The global pandemic is continuing to reshape the retail sector, fueling $189B in anticipated online holiday sales and forcing brands to wage a virtual battle for customer loyalty. Retailers that enter 2021 with a tailwind will be those that elevate their customer service, according to a survey of 750 consumers conducted in October 2020 by Simplr, in which 90 percent of consumers who shop online said exceptional customer service is important when choosing where to shop. That loyalty translates into revenue, as six in 10 consumers said they will give a retailer more business if it provides exceptional customer service.
Retailers cannot risk an online letdown, given that consumers surveyed estimate a 60 percent increase in their online holiday shopping from last year.
“If CX leaders think they’re ready for the digital stampede, they should know that more than half of consumers we surveyed don’t share that optimism,” said Daniel Rodriguez, CMO of Simplr, a human-first, machine-enabled customer experience platform.
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Fifty-five percent of consumers do not believe or are unsure, that their favorite online retailers can handle the volume of customer service inquiries this holiday season. Perhaps to combat that concern, 82 percent expect to shop online at stores they know and trust.
The NOW Customer wants fast, around the clock, responses to their inquiries
Six in 10 consumers said their customer service expectations are set by the standards of the best retailers. When asked what elements are key to exceptional customer service, consumers said:
- Fast response time: 60 percent
- 24/7 customer service: 41 percent
- Connecting via live chat or email: 37 percent
- Online chat with a person 24/7: 33 percent
- Complex questions handled professionally, with empathy and respect: 30 percent
“The expectation from consumers of immediate responses delivered anytime, across multiple channels, in an efficient yet empathic manner defines what Simpr calls the NOW Customer,” said Rodriguez.
The unseen role of reviews when the NOW Customer is neglected
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One-third of consumers surveyed said they have experienced being ignored or “left hanging” by a retailer when they have had a request or inquiry. That neglect does not go unnoticed by consumers, as half said they are “extremely or very likely” to tell a friend and/or post on social media channels about the negative experience; that rises to 55 percent among frequent shoppers and 63 percent among those aged 21-34.
Many retailers are kept in the dark about consumers’ negative experiences with their brand, as 45 percent of consumers said they do not want to leave negative reviews. While brands might see a lack of negative reviews as an indicator of customer service success, consumers’ reasons for not leaving a negative review may ultimately damage a brand. When asked why they do not leave negative reviews, surveyed consumers said:
- I just want to move on from that retailer: 54 percent
- I can’t be bothered to take the time to leave a bad review: 31 percent
- I feel badly about leaving a bad review: 24 percent
- Retailer doesn’t deserve a response: 9 percent
Revenue impact of exceptional customer service
Not only did the survey find six in 10 consumers will give a retailer more business if it provides exceptional service, it also found 54 percent will recommend that retailer to their friends and family and/or post about it on social media.
On the flip side, almost half (47 percent) have not made a purchase due to poor customer service, rising to 57 percent of 21-34 year-olds. Even more concerning for retailers:
- 40 percent of those surveyed have dropped a retailer for poor customer service
- 50 percent of 21-34 year-olds have dropped a retailer for poor customer service
“Customer service dictates consumer shopping behaviors in ways both good and bad for retailers,” said Rodriguez. “This survey data demonstrates that while a neglected NOW Customer will not always leave a negative review, they will silently move on from a brand, taking their wallet with them. In a competitive holiday shopping season, online retailers need to meet the demands of the NOW Customer where they are at, the very minute they need help.”
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