Out of hours live agent support is now a must have

Chris Robinson
Yonder Digital Group
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Online shopping couldn’t be easier: the choice and availability, competitive prices and, in many cases, next day delivery, all combine to make it a very attractive proposition for the time-strapped consumer. In fact, it is no surprise that the UK has become a nation of internet shoppers.

A major benefit of course is the fact that shops are always open online, and this 24/7 availability makes it far more convenient for many of us than the high street with its daytime-only opening hours. The evening is becoming an increasingly popular time to shop with research from Yonder Digital Group showing that 53% of UK consumers shop online on weekdays and 26% take to the web after 8.30pm. These rates are broadly similar across all age groups from 18-54 although highest among 18-24 year olds where 31% of this age group do so after this time.

This is perhaps no small wonder when our days are spent at work and early evenings taken up with travelling home, dinner and chores, while our ‘always on’ lifestyles mean we are almost permanently connected to the internet through one device or another.

In fact, key statistics on internet usage and online shopping for 2016 and 2017 show that 90% of households now have the internet[1], which means there has been an increase in online shopping with 77% of adults buying goods or services online in the last 12 months - up 24% since 2008.[2] Using multiple screens simultaneously is also increasing in popularity with 75% of UK consumers using a smartphone or another connected device while watching TV[3]. Not only this, but there has also been a significant increase in the amount of purchases which were made using a smartphone in 2016 (86% of digital shoppers).

With this being the case, one might expect online retailers to be more switched on to their customers’ habits and needs, yet despite offering 24/7 shopping, many are failing to maintain the same level of customer service they offer during the day at these key evening shopping times. 

Yonder Digital Group’s research shows that the vast majority – 72% – are failing to offer live query handling options for consumers shopping after hours. And with figures showing that most basket abandonment takes place between 8pm and 9pm,[4] and that 62% of customers are more inclined to purchase products online if live customer support is available,[5] this would suggest that this lack of live agent provision is having an impact on sales.

In fact, figures show that the cost of basket abandonment is significant: resulting in up to £1bn in lost sales each year in Britain[6], while in Q2 77.3% of online retail orders were abandoned globally[7]. For some retailers, the perceived cost of offering 24/7 live agent support may be the issue. However, previous research by Yonder Digital Group has shown that having access to the full range of communications channels, both automated and human, to resolve queries, encourages customers to stay loyal and can even increase their spending (84%). Rather than making cost efficiencies then, they may actually be losing out on revenue by failing to meet consumers’ after hour needs.

While FAQ pages or a quick web search can solve many queries, it is clear that consumers still like to be able to access live support. So, with competition strong online, businesses need to ensure they are meeting consumers’ expectations by knowing where demand for live agent support is the greatest and then providing it. Identifying these key moments and aligning support so that it is concentrated at these times of day will help to ensure that fewer baskets are abandoned, that sales go through, and that customers stay loyal.

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Working out when customers are most likely to need automated webchat and live customer service can be done by looking at the touch points used, potential issues, and where carts are typically abandoned. Each tool’s contribution in terms of revenue generation, as well as how and when they tend to be used can also be added into the equation to enable e-tailers to accurately work out what level of service to implement when. 

Certainly in this era of 24/7 connectivity, consumers’ online activity can only be expected to rise, and with it, their expectations. The evidence clearly points towards a growing demand for out of hours live agent support, so retailers that fail to respond will find that the risk of losing sales to more switched on competitors is likely to only intensify in the future.

[1] ONS Internet Access ­– Households & Individuals 2017

[2] ONS Internet Access ­– Households & Individuals 2017

[3] Google, Google Consumer Barometer Report, 2017

[4] Econsultancy, Nine case studies and infographics on cart abandonment and email retargeting, 25th September 2013

[6] Marketing Sciences, How can online retailers learn from abandoned baskets? 1st July 2015

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