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GUEST COMMENT Customer service in online retail – four essential technologies

The online presence of retailers has never been more important than it is today. Online nowadays is not simply about the webstore – consumers want to use the myriad of new digital channels available as a way to communicate and browse what you have to offer. For the consumer, being able to interact with a retailer in the way they want, is now regarded as a key component of their customer experience. Why is this so important? Put simply, by 2020 the majority will consider customer experience to be the most important differentiator between brands, above price and product. That is something many retailers need to worry about.

This challenge is not simply about the point of sale: Customer care must also adapt to this evolution. Brands must adopt channels that support customers during their online purchases and communications that are available when and how the customer wants them. Here are the four essential technologies for delivering high-quality customer service in the digital age:

Google My Business

A challenge for any online retailer is the management of customer reviews and comments – 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. This makes it the most widely used source for research, ahead of search engines and the wider website. One of the most important channels for reviews is Google My Business, on which 44% of local businesses are already registered for free, with their reviews visible directly in search results.

Faced with these uses, monitoring opinions to be able to respond to them becomes essential. A negative comment left unanswered can quickly have a negative impact on the brand and 96% of Internet users are influenced by the presence of negative opinions during a purchase, making it essential for retailers to effectively manage Google My Business.

In-App Messaging

A mobile application can be one of the most important investments a retailer makes. However, constantly updating and building applications, and making them an ongoing success is hard work, considering 96% of apps stop being used after 12 months. To make such an investment profitable, the challenge is to provide users with value-added features that justify its use in the long-term. Making the app the centre of their online retail experience.

In-App Messaging allows customers to have an experience similar to Messenger and WhatsApp, directly within a retailer’s application. This provides different advantages such as easily identifying customers via their account and having access to all their customer data, or location if relevant. In-App Messaging creates a direct relationship between the customer and retailer, giving them another reason to make an app the start point for any engagement with the brand.

Live chat

According to a study, 44% of customers believe that getting live answers to their questions when shopping online is one of the most important features a retailer can offer. In addition, 68% of them stop buying from a brand when they perceive it is indifferent to them.

One of the most effective ways for any site to provide great service is through live chat. This channel allows agents to chat in real-time with customers, while they are visiting the website, engaging in discussions about products and services or to help resolve a problem.

A feature of live chat that is particularly interesting for retailers is the use of triggers to create an opportunity to instigate that conversation. A live chat can be triggered according to specific criteria, such as the volume of products added to a basket, visits to certain pages or time spent on a page. These criteria imply a customer needs more information for his or her decision making or may be confused: offering a live chat conversation is a good way to accelerate that process in a proactive way, and remove any barriers to them completing a transaction.

Another live chat feature to consider is co-browsing, allowing a customer service agent to view the same page in real-time as the client. This can be done without any special software installation and can help the agent to highlight certain areas of a web page.

WhatsApp Business Solution

Live chat is great for instant interactions but has some limitations. Its synchronous nature means the customer must remain on the website waiting for an answer, forcing them to wait for answers, which can be frustrating

Messaging is a way to bypass these limits and will be more suitable for situations that do not require an immediate response. Thanks to its asynchronous rhythm and notifications, customers can ask their questions and receive a delayed response.

The WhatsApp Business Solution is a great example of a messaging platform and one of the most relevant messaging channels today.

By using WhatsApp, online retailers can allow customers to contact them on a channel that they already use daily to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. Rather than being forced to use channels such as online forms or the phone, customers can simply send a message and be notified when they receive a response. WhatsApp offers features such as sharing media, voice messages and localisation to provide more context and facilitate problem-solving.

For the retailer, WhatsApp Business Solution offers many advantages such as instant responses to customers and freeing up time for teams, increasing agent productivity, improving customer satisfaction and sales, by offering support more adapted to customer usage, with faster resolution.

Moreover, since WhatsApp Business Solution was launched only a few months ago, adopting it allows retailers to position themselves as pioneers, more closely aligned with how the customers expect to engage with them.

How to effectively manage these channels?

Taking the decision to use a combination of these tools may seem straightforward enough. But deploying the technology, whilst relatively simple, is not the end of the story. The processes and day-to-day management becomes critically important if they are to be successful for any retailer.

Online retailers need to use a variety of channels to communicate with customers and adapt to their preferences.

Expanding the list of channels you use may seem like a headache, but they can and should be brought together in a single view for customer service agents. By doing this, agents become empowered with access to all the information needed about previous engagements as well as simplifying the task of managing and recording their own interactions. A centralised approach can also help businesses reduces the complexity of their customer support teams, making them more efficient and effective.

This omni-digital approach has the following advantages:

  • Smoothing of the activity of agents
  • Optimization of resources
  • Productivity gains
  • Reduced response times
  • Increase in customer satisfaction

Customer service will be the differentiator for retailers in the future. It will help them win and keep customers long into the 2020s, as brand loyalty becomes a dim and distant memory. Brands that want to succeed, need to be able to interact with customers in the way they want, placing as much emphasis on the technologies that support customer engagements, as they do on the web platforms that sell their products.

Author: Julien Rio, head of marketing, RingCentral, Engage Digital.

Image credit: Fotolia


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