Retailers know they are dealing with customers who are increasingly demanding, and a recent survey by Arvato shows how high consumers’ expectations can be when it comes to customer service. A full 40% of consumers reported that they expect excellent customer service all the time, but almost half (47%) perceived that they receive excellent service only occasionally, or never.
Online retailers significantly outperformed on those metrics compared to other industries. Only 35% felt e-Commerce companies only occasionally or never provide excellent service.
E-commerce fell short, however, in comparison to financial services and hospitality. While 65% of survey respondents said online retailers usually or always give excellent customer service, 71% believe the banking/financial services/insurance sector usually or always provides excellent service, and 68% give a similar rating to the travel/hotel/airline sector.
The Customer Service Wish List
Survey respondents provided guidance as to where retailers seeking to improve their customer service should concentrate their efforts:
- Increase availability: 43% of consumers expect 24/7 customer service from e-Commerce/online retailers, and 36% expect customer service to be available for approximately 12 hours a day/7 days a week, e.g. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Offer multiple contact options: E-Commerce customers like to make their first contact with customer service by email (33%) or phone (32%). Online chat is a distant third, preferred by 15%.
- Staff phone lines: When asked which method of solving customer service issues is most reliable, consumers overwhelmingly (52%) chose the phone; email was selected by 13% and online chat by 11%.
- Shorten the wait: Over one-third (34%) of consumers say their biggest pain point is long hold times. To help alleviate that problem, 31% of consumers would like more companies to offer automatic call-backs.
- Invest in training: Once they finally reach a person, consumers are often frustrated by multiple handoffs and poor communication skills, with 31% saying their biggest pain point is repeating information and/or re-explaining to representatives, and 19% citing difficulty communicating with representatives because of a language barrier.
- Deploy technology: After automatic call-backs, 28% would welcome real-time order updates via text or email, and 22% would like to see more virtual assistants.
The study also affirmed that the consumer’s experience with customer service is integral to his or her overall perception of a retailer. Survey respondents ranked customer service’s impact on brand loyalty at 7.8 on a scale of one to 10.