While only 25% of shoppers use text/SMS messages to contact customer support and 29% use live chat, retailers may have a real opportunity to increase usage of these communication vehicles by improving their visibility online, according to a survey from UJET. As many as 72% of shoppers feel that texting in real time with an agent would improve their support experience, while 70% believe in-app messaging and chat options would enhance the medium.
How customers select a channel for contacting a brand is often based on what options they encounter first in apps and on web sites, the survey results said. Often, shoppers seeking out product or fulfillment information dig deep into those apps and sites to find pointers on how to get assistance from the brand. Since the first options they typically find are phone or email, they default to one of those methods — ending up in either a long queue for phone support or waiting to get a response to an email request.
“They’re going through these apps that have very rich ways of interacting, whether it’s clothing, beauty products or any kind of commodity they’re trying to buy or review,” said Anand Janefalkar, Founder and CEO of UJET in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The problem occurs when they either have a question about whether the product is in inventory, or there’s a shipping exception, or the wrong thing is delivered — or they actually have a genuine question before ordering and spending their money. That is where customers have to be at the mercy of that particular company’s contact center, which is often very obsolete. That’s where retailers get left behind: not being able to interact with consumers at the same level of richness, contextual and visual cues through the app or the web site.”
With mobile being the modern standard for consumers to communicate with one another, particularly family and friends, it makes sense that they would start to have the same sentiment toward customer support teams. Just as retailers have had to optimize the mobile site or app experience, they now are tasked with optimizing the mobile communication experience that occurs between their customer support teams and their shoppers.
“The connection points are going to be the new channels,” said Janefalkar. “The reason that the channels were voice, chat and SMS 20 years ago was mainly because of the origin points. There used to be a physical phone that only did analog voice, so that was the voice channel. There was the web page where you could do chat, and SMS was a part of the older mobile ‘feature phones’ that were ubiquitous back then. Fast forward to today, your smartphones can have all of these three channels, as well as video capabilities.”
Shoppers Want Options To Share Photos, Screenshots And Videos With Contact Center Agents
The support experience that customers are looking for not only reflects the devices they are using; it also includes various forms of media that allow customer support employees to better understand shopper questions and concerns. Some of these more visual shopper preferences include:
- 67% want the option to upload and share a photo with an agent so they can visually understand the problem;
- 66% want the option to upload and share screenshots; and
- 55% want the option to upload and share a video.
Implementing options like these, regardless of channel, will produce three likely outcomes, according to the survey: faster and more streamlined information sharing between customers and agents; more conversational customer service interactions; and faster response and resolution times.
While Product, Marketing Teams Modernized, Support Teams Were Often Left In The Past
Retailers may find themselves playing catch-up in the customer support area, but that’s often the result of underinvestment in the past. When many retailers modernized their businesses to adapt to changing shopper preferences (in short, offering more mobile-first experiences), they limited the updates to product and marketing, but didn’t do the same for their operations and support departments, according to Janefalkar.
“It feels like shoppers are getting a modern-grade experience with instant gratification on the buying side, but they’re being left unheard or not taken care of when they need support,” Janefalkar said. “We strongly encourage companies early in the engagement process to include all stakeholders from both marketing and product, as well as customer support and operations, to come to the table and represent a joint vision of how to enhance the customer experience from end-to-end.”