in business leads to a proportional increase in support tickets.

For repetitive queries like Where Is My Order, or How Do I Return this Order, retailers can look to address these issues with automation which helps them tackle responses en masse. By detecting these intentions and automating the processes an agent would take, retailers can improve their response time to their customers, and resolve tickets faster. This also frees up the agents to focus on the more complex issues, and to even upsell and provide recommendations to customers, turning the contact centre from a cost centre to a value centre.

To find out how DigitalGenius can help you scale your support for peak, book a demo today.