As the festive season in Europe has shown, more and more consumers are taking to the smartphones, tablets and laptops to make purchases as the online arena continues its taking of custom from the traditional high-street.
Though more convenient and flexible, the online method of retailing still has to get its customer service offering right – what if my parcel never arrives, and what if I wish to return an order? These and many other questions and requests are asked every day by shoppers expecting equally as personal service via their device as they receive in person at a shop.
With this in mind Business Review Europe spoke to Zbynek Loebl, CEO and Founder of Youstice.com, an application designed to help companies communicate and handle claims, to see just how important customer service is for e-commerce, and what companies are doing to provide the best possible offering.
BRE: Is customer service an under-appreciated element of e-commerce and online retail? How important is it in the online arena – what are consumers demanding?
ZL: We are happy to see that “customer service” is no longer a trendy buzz word, and that companies actually do put a lot of time and effort into improving their customer care. Supporting a client when something goes wrong with their purchase is very important, and the faster the company is able to do it, the bigger a chance a disappointed client will not head to the competition next time.
Consumers who live in the internet era expect their issues to be solved literally as soon as possible, which often means hours. That is why it is important for the companies to look out for the solutions that would help them answer the clients` needs very fast.
How much are online companies investing in customer service?
Without going into specific numbers- what we know for sure is that the companies have increased the budgets for customer care in the recent years, and want to test and introduce new solutions as an addition to “traditional” channels, such as call centre or e-mails.
However, good customer care does not mean you have to spend a big budget to assist your clients efficiently. It is more about selecting the right channels that the customers will use and appreciate to communicate with you when something goes wrong with their purchase or the service you provide.
As customer’s “natural” environment is internet, and they spend a significant part of daily life online, it is also natural to migrate towards functional internet customer service. Solutions such as Youstice understand that behaviour, and allow companies to answer the issues in a matter of minutes.
Is it possible for internet shopping to retain the personal/human element that many see as a benefit unique to the high street experience?
Obviously, these are different experiences, so it would be hard to compare. However, e-tailers can win their clients precisely via friendly, fast and professional customer service that shows a personalised approach to a client, instead of treating them as another “number” to deal with. It is also about listening to the client’s needs, engaging with them more.
Again – the new-generation solutions acknowledge the difference between “traditional CRM” and the new, experience-based approach to clients and give companies proper tools.
Name one or two dos and don’ts of online customer service.
DO: Treat customers personally – and not like another “case number”. It’s important to listen to customers and offer them a personal approach instead of “selling” them the same, well-rehearsed answer – or a solution. Companies should not be afraid of constructive criticism and pay attention to every piece of feedback, as it may tell a lot about the company.
DON`T: Don’t let the issue escalate – deal with it fast and correctly to offer win-win solutions. Dealing with a customer is not a battle that one side has to win over another. Companies should show that they are able to react to customers’ needs and offer them a fast solution to their issues, trying to make it a win-win situation for all.
By all means, retailer should avoid the problems to escalate and result in negative reviews about the company that would appear all over the internet and social media; these may actually damage their reputation.