Customer services tactics are rapidly evolving. Technology led to a shift in the way people shop and do business, both online and in brick-and-mortar shops. Amazon leads online retailers in delivering superior customer experience, according to the 2014 Temkin Experience Survey.
The survey asked consumers for feedback about their recent interactions with companies in a full range of industries, including grocery stores, fast-food chains, retailers, and banks. Participants were asked to rank their experience on a seven-point scale in terms of three areas of customer experience: functional, accessible, and emotional. Amazon came in 15th overall, tying with fast-food chains such as Subway, to rank second among all retailers and first among online retailers.
Amazon’s ability to provide a virtual experience that delivers the same consumer satisfaction as prominent brick-and-mortar vendors exemplifies how to transfer traditional customer service principles to the digital market space. Amazon and other leading digital vendors excel at following a few fundamental principles that set them apart from their e-commerce competition.
Multichannel Is Mandatory
In Forrester’s review of the most important trends in customer service in 2014, the top trends revolved around consumers’ increasing demand for multichannel support. While service delivered by voice remains consumers’ standard preference, customers also want the option of being able to serve themselves online as well as receive digital support through chat and email.
Consumers also demand the ability to continue a customer service conversation across multiple channels, so that a ticket might be initiated by an online submission form, continued through email, and concluded over the phone. With smartphones becoming the new storefront, mobile customer service forms an integral part of this multichannel equation, with Forrester projecting that mobility will become the dominant paradigm for addressing consumer concerns.
Instant Online Support Is Expected
In an age of instant communication, consumers have come to expect the same speedy support they would experience at a physical store. LivePerson’s Connecting with Customers Report found that 71 percent of consumers expect to be able to access help within five minutes, and 48 percent will abandon the purchasing process if help is not forthcoming within this timeframe.
To address this need for instant online support, it’s vital to implement a help system that provides instant support across multiple channels, such as Zipwire’s client-focused inbound contact center, enabling shop owners to interact with online customers in real-time and follow-up with them offline as needed.
Operating online customer service 24/7 365 days a year is challenging, especially for small businesses with limited resources. New technologies, such as Channel.me, enhance online customer service, but future options might rely on intelligent decision support systems and artificial intelligence combined to offer customer service through machines rather than humans. I expect new companies with such offering in the near future as advances in these technologies increase capabilities and reduce cost.
Automated Inventory Is Essential
E-commerce created new shopping behaviors that require merchants to make adjustments to how they handle inventory in order to keep up with customer service demands.
Merchant Warehouse describes a common situation whereby approximately two out of three consumers search for information about products online before buying them in local stores, hoping to avoid shipping delays and costs, while six out of 10 of these same buyers also engage in the opposite behavior of browsing in stores and then buying online—hoping to find better prices.
One implication of this is that merchants with an effective inventory system, ones who can ensure that products are readily available when customers are in a buying mood, enjoy advantages over competitors.
The customer service paradigm for addressing this issue is Wal-Mart’s just-in-time inventory system, which uses automated sales forecasting and restocking to make sure popular products are available on schedule to meet buyer demand.
Fast Shipping Is Fundamental
In an on-demand digital shopping environment, efficient inventory stocking must be supported by equally fast shipping to customers. Amazon’s recent addition of same-day shipping options to its already-popular two-day delivery service prompted Google and Barnes & Noble to follow suit, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Most recently, industry giants seek permission to operate drones for delivering purchases within minutes or hours, not days. Surely, the days of The Jetsons are near when Amazon promises delivery within 30 minutes.
Instead of trying to compete with giants such as these, small businesses are using Amazon’s respected shipping services for order fulfillment, according to Daily Breeze. This means that smaller enterprises should expect their competition to soon be offering overnight and even same-day delivery as a matter of routine customer service. If you can’t get it there fast, your competition will.
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