Meeting Expectations For Online Customer Service This Christmas

Bit early to be talking about Christmas? Well ready or not – plans for Christmas in the retail sector are already well and truly under way, with predictions for the top sellers having already been released by retail brands Currys and Hamleys.

Whilst the general publics’ minds are still occupied with the summer holidays, retailers are armed with a new range of toys and gadgets, festive adverts and POS material to tempt the consumer over the forthcoming weeks.

But are businesses ready to meet consumers’ expectations for service across their many digital touch-points?

Despite recent news coverage telling us that multi-channel has risen in importance in 2013 from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’, a recent study conducted by IBM and Forrester indicates that most businesses still have a way to go. Some of the key statistics include:

  • 83% of UK businesses still use telephone contact centres as their primary way of dealing with enquiries.
  • Only 33% of UK companies currently offer online live help.
  • Only 43% of UK companies offer mobile or tablet optimised sites.
  • Only 39% of UK companies offer information, purchase or customer service focused apps.
  • 30% of UK businesses don’t have any immediate plans to use social media platforms to enable consumers to research company information before buying products.

Consumers want ease and convenience when shopping online and with the seasonal surge in sales expected from October onwards, the race is on for retailers to meet consumers growing expectations for a seamless pre and post sales experience.

Industry research body IMRG e-Retail Sales Index revealed that online retail sales are growing faster than the £87bn predicted for this year. Its figures for June showed that retail sales were up 20% year on year, the strongest growth since June 2011, with M-commerce sales also increasing sharply by 136% year on year. These figures clearly show the extent of growth in digital channels for retail shopping, with these figures set to peak during the Christmas period.

So what do retailers need to consider as part of a multi-channel offering:

  • Arm agents with knowledge: Todays consumer is highly researched –using recommendations via social media and online forums, meaning they may well know as much as, or possibly even more than the store staff or contact centre member serving them. Arming your staff with a constantly up-dated knowledge-base of information on products and services will ensure up-to-date and consistent information is given to customers, be it in-store, online or in the contact centre.
  • 24/7 self service: 90% of consumers will always check a website before e-mailing or calling a company, so make it easy for them to find information quickly and easily across your web, mobile and social channels. Offering web self-service and live chat online will dramatically deflect the need for customers to escalate enquiries to e-mail or phone contact.
  • Recognise channel constraints: Optimise your mobile self-service offering with a large touch-friendly interface, minimizing the number of key presses needed for navigation and condensing information given, to improve ease of use on a small screen.
  • Above all – be consistent! Customers use a number of channels to contact a business over so ensure that the same level of service and information is offered across every touch-point. A centralised knowledge-base, extended across all channels, will ensure the customer receives a joined-up customer service.

With a clear disparity between the customer service retailers provide online and what customers actually want – retailers must work hard to improve how they engage with customers across digital channels this Christmas or risk a disappointing sales performance.

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