Expert: How to improve digital customer service
Kristina: When the coronavirus pandemic began a lot of businesses made a mad rush to push everything from retail to customer service online. What have the effects of this quick digital switch been?
Joseph Ansanelli, CEO, Gladly: In the first three months after Covid hit, we saw as much growth in eCommerce as we’d seen in the prior decade. This had significant ramifications for retailers who had to quickly figure out how to deliver the in-store experience online. When you shop in-store a sales associate can recommend products you might like based on what you’re shopping for, or additional products and services that compliment what you’ve already got in your cart. This personal touch not only drives revenue for your brand but it creates a more personalized experience that helps drive customer loyalty by making them feel known and valued. Retailers had to figure out how to leverage data about their customers and their history with the brand to engage them throughout the journey.
Kristina: With the vaccine and predictions that a return to ‘normal’ are coming, should brands continue these digital first efforts?
Joseph: 100%. Some customers will return to the store when life returns to normal (although that’s likely still a ways off in the future) but many won’t. Many of them won’t be going back to the office full time or ever in some cases, which also means fewer opportunities for swinging by the store on their way home. They’ve adapted to shopping online and have discovered that it’s easier and faster to research products and services and find the ones they want, to purchase multiple sizes, try on at home, and return the ones that don’t work. Their brains have literally been rewired to shop on digital channels.
Kristina: What do consumers expect currently from digital customer service? Are brands delivering on this expectation?
Joseph: eCommerce is the new storefront and customers expect they’ll be able to do all of the things they could do in-store, online. And that means that the service team, who were once focused on resolving issues for customers post-sale, are now on the front-line of customer experience. They are the people who are engaging with customers browsing products on your site, answering questions about how one product compares to another, and serving customers in brand new ways throughout their lifecycle. This means they’ve got to be retrained and retooled to take on these new responsibilities. Some companies were already transitioning to this model before Covid and others have adapted quickly and are seeing great results. Crate & Barrel is a great example. They have been training their service teams to be product experts who can make recommendations and describe nuanced differences between products to customers unsure of which to buy. They even set up retail experiences inside their service centers so associates can experience their products and even initiate video chats with customers to show them how the loft of one sofa compares to another, or describe how a certain wine glass feels in their hand. They’ve also trained service associates to sell and have given them systems to enable them to complete customer transactions on any channel, including inside a chat window. They’ve seen $2M in additional sales from their service center after implementing this feature alone.
Kristina: How can merchants and brands improve on their overall digital customer service?
Joseph: The attention to detail that some brands have applied to merchandising and making the in-store experience feel magical should now be redirected to digital channels. How can you help customers discover new products they might want but aren’t necessarily shopping for? How can you help them identify complementary products to ones they’ve already purchased? This requires knowing who they are, having a full picture of their history with your brand, and leveraging that in every conversation to tailor the experience to their needs and preferences. It requires meeting them on any channel they choose, from voice to email to chat to SMS, and treating those interactions not as distinct experiences but as moments in time in your ongoing relationship with them. It requires proactively engaging with them to offer help and recommendations when they enter your digital storefront. If you know they have an open order that hasn’t yet arrived or a credit with your company, use that information to proactively engage them and share an update about that order before they ask, or make a recommendation about how they could use that credit. That’s a magical experience. The brands that can deliver on this will be the winners in this age of digital-first commerce.