Customer service: the last unoptimised piece in the omnichannel puzzle – Steve Powell is Director of Sales, EMEA, at PCMS
The rapid evolution of the retail landscape has arguably been driven by the increasing expectations of today’s connected customers. But despite modern retailers claiming to focus on improving the ‘customer experience’ throughout the purchasing and delivery process, attention has somewhat eased when it comes to retailers’ focus on customer service channels and best practice.
And it’s a missed opportunity, to say the least. Our recent research found that customer service is by far the biggest influence on customer retention and loyalty, as almost half of shoppers (49%) say helpful customer service is the deciding factor in whether they buy from the same retailer again.
To offer a truly integrated omnichannel experience, retailers must now switch attention back to their customer service solutions. Here, Steve Powell, Director of Sales – EMEA at PCMS, outlines some of the key areas that should be considered when looking to optimise customer service:
Enhance the customer journey
At its most basic level, customer service provides an opportunity to turn a potentially negative interaction around by listening carefully to what a customer wants. For example, a complaint about an item not being available can be rectified and turned into a sale – if the customer service personnel isable to access stock availability in real time and arrange convenient delivery as soon as the item is available for the customer. This kind of communication can essentially engender greater brand loyalty from what was, initially, a complaint.
To ensure the customer journey remains positive, customer service staff should be proactive, and keep any promises made; if they say they will call back at a certain time, they must do so. A good way to ensure this happens is to set up email alerts, which let members of the team know if a customer provides an update, or when an issue is nearing resolution, in real time.
Retailers should also consider through which channels their customers interact with the brand, and respond accordingly; is assistance being offered in the right places, and at the right times of day? For example, if a customer only ever calls to discuss an issue, ensure that the return communication is via a call.
Whether in the middle of the night or early in the morning before the working day begins, online shoppers buy at a time that suits them, and the omnichannel retailer should be on hand to handle queries whenever they arise. Issues left unanswered due to restricted response times can leave shoppers disgruntled, result in lost loyalty and, in some cases, escalate if customers then share their negative experiences with others via social media or word-of-mouth.
Reflect the brand
Retailers need to demonstrate that they care for their customers if they wish to build loyalty.Whether employed in-house or outsourced, all customer service employees should be trained and kept up-to-date on a brand’s identity, tone of voice (spoken and written) and ethics to ensure that every interactionis in line with customer expectations and brand guidelines.
Training is also crucial when it comes to product and service knowledge. Connected consumers have never had so much information about products and services to hand – whether it’s through reading product descriptions or reviews online – and so they progress through the buying journey with an unparalleled amount of knowledge to aid their purchasing decisions. And they expect customer service teams to have the same levels of knowledge. This makes it imperative that every member of a customer service team should be an expert in what the retailer sells – or,at least, is able to efficiently forward the enquiry to someone who can deal with the issue in real time.
Learn from mistakes – and keep learning
Every call is valuable, and many will reveal issues that the brand can learn from as a whole– so information from every interaction should be logged, including the solution that is reached.
During this process, a retailer might discover that certain issues occur again and again. Perhaps the website does not make the store opening times clear enough, or there is a recurring problem with a particular product or distribution centre; whatever the scenario, where possible problems should be addressed at the root cause to reduce the number of inbound queries and/or complaints.
Incorporating measurable KPIs in this process will let a retailer track the effectiveness of any changes, ultimately reaching a place where issues can be solved immediately, or even eliminated.
Customer service sells
Customer service is the cornerstone of retail, and gives a brand unrivalled access to customer insight, whilst being an essential tool in the generation of customer loyalty.
Retailers must ensure the effectiveness of this often-overlooked channel if they are to truly provide a positive and immersive experience that encourages loyalty and spend in today’s omnichannel world.
Steve Powell is Director of Sales, EMEA, at PCMS
For additional information on PCMS visit their Website