Online sales growth slowly strangles good service
According to the British Retail Consortium, a record amount of online shopping was done in December 2013 - an increase of 19.2% in internet purchases - the fastest increase in four years. But as online sales grow, dealing with returned items becomes a growing problem too. But how many e-retailers are ready for the challenge, asks Richard McCrossan, strategic business director for digital channels for Genesys.
There's been mixed reporting about growth in sales over the Christmas period - food versus retail, in-store versus click and collect, mobile and web - but one fact has remained consistently true. Online shopping was up - with the fastest increase in four years. John Lewis and Next both reported rising sales over the Christmas period, with both retailers particularly experiencing a big jump in online sales.
Today's customers expect that they should be able to shop with a chosen company through any channel - whether that is picking up a mobile, going online to use social media or purchasing in store via click and collect. So retailers can no longer hide away from offering an extensive online shopping experience. We've seen the success it can bring to retailers who get it right, like Next and John Lewis, and Morrisons, whose sales were hit badly during the Christmas period, has in fact just unveiled its first ecommerce store - a direct response to market needs, perhaps?
Prepare your returns policy One element to bear in mind in developing an online retail strategy is the returns process. Following the Christmas period, it's common for three in 10 items to be returned, and if processes are in place to deal with these returns then retailers should see no increase in contact centre interactions.
Yet if retailers fail to provide easy to understand resources on their website - such as a comprehensive FAQ section - or fail to engage in proactive communications to their customers, then these returns can significantly impact traffic volumes into the contact centre.
Customer service is a huge element of retail success Whichever and however many channels are focused on, it's essential that a retailer's customer service values are mirrored across them all. Even if a luxury retailer has a good reputation for customer service in store, this must be replicated online - and through social media.
A retailer's presence on Twitter and Facebook must be engaging, and must offer more than a standard response to all interactions regardless of their context. It's supposed to be a 1-to-1 interaction, and should look as if it is.
And poor customer service can quickly can spill over into social media. Retailers need to look at how they can integrate social media into their broader customer service offering to ensure that customers who interact through social media will experience the same level of service and support which customers using traditional channels enjoy.
One view of the customer is key A brand may be hundreds of shops with thousands of employees that sells both online and offline, but the customer sees just one company. Customers make no distinction between the online part of your business, the high street and the contact centre.
We are witnessing the rise of a generation of customers using multiple contact channels in the palm of their hand and retailers must keep up with this and be able to deliver the same consistent customer experience across all channels. Retailers need to consider the positive impact on the customer experience which would be delivered by agents having complete visibility of their customers' interactions on one desktop view, regardless of channel.
Retailers that deliver a good, personalised, and consistent experience regardless of the customers chosen channel, will go a long way in retaining their customers and take advantage of the continued growth in online sales.