The ecommerce market has dramatically increased in popularity over the past ten years and shows no signs of slowing in 2012. With annual revenues exceeding 68 billion last year, start up businesses must ensure that their services are adapted to the online consumer market or risk loosing out. To take full advantage businesses need to branch out and expand existing platforms to cater to those who prefer to spend money online. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Recent statistics prove this theory wrong.
Without a doubt, the Internet has changed the way consumers make purchases and receive customer care. But with business revenue proving to be a struggle during the current economic climate, providing a good customer experience bolstered by good customer service is do-or-die. Therefore, now is the perfect time to solve those concerns by focusing your attention on your company’s most valued asset, the one that keeps the cogs turning: the customer.
The changing nature of customer service
Most industry figures estimate that e-commerce cart abandonment rates remain around the 60% mark, a shockingly high level of attrition. Experts agree that customer confusion and lack of information is behind this continued trend, exacerbated by poor online customer service options.
Once upon a time great customer service was all about arming your customers with a free postal address, then came along the free phone number that they could call to speak to an agent at a call centre. This was followed by the customer service email address.
It’s fair to say that consumers want answers, fast, and the Internet only amplifies this impatience for real-time information and instant gratification. Solutions such as email and telephone support often lead to lengthy wait times and frustrated customers, and disaffected customers nowadays take to the likes of social media as a means of expressing their displeasure. If a consumer writes a complaint on their Twitter page regarding your product, that complaint can be seen and very easily manipulated by all of their friends. This greatly amplifies the effect of the initial problem. Judging by the staggering 79% of consumers who shared their complaints about poor customer experience online and had their complaints ignored, businesses are still failing to take this problem seriously.
If you’re not taking full advantage of all of the channels that your consumers are using, they will assume you’re ignoring them – which can result in big consequences to your business no matter what the size of your company is.
The missing piece to the puzzle
The truth is that, in spite of the benefits that the Internet brings to businesses, the online experience lacks the personal touch and that sense of customer service that makes the physical store so successful.
Too many companies follow the rudimentary rules when putting a face to their brand online, you have to take pride in it and offer as many aspects to it as you would expect to find in your regular brick and mortar store. After all it’s your store front in a virtual high street. Recent statistics revealed that 77% of online shoppers would like to make contact with a real person before making a purchase. To overcome this issue in the virtual world, a growing number of retailers worldwide are turning to live chat software.
Yes, your businesses will require robust procedures to be in place, and trained staff to make decisions and resolve problems with live chat. However, by doing so you can take some of the heat off the frontline team. Live chat provides a place to report issues, find service updates or get quick answers to common product enquiries.
This true online customer engagement - using live audio and video, as well as text chat, will bring a new dimension to online customer service. This also helps increase sales for organisations that are willing to listen to customer needs. With comparison tools now easily available online, personal online engagement will be the key differentiator between profitable companies and those just trying to keep up.
Putting a face to your online service
Research shows more than 20% of people who are solicited for chat go on to make a purchase. Add video and audio capabilities to the mix, and the opportunities for revenue generation increase even more as the personal interaction grows. As more computers come equipped with webcams and microphones, two-way audio and video communication will become the norm. Customers will begin to expect, and prefer, an interactive approach that goes beyond emails and telephones, to one that includes a rich multi-media customer experience.
Create happy customers across all sectors
Think about the online customer trying to decide which hotel to stay in whilst booking a holiday. We all read hotel reviews online, but there are always questions you would like answers to, but in order to do so your only option is to call an 0800 number and wait on hold. However, by clicking on the “live chat” button and asking the operator to see some photos and get a rundown of amenities, the customer gets instant answers and can make a decision right away. They are happy and you are one step closer to closing a transaction.
If we take the banking sector as an example, it has had to deal with some dramatic changes over the past ten years. The commoditisation of financial products; the rise of the comparison website; the death of premium financial brands (Northern Rock); increased security costs and new legislations have led to a change in customer expectations.
The result of all these changes is that many organisations have had to reinvent themselves (Yorkshire Building Society – Egg.com) or embrace the Internet to maintain profitable. Customers are no longer happy to walk into a branch and trust that their local bank manager will be able to provide them with the best deal available. Many instead are turning to online market comparison aggregators to secure the best deal. By implementing live chat, financial institutions can now bring premium services directly to the customers and online visitors, thus creating a stronger and more profitable engagement.
The bottom line is, customers are becoming increasingly spoilt for choice, and consequently attracting users to your website is no longer enough. Businesses need to go that extra mile in order to keep consumers interested. Word-of-mouth is no longer stretches as far as your friendship circle, opinions spread much faster with the use of social media and it’s up to companies to start listening and actively find an alternative option for their customers.
The coming year is all about getting more personal with your customers as e-commerce sales take a leap. Gradually, as more and more computers come equipped with webcams and microphones, two-way audio and video communication will become the norm. Customers will begin to expect, and prefer, an interactive approach that goes beyond emails and telephones, to one that includes a rich multi-media customer experience. So, why not stay one step ahead of the game?