Q&A: Why Customer Service Right is Vital for Successful E-commerce
As the festive season in Europe has shown, more and more consumers are taking to the smartphones, tablets and laptops to make purchases as the online arena continues its taking of custom from the traditional high-street.
Though more convenient and flexible, the online method of retailing still has to get its customer service offering right – what if my parcel never arrives, and what if I wish to return an order? These and many other questions and requests are asked every day by shoppers expecting equally as personal service via their device as they receive in person at a shop.
With this in mind Business Review Europe spoke to Zbynek Loebl, CEO and Founder of Youstice.com, an application designed to help companies communicate and handle claims, to see just how important customer service is for e-commerce, and what companies are doing to provide the best possible offering.
BRE: Is customer service an under-appreciated element of e-commerce and online retail? How important is it in the online arena – what are consumers demanding?
ZL: We are happy to see that “customer service” is no longer a trendy buzz word, and that companies actually do put a lot of time and effort into improving their customer care. Supporting a client when something goes wrong with their purchase is very important, and the faster the company is able to do it, the bigger a chance a disappointed client will not head to the competition next time.
Consumers who live in the internet era expect their issues to be solved literally as soon as possible, which often means hours. That is why it is important for the companies to look out for the solutions that would help them answer the clients` needs very fast.
How much are online companies investing in customer service?
Without going into specific numbers- what we know for sure is that the companies have increased the budgets for customer care in the recent years, and want to test and introduce new solutions as an addition to “traditional” channels, such as call centre or e-mails.
However, good customer care does not mean you have to spend a big budget to assist your clients efficiently. It is more about selecting the right channels that the customers will use and appreciate to communicate with you when something goes wrong with their purchase or the service you provide.
As customer’s “natural” environment is internet, and they spend a significant part of daily life online, it is also natural to migrate towards functional internet customer service. Solutions such as Youstice understand that behaviour, and allow companies to answer the issues in a matter of minutes.
Is it possible for internet shopping to retain the personal/human element that many see as a benefit unique to the high street experience?
Obviously, these are different experiences, so it would be hard to compare. However, e-tailers can win their clients precisely via friendly, fast and professional customer service that shows a personalised approach to a client, instead of treating them as another “number” to deal with. It is also about listening to the client’s needs, engaging with them more.
Again – the new-generation solutions acknowledge the difference between “traditional CRM” and the new, experience-based approach to clients and give companies proper tools.
Name one or two dos and don’ts of online customer service.
DO: Treat customers personally – and not like another “case number”. It’s important to listen to customers and offer them a personal approach instead of “selling” them the same, well-rehearsed answer – or a solution. Companies should not be afraid of constructive criticism and pay attention to every piece of feedback, as it may tell a lot about the company.
DON`T: Don’t let the issue escalate – deal with it fast and correctly to offer win-win solutions. Dealing with a customer is not a battle that one side has to win over another. Companies should show that they are able to react to customers’ needs and offer them a fast solution to their issues, trying to make it a win-win situation for all.
By all means, retailer should avoid the problems to escalate and result in negative reviews about the company that would appear all over the internet and social media; these may actually damage their reputation.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.