In the midst of mounting uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, the presidential election, and other stressors, customer service needs to be dialed up now more than ever. In the retail industry, with more employees working from home and less shoppers visiting physical stores, the time is now for brands to strengthen their direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) mind-set. But how can retailers ensure they're serving their customers AND providing their customer service agents with the right tools to navigate the ever-changing landscape?
In the weeks to come, retailers should expect an increase in customer questions as more people order online. Brands need to be fully prepared to minimize customer service disruptions and maximize agents’ ability to seamlessly address customer concerns, especially when they themselves may need to be working remotely. Certainly, the companies that have already positioned themselves for omnichannel and digital-first interactions are at definite advantage, but this doesn’t mean that other companies can’t catch up. By rethinking the way brands use customer service and technology, retailers can gain better control over their customer-focused practices. Here are some tips for going about doing that:
Focus on minimizing customer service disruptions.
In today’s volatile market, it’s even more imperative that customer service operations run smoothly. Disruptions and outages can erode customer confidence and damage brand reputation. Big-box stores like Costco, Target, and Best Buy have all experienced website issues during critical shopping times, with some retailers losing 4 percent of a day’s sales each hour that a website is down, not to mention high levels of customer frustration. Having the right technology in place can mean the difference between a very satisfied and a very unsatisfied customer. Investing in the right tools can also provide critical support to the customer service agents who will be fielding more queries while they acclimate to working from home.
Don’t just talk about being omnichannel, BE omnichannel.
True omnichannel support means being available in any channel a customer wants to use. If a customer contacts a brand via chat, an agent should be able to pick up that conversation online without requiring the customer to repeat any information. Many retailers are turning to omnichannel platforms that include artificial intelligence and machine learning to help them automate their business processes, while making it easier for their agents to take action on customer information promptly and correctly. While omnichannel support may require brands to invest in technology to handle shifts between channels, the right tools can significantly improve the customer experience and build customer loyalty.
Tee up personalized interactions for customer service agents.
Providing a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint makes it significantly easier for agents to deliver the personalized service today’s shoppers demand. New research found that 72 percent of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages personalized and tailored to their interests. That’s why arming customer service agents with tools that allow them to access all relevant information in one centralized record is so critical. The easier it is to access this data, the better the agent’s chances of creating a personalized connection.
Build and leverage your social media presence.
There’s no time like the present for companies to beef up their social media presence and use it as an additional tool for communicating with customers. By using social media platforms to let customers know where and how companies can be reached will create another opportunity for customers to connect directly with retailers. This is especially important because according to Sprout Social 2019, 56 percent of consumers will unfollow a brand if they deliver poor customer service on social media.
Yes, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the election can throw even the soundest D-to-C retailers off their "A" game. However, the ones that embrace a customer-first mentality and follow through with the right support for their agents will be much better positioned to deliver exceptional service while simultaneously keeping their agents happy.
Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and co-founder of Kustomer, an omnichannel customer support platform.