While the impact of COVID-19 has put substantial stress on the retail industry, savvy brands have realized that a strong customer care strategy is a retailer’s first line of defense against disruption. In the wake of the pandemic, more consumers are shopping online, and as a result the demand for timely customer care has significantly increased. For example, the leading retailers Radial works with experienced a 16 percent increase in customer care engagements in April and May compared to pre-COVID levels in January and February. As shoppers have more urgent questions about delivery times and product returns post-pandemic, a strategic approach to customer care is a must for staying competitive in 2020.
Here are three customer care tips you can implement today to keep customer satisfaction levels high during the turbulent times ahead.
When purchasing online, shoppers seek out brands that are able to provide more visibility and transparency with their deliveries, both upfront and during every step of the order journey. With online fulfillment overwhelmed by orders generated from customers who generally shop in-store, and COVID impacting delivery times, retailers are seeing a significant amount of contact volume generated by extended fulfillment times.
It's critical that retailers set clear expectations around delivery times, and then overcommunicate with their customers at every step along the way. Placing fulfillment delay messages on their website, the header of item pages, checkout pages, and confirmation emails are all easy ways to make sure shoppers are aware of the fulfillment timeline up front. Retailers also need to be direct about the longer time frame to refund returns, making sure customers are aware of the increased strain on returns and refunds, and set realistic expectations on timing. Creating clear timelines and making sure that customers are able to track status updates on your website increases transparency and reduces the amount of calls to customer service.
Embrace New Technologies
The pandemic has driven an overwhelming need for exceptional customer service in ways that are accessible to all consumers. Utilizing new tools and technologies allows retailers to better communicate with their customers, both online and in-store. It’s important that retailers provide consistent messaging and timely updates across all technology channels, including phone menus, chat, SMS and email auto replies, as well as agent workflows and standard operating procedures. At Radial, we've found visual interactive voice response (VIVR) to be a huge asset in our customer care strategy in communicating status updates with customers, with 36,925 customers using VIVR in May. VIVR is easy for both retailers and consumers to use and obtain information related to order status, shipping delays, tracking information, return status, and more. As with all customer experiences, consistency, timeliness and accuracy will build trust with shoppers and drive increased customer loyalty.
Developing positive relations with your customers across all channels is critical for success year-round. However, in today’s current climate it especially contributes to the longevity of the business. It’s important that retailers personalize all customer experiences based on previous interactions. Recent research from CFI and Radial found that 66 percent of consumers value a customer care agent's ability to refer to past customer interactions, including their purchase histories and other prior contacts. During these unforeseen times, it's critical that customer care employees have the solutions to create meaningful interactions with shoppers and know how to tailor the approach to the individual customer. As we adjust to a world post-COVID-19, retailers should prioritize authenticity, as well as be prepared to quickly pivot and increase communication frequency.
As the global situation continues to evolve, it’s important for retailers to prioritize excellent customer service, as it can “make or break” shopper loyalty. Retailers should be honest and direct with consumers about changes to the business due to COVID-19, and embrace technology to create multiple channels shoppers can access for support. Unforeseen circumstances often lead to creative solutions, so during this time retailers should prioritize developing a creative customer care strategy that successfully enriches the customer buying experience.
Carey Stoker is senior vice president of customer care services at Radial, the leader in omnichannel commerce technologies and operations.