The customer experience in online retailing is not meeting consumer expectations, according to new research conducted by the intuitive customer experience company, 7. More than one in three respondents admitted they had bought a product elsewhere as a result of bad customer service received by an online retailer.
The research study of more than 2,000 UK consumers conducted by Leadership Factor on behalf of 7 highlighted the need for online retailers to make better use of the data they hold on their customers, particularly retaining context when customers change channels.
Two in five respondents said they got frustrated when retailers did not know who they are or what their issue is, despite having interacted via another channel previously. Consumers also expect an online retailer to know what they want based on previous contact and irrespective of which channel they use to contact the retailers – 23% said the most frustrating aspect of customer service was a retailer not having any record of their customer history and having to start a conversation afresh each time.
“Consumers now expect online retailers to know who they are, anticipate their needs and then guide them to their desired outcome, whether that’s a sale, customer service issue or something else,” said Christopher Schyma, vice president (EMEA), Retail & Consumer Goods, 7. “Retailers hold a lot of data on their customers and need to use that in real time to deliver more intuitive customer service, allowing consumers to change channels and retain context when they do so. People have shown they are prepared to shop elsewhere if the customer experience does not meet their expectations.”
Consumers are increasingly using a variety of channels to communicate with online retailers’ customer service, with one in three regularly using more than three different channels to do so. The top channels that respondents use to interact are as follows: 59% on the web use a desktop device to reach the retailers’ customer service; 57% use a landline phone and 31% use a mobile phone. Only 11% said they used social media for customer service interaction.
Live chat was a popular customer service channel, with 32% regularly using this. However, retailers must know when to offer live chat and when to hold back, as 24% of survey respondents said that live chat when they are not ready for it was off-putting and intrusive.
“Consumers are using a variety of channels for customer service as they seek the most efficient way to reach the outcome they had set out to achieve,” said Schyma. “This will often include using several channels at once or changing channels mid-interaction and online retailers must be mindful that these expectations are becoming the norm for many online shoppers. Providing a memorable customer experience across channels by accurately predicting a customer’s intent is a major factor in customer loyalty and online retailers will ignore this at their own risk.”
The survey also revealed the three most popular activities that consumers do online. Over three quarters, 78%, of UK consumers regularly shop online for fashion, electronics, other consumer goods, 72% do banking and 57% arrange travel or holidays, so the potential loss of customers due to bad customer service is stark.