In the January 2018 edition of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, the Institute of Customer Service uses research to show that businesses who consistently achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction benefit from stronger turnover growth, profit and employee productivity.
Customer service matters when it comes to business success. However, when customers increasingly shop online and interact less frequently with retail staff, how do retailers make sure customers are looked after? Research firm Gartner says that by 2020 the customer will manage 85% of its relationship with a business without any human interaction. This issue is going to become significantly larger and more critical in the next couple of years.
The Era of The Consumer
There was an excellent talk last year by Igor Beuker (expert on emerging trends and innovation) in which he said that audiences will:
“swipe your brand to one side like they do a Tinder profile”
This is the era of the consumer – they no longer stick with brands that don’t consider their needs. When ecommerce websites were short on the ground, customers would get excited by the latest one, often having to work around pitfalls and bugs in order to buy their coveted item.
With so much choice these days, brands need to step up to the next level and fulfil the consumers’ needs and desires to remain attractive and relevant. If they don’t, customers won’t be forgiving. They’ll *swipe* you out of their life without a second thought. We’ve seen this sadly with the recent demise of big retail brands like Toys R Us.
Customer Service in the Digital Age
Every year the number of Consumers shopping online increases and will continue to do so. In January 2018, UK online retail sales value grew 13.9% year-on-year and we saw similar levels of growth in 2016 and 2017 (IMRG Capgemini Sales Index). Retailers need to support this buying behaviour and offer the customers the same experience online as they would in the store – including customer service.
You wouldn’t have a shop without staff to help, so you shouldn’t have a website that offers no customer assistance. Surface as much useful information as you can, in an easy-to-find manner so customers can help themselves:
- Transparent product stock-levels and stock check facility
- Up–to–date and in-depth information about products and services
- Consistent pricing online and offline, including special offers
- The ability to see orders and their status
- Delivery and tracking details
…and if all else fails, an easy way to speak to someone via real-time chat facilities is a must – as many as 77% of customers won’t make a purchase on a website if there’s no live chat option available (FurstPurson 2016).
51% of consumers say a business needs to be available 24/7 (Ubisend 2016). You might not be able to be around every hour of the day to offer assistance, so if your website isn’t helping them, then they are most likely to abandon their purchase and go elsewhere.
The customer-centric features of technology mentioned above are important, but you mustn’t forget to connect it all together so that information across all your systems is synchronised and transparent. Connecting retail systems doesn’t need to be difficult. You can use systems like Talisman Innovation’s TIDE to connect retail systems up quickly to help you offer customers a joined-up retail experience.
This enables the customer to self-serve as much as possible. Plus, your customer service team has the latest details at hand in case a customer should need to contact them about their account or purchases.
If customers have to work too hard to explain their issue to customer service staff or need to give them too many details about their order, they can become frustrated. This affects their perception of the retailer and could send them heading off to another brand for their next transaction – 89% of customers move their business to a competitor following a poor customer experience (Oracle).
The New USP
Customer service is quickly becoming a unique selling point (USP) for retailers. Although 75% of businesses believe they are customer-centric, only 30% of consumers agree that they are (Capgemini June 2017).
There is a huge opportunity for retailers to stand out and increase sales by offering consistent, outstanding customer service – online and offline.