The Evolving Role of Customer Service in a Digital Environment
It's certainly no secret that the rise of social media and consumers increased use of mobile devices has steadily transformed the shopping experience. This shift may have come to a tipping point this holiday shopping season, with mobile traffic accounting for more than 30 percent of all online Cyber Monday activity and mobile sales increasing 55 percent over 2012.
There are certainly battles to be won in this new digital landscape, but what's the potential upside of retailers getting less face time with shoppers? Although preferences may shift to new and often multiple channels, so will the need for a new kind of customer service. Retailers need to be able to respond to customers when and where they need service. In this transformed shopping environment, that means the following:
- Don't unplug the phone just yet. The phone is still voted the best customer service channel during the holidays (33 percent) and throughout the year (48 percent). However, some are venturing elsewhere this holiday season.
- Check your inbox more during the holidays. Twenty-five percent of respondents to Aspect's survey said email is the best way to interact with customer service during the holidays, whereas just 21 percent say this channel is best at other times of the year.
- Get ready to chat. Online chats may rise, with 15 percent saying it's the best channel during the holidays vs. just 9 percent that think this throughout the year.
Retailers that fail to deliver may find a contingent of their customers (37 percent) so frustrated that they would rather reach for last year's fruitcake than contact their customer service. What's more, the repercussions of not adapting may play out throughout the year and into the next peak season.
Looking ahead, it's reasonable to predict that shifting preferences for customer service through means outside the traditional phone will continue as consumers take more control over their relationships with brands and as companies get better at providing care in "new" ways. Answering the customer service call year-round means retained customers, sustained loyalty and no dips into year-old fruitcake.
Jim Freeze is the senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Aspect, a provider of customer interaction management, workforce optimization and back-office solutions.