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Are customer service scrooges set to spoil Christmas?

23rd Nov 2015
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Even before Black Friday is done and dusted, retail brands are already deep into the battle to win Christmas. But for all the marketing campaigns, expensive adverts, hashtag experiments and overly-dressed shop windows, it’s good old-fashioned customer service that determines whether people come away happy during their spurts of seasonal shopping – both on and offline.

According to data from the latest Aspect Consumer Experience Index, over a third of all consumers enter the holiday season with lower customer service expectations. Yet, when a consumer gets poor customer service in a store or via alternative on and offline channels, 52% of them cease using a retailer, often taking to a competitor instead.

And despite it being the season of good will, 18% of consumers complain that customer service agents are generally too grumpy during the festive period, while 40% feel it’s much harder to reach customer service departments when something goes awry on or offline, and they’re in need of some support.

Aspect’s chief customer transformation officer, Joe Gagnon believes many retailers should consider focusing on guiding customers through different service channels to help ease the Christmas burden for customer service staff, rather than simply trying to improve the traditional offerings of face-to-face or, more commonly, telephone support: 

“Too many brands force their customers to make traditional voice calls to customer service and increasingly this is what consumers are trying to avoid. Holding onto the idea that the customer service agent is the primary, if not exclusive access point to customer service, is out of date and in drastic need of re-invention.

“People want to engage brands in the same way they engage their friends, and colleagues, which today means texting and messaging. Brands that continue to ignore consumers’ communication preferences, do so at their own peril, and our data shows that the retail industry looks to be particularly at risk.”

In this regard, live chat is one channel that is seemingly increasing in popularity with customer service professionals. At the start of 2015, a Business System Customer Service in 2015 report found that live chat tools were top of the support professional’s technology wish list, with 32% of customer service professionals ranking live chat as the most desirable solution requirement for their contact centre this year.

But whether that is something that also resonates with the customer remains to be seen. An alternative study by Dr. Paul Redmond back in May found that 42% rank “the ability to speak to somebody either in person or on the telephone” as the number one priority when dealing with customer service, and it can only be assumed that this increases in importance during more hectic times, like Christmas.

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