L.L. Bean Game Plans for Cyber Monday

The Maine retailer made customer service its top priority as its director of operations says it spent the entire year preparing for a big online shopping day.

According to the National Retail Federation, about 133 million people are shopping online this Cyber Monday, with traffic expected to peak from 8-10 p.m.

"Cyber Monday is just the ultimate. It's kind of the Super Bowl for us," said Bruce Walker, director of operations for Maine retailer L.L. Bean. "We'll have over a million visitors today to our website."

Walker says the company will meet the demand with some 2,400 customer service representatives working out of three call centers in Bangor, Portland and Auburn.

He says roughly 15 percent of phone calls coming into the call centers begin as a website transaction.

While some companies try to increase Cyber Monday traffic flow with a few deeply discounted loss-leaders, L.L. Bean is offering an across-the-board, 10 percent discount on merchandise.

Walker says their representatives are expected to take 200,000 calls and complete 100,000 orders before the clock strikes midnight.

"You feed off the energy," said Stuart Hammond, a veteran customer service representative. "I do look at us as elves sometimes. I'll even say that to the customer, you know, the elves are pretty busy today."

Thanks to a cold and snowy November, Walker says the company, famous for outerwear, headed into Cyber Monday with strong retails sales. Popular items this shopping season include anything plaid and, of course, the Bean Boot.

"The Bean Boots are screaming hot," said Walker. "We will make more boots this year, than we ever have in our history."

Like the Super Bowl, Walker says, the company spends the entire year coming up with a game plan to to make sure this day is a winner.

The traffic control department monitors incoming calls every second to make sure customers don't wait too long. LL Bean tries to answer each phone call within 20 seconds.

On Cyber Monday, that's not always possible. But when traffic control notices calls getting backed up, the department calls what's called a "Code Green."

At that point, staffers from every department with phone training stop what they're doing and put on a head set.

"It's a really well-coordinated effort to capture the phone calls coming into call centers," said Judy Murphy in traffic control. "We can get an extra 50-60 people on the phones pretty quickly."

The goal is to prevent customers from hanging up and redialing, which can bring even the most sophisticated system to its knees.

"It's not going to go down this year," said a hopeful Walker, waving his crossed fingers in the air.

The goal is to move through the call volume quickly without ever letting customers feel they've been kept waiting too long, or are being rushed through a transaction.

The reps say they will always take time to answer a question about Maine, especially if it pertains to the weather.

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