We live in an increasingly digital world. Throughout the day, consumers use multiple devices and channels to communicate with, and make purchases from, the retailers they use.
Digitisation has changed the goal posts for retailers; customer service is evolving into customer convenience. And as more retailers build their services around what’s convenient for the customer, more customers are expecting faster resolution times, and are demanding a seamless service across multiple channels when dealing with a single query.
What’s more, they want businesses to use the data these interactions generate to make their experiences better. Research by CloudIQ found that 69% of respondents wanted an “individualised experience”, but that only 40% of brands appeared to be offering one.
The way retailers and their customers are communicating is changing. New channels and new expectations mean the way we engage with consumers is constantly evolving, and even the best retailers can be at risk of falling behind.
The introduction of automated solutions, like bots, has been an important start in allowing retailers to provide a rapid and superior level of customer service. Whereas automated technology is often talked about as replacing human operators, the reality is it allows agents to direct their skills to where they can make the most difference — actually servicing a customer. It’s also enabling retailers to track the customer journey with greater precision, providing their customer service agents with a holistic picture of the individual customer’s needs.
But this automation on its own won’t be enough for retailers who truly want to excel in 2018. It’s important that those businesses who really want to stand out also factor in the following when preparing their customer strategies for this year:
Three trends that are changing customer service:
1) Omnichannel service is a necessity, not a luxury
As Salesforce reported, providing omnichannel customer service isn’t an optional extra anymore. Omnichannel doesn’t just mean being present over the various channels, it’s a linked-up approach where each message, across each medium, is a part of the full conversation.
Technology provides businesses with the tools to provide these omnichannel communications. Customers expect a seamless customer experience, across any and all channels, and they expect businesses to anticipate their needs.
But it’s not enough to have a customer service presence on multiple channels. Retailers must use platforms that provide a holistic view of the customer journey and experience.
Using automated systems to track interactions from multiple channels, businesses can present any customer service agent with a complete picture of the customer’s experience with the retailer. It lets call centre staff see what the customer asked on Twitter, and allows them to go through the transcript of previous webchats. This technology means customers don’t have to repeat their query, and its entire history and agents have more context to make the right decision for the customer and retailer. It ensures every agent can see the customer behind their current interaction, and service them appropriately. In short, it allows a more effective, and a more efficient, system.
2) Customer convenience is a core service
We live in a world that never sleeps. It’s not enough to have a 9-5 customer service team that only responds at times that suit the business rather than responding to customers as and when they need assistance.
Our research into our retail clients has shown a shift away from ‘experience’ towards ‘convenience’. This refers to the customer expecting quick responses on the channel that suits them, at the time that suits them. It’s becoming less about a personable touch, and more about having the information available almost instantly.
Customers don’t just expect the customer service agent to know the ins and outs of their problem; they expect to get a response, no matter what day or time it is.
3) Automated technology is driving shorter response times and faster resolution
Retailers that want to be identified as a “fast responder” on Facebook Messenger need to have response times of 15 minutes or under, and respond to at least 90% of messages. But some research suggests that even this is a long wait for some customers.
One survey of UK consumers, by IMImobile Consumer Interaction, reported that 67% of consumers expected a response from a business in less than five minutes from posting a query.
As retailers start introducing automated technology to deal with simple queries – such as a bot answering ‘where is my order’ questions – those late to the game will start to see their customer satisfaction scores suffer. Bots can answer simple queries more quickly than their human counterparts, which can improve the customer experience.
But a great experience isn’t just about fast service. Automation technology can support customer service agents by hunting down the right information that they need in order to provide quality customer care. It frees them up from routine ‘where’s my order’ queries (up to 90% of all customer service queries, according to our research), and allows them to focus on providing proactive customer care – something that can give retailers a clear competitive advantage. It is this clever pairing of human and machine responses by leading brands which provides the strongest results.
These three trends won’t be what separate the cutting-edge retailers from the chasing pack. Instead, these are the things which every brand should be focusing on to ensure they don’t get left behind, as customer communication continues to become ever more important to businesses, and especially retailers.
Jack Barmby is the Founder and CEO of Gnatta, who help retailers to deliver universal customer engagement through the use of specialised software.