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Sales business future
Sales business future

The importance of P2P customer support this Christmas

18th Dec 2015
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As the ‘Christmas Creep’ starts earlier every year, coupled with the ever-increasing popularity of pre-holiday events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online retailers are now faced with unprecedented demands to maximise each and every engagement with their customers before, during and after the holiday season.

With British families planning to spend an average of £821 over Christmas, these retailers will inevitably focus on some key areas of their businesses during this period of time. Much of the concern for online outlets is justifiably centred around website infrastructure. In particular, ensuring consumers don’t experience last minute glitches, which plagued a number of ecommerce giants last year is essential, but other business considerations also include staffing levels and delivery logistics.

One critical area of the online customer journey missing from this festive mix is customer care. Up to a third of online shoppers reported issues with their orders in 2014 and - despite being forewarned about a huge influx of consumers over the holiday period - ecommerce retailers are still quite unprepared to offer effective customer care, which can result in the loss of sales and dissatisfied consumers.

This lack of preperation is especially highlighted as online customer care in the UK is primarily focused on email and contact forms, with nine out of 10 businesses still using these slow, ineffective methods, despite a significant proportion of consumers (32%) being dissatisfied with email customer care response speeds, with 87% preferring live chat.

Not willing to wait

Consumers have made it abundantly clear that they are not prepared to wait the few minutes, or longer, that an email response requires and as a platform, email doesn’t lend itself to conversation. With only 14% of ecommerce retailers offering live chat, the opportunities open to those who embrace this customer care approach are clear.

By providing online support in real-time at the right moment, in the right place and in the right context, live chat can reduce basket abandonment and consequently increase conversion rates. For example, your live chat customer support agents who have received training in sales techniques become product specialists and can actually suggest other products which complement what is already in the basket, thus increasing value for online purchases.

With Christmas sales predicted to surge to £17.7 billion this year, keeping customers happy is more important than ever

However, one concern in implementing such a complete overhaul in customer care focus for retailers at an extremely busy time, may be that not all customers can be catered for by professional agents.

Once again, technology has come to the forefront in dealing with this potential issue, with peer-to-peer (P2P) customer support alternatives emerging. One of these P2P customer care options gaining traction is ‘Community Chat’, a new way for not only retailers but also brands to involve their online communities in providing real-time support to other users. This is an online chat solution where experienced users of a particular brand, so-called ‘brand advocates’, can share advice about a product or service with website visitors.

This new customer care channel brings great credibility as almost one-third of British consumers (29%) said they were inclined to make a purchase as a result of a tip from a brand advocate and such assistance was also deemed equally as helpful as that of professional agents. Community chat offers powerful third-party endorsement through brand advocates and thus helps businesses build strong customer loyalty.

For online businesses it is a critical difference between just giving help and ticking a box, and converting to a sale and generating profit. In this age of constant innovation, the process for consumers to choose and purchase goods online is being reshaped by collaborative customer service processes and real-time customer engagement. For example, Le Petit Vapoteur, an e-cigarettes online retailer, found that 26% of consumers who chatted with a brand advocate on their website subsequently purchased an item.

In a world where £1 in every £4 is now spent online and with Christmas sales surge predicted to surge to £17.7 billion this year, keeping customers happy is more important than ever before, especially as they are much more likely to buy again and again from retailers who offered a good customer experience.

The customer care technologies and services available now give businesses the chance to provide a one-to-one experience that customers will remember. Retailers who provide personalised, real-time and "human" customer service will not only meet increased customer expectations, but also overtake their competition thanks to this approach.

Julien Hervouët is CEO & founder of iAdvize

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