Why Retailers Cannot Delay Digital Transformation

By Mark Finch

Likely, you or someone you know, has experienced one of the following scenarios in the last few months: The order you have placed online is substantially past the date it was supposed to arrive, and you need more information on its location. The summer vacation, planned a long ago, has to be cancelled and you need to know how to recoup costs and avoid expensive penalties. The product you typically order is out of stock and you want to know when it will again be available.

In these situations, what does a customer do? New and existing customers alike do not have the customer service phone numbers memorized, which means they are going to visit your website to look them up. Of course, you may have a new banner on your website trying to set expectations that “delivery times may be longer” or that “live-agent wait times exceed one hour”. However, determined customers who feel they have a unique question, will push ahead, scan and click around for the phone number because they have a high sense of urgency to resolve their problem.

They dial you up to solve an urgent problem only to hear “You’re number 124 in our queue… your wait time is expected to be more than 2 hours…” 

This isn’t a new problem for eCommerce: customers are fairly comfortable transacting completely digitally, but when they have a particular urgency to get something done, chances are they do not want to wait, they want the best outcome now. COVID-19 has created a surge of uncertainty and businesses are seeing customers calling in droves. Although every consumer thinks they are different, the majority tend to have the same two or three questions depending on where they are in the customer journey. Before COVID-19, many of these questions and tasks could be answered in person, but today because of store closures and social distancing measures, the only way to transact is through your website, apps or social media.

A customer service crisis 30 years in the making

Consumers are contacting businesses that are overwhelmed and ill prepared to respond to a high influx of requests for support. It’s the twofold perfect storm—surging call volume coupled with reduced agent capacity causing high wait times for customers. Many customer support organisations lack the infrastructure to support full-scale remote work, leaving their home-bound agents struggling to work effectively.

Of course, it’s easy to understand why retailers are struggling to cope. But the reality is that delivering exceptional customer experience right now, when customers have more questions, and every concern is urgent—is more important than ever before. Beware: every customer that leaves your site frustrated or hangs up the phone upset is a huge risk to new and repeat business once this crisis is over. By comparison, customers who can accomplish their goals successfully, gain a positive perception of your brand and will continue to think favorably of your business in the future.

Many companies are using legacy systems to address the spike in demand for customer service—but your digital channels are likely at the heart of the journey. As you are planning the second half of the year, consider how the success of ecommerce is tied into your customer support channels. A terrible experience for consumers—especially for retail businesses that have low-switching costs—will be terrible for your business. Your digital and customer service channels must work together to help your customers and create loyal fans for life.

Customer Experience

Digital is a better way

Many companies understand and feel the customer’s pain and are building more and more self-service functionality to handle just these situations. Leading industry analysts are echoing the sentiment and are calling on companies to update their FAQs and policies.

But here’s the thing: if all of your FAQs are not on the homepage, if all of those self-service tools are not right in front of customers when they go looking for support, the best laid plans will not protect your contact center, or help your customers.

A better approach is to know what customers’ top contact reasons are, and of course, keep your FAQs updated—but also consider what customers’ top contact reasons are by journey step. With digital tools, you can proactively guide customers who are in different journey steps, in different ways, to help them at scale—and rescue your contact centers. In other words, you can help your customers help themselves before they reach out to your overburdened support team. After all, in changing times like these, one thing is certain, customers will remember how you supported them. An overwhelmed contact center is not the place you want to be sending customers first.

Customer Questions

Consumers will continue to embrace eCommerce

While digital transformation has been driving the shift from bricks and mortar to click-and-mortar for at least a decade, not every business has embraced this shift. With COVID-19 pretty much every shop and business has been closed, forcing quite the urgent digital transformation. And there’s an appetite for it—in 2019 alone, online shopping drove over $3 trillion in sales worldwide and in 2020 is expected to grow. Even Aldi, who does not typically sell groceries online, launched a selection of products available through eCommerce.

As more businesses adapt to online carts and more consumers become accustomed to it, the growth in a preference for eCommerce is unlikely to slow down. Many of your customers will continue to shop in digital channels and now is the time to redefine the experience you give them.  What gaps in customer experience do you have on your site or app? Is there something broken that could be fixed? What’s working that could be maximised?

With higher traffic and overwhelmed contact centers, seamless self-service will be critical to convert customers and keep them coming back. When you help customers meet their needs on their own, from product selection to post-sale support, companies can increase customer satisfaction and sales, while reducing the demand on their contact centers. Combine the pressure placed on retailers by COVID-19 with the diminished contact center capacity, you can clearly see the value of customer self-service. Without it, many customers are impatiently waiting for answers and help. By comparison, those who can self-serve leave with a positive perception of your company’s ability to support them in unusual circumstances—and will continue to view you more positively in the long-term.

By Mark Finch, Vice President, EMEA Sales at goMoxie

Published 23/06/2020

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