According to a 2013 Forrester Report, Navigating the Future of Customer Service, the latest wrinkle in eCommerce Online Retail Competition is that retailers are only just beginning to understand the importance of customer service as one of their top strategic priorities. Some customer service trends identified in the report concerned mobile solutions, agility of service, customer expectations, cost, personalization, and quality. Interestingly, many customer service decision makers (75%) indicated that they want to use the customer experience as a competitive differentiator, but the report said, "they still have a lot of work to do."
Based on 7,440 online adults who have used any customer service methods in the past 12 months, the report noted that 57% of US online consumers say that they’ve had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months -- 27% of whom vented via social channels.
Here are some of the ways customers complain about poor service these days:
Told friends or family, took a survey, called the company, sent an email to the company, chatted with customer service online, wrote a review on the company’s website, wrote about it on a social networking site, sent a letter to the company, wrote a review on a third-party website (Yelp, TripAdvisor), posted a comment on a company’s social networking page (e.g. Facebook, Myspace); posted an entry on a customer forum, Tweeted about it on Twitter; wrote about it in a blog post; sent the company a message via Twitter.
Additional factors driving the concern about customer service:
*45% of US online consumers (nearly half) said they will abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their questions;
* 66% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
So, in view of the fact that: 1) Customers expect to receive efficient, effortless, personalized service; and 2) Good service is hard to deliver because it has grown more complex; the main goal for retailers is to balance cost against customer satisfaction.
And, as customer service is the cornerstone of a company’s customer experience strategy, here are some statistics from the customer experience decision-makers themselves:
*40% say that improving the customer experience is their top customer service goal, and 40% say it’s their second most important goal.
*93%, (or nearly all the customer experience decision-makers) say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities;
*75% say they want to use customer experience as a competitive differentiator.
However, the reality is that few companies were doing anything about optimizing the service experience because they were still primarily focusing on cost-control measures, so only 37% of companies had a dedicated budget for customer experience initiatives at that point.
Some of the problem and opportunity areas identified in the report:
* Communication channel preferences are changing rapidly.
* Mobile solutions are becoming a must-have capability.
* Agile service is becoming more important than multichannel service.
* Customers expect proactive outbound communications.
* Voice of the customer programs are operationalizing insights.
* Customer service is moving from cost center to a competitive differentiator.
* The universal customer history record is personalizing interactions.
* "Knowledge management is becoming the jewel in the customer service crown."
* Next best action solutions are powering targeted offers.
* Business process management meets the front office.
* Collaboration is improving the quality of service delivered.
Bottom Line For A Retailer's Bottom Line:
Forrester notes that the cost of not maintaining a good customer experience "is staggering". The report proceeds to give the top 15 customer service trends… including what retailers can and should do to pinpoint the opportunities for "quick wins," craft a sound business case, create steps for this process, and then… most importantly, “execute flawlessly”.
The report also notes that SaaS solutions are becoming more popular, Outsourcing is gaining market share, and Analytics are improving end-to-end customer experiences. In Part 2, I'll detail the customer service trends and solutions from the report.