MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Survey: Companies failing to deliver on omnichannel customer service

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco – Seventy-three percent of consumers think that companies are paying more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than they are in delivering a seamless customer service experience across those same channels, according to a global survey of 7,000 consumers in seven countries. Meanwhile, when consumers can’t get an answer or fast response elsewhere, they are falling back to phone support as their primary contact method.

The report, “The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap,” was produced by Loudhouse, an independent research agency based in London, on behalf of Zendesk, a provider of cloud-based software for better customer service. It is based on surveys of 7,000 online shoppers between the ages of 18-64 in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K.

In the survey, more than one-third (37%) of consumers said they increasingly expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of the channel they use, and another 47% expect to be able to return goods or purchases through a different channel than the one they purchased from. Despite those expectations, only 7% are extremely satisfied with the omnichannel experience for customer service.

“The customer journey doesn’t end at checkout,” said J.D. Peterson, VP of marketing at Zendesk. “Brands are failing to match their omnichannel efforts in sales with their customer service experiences. To meet the demands of today’s consumers, they need to create seamless customer service across every channel.”

Poor service across channels is leading consumers to turn to phone support as a failsafe. When an email is unanswered, 71% will then phone; when social media is unanswered, 55% will then phone; and if the phone is unanswered, 54% will try to call again. Because of their perception that the phone has the quickest response, 54% of consumers still use it as their first contact for support.

U.S. shoppers are the least likely than shoppers in any other country surveyed to use multiple channels for a purchase. Only 51% of Americans reported using multiple channels when making a purchase in the past six months, compared to the worldwide average of 67%. Brazilian consumers reported the highest levels of multiple channel usage at 86%.

A company’s rewards program and its reputation for good service matter more to U.S. consumer than shoppers in other countries. Seventy-one percent of U.S. shoppers believe being rewarded for purchases, feedback, and referrals is important, compared to the global average of 66%. Additionally, 84% of U.S. shoppers consider a company’s reputation for customer service as being important when choosing a vendor, compared to 78% of consumers worldwide.

Speed of service also falls short of expectations in the United States. While 88% of U.S. consumers surveyed cite the speed of response and resolution as important, only half of respondents believe that brands are “good” or “excellent” when it comes to speed of response (50%) and resolution (51%).

The full report is available at here.

Click the graphic below for a larger view.

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FINANCE

Fitch Ratings expects modest improvements in retail sales growth in 2014

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Fitch Ratings expects total U.S. retail sales growth in the 4% range in 2014, a modest increase over expected 2013 figures that reflects slight improvement in both the employment rate and real wages.

Fitch expects 2013 holiday sales to grow in the 3%-4% range, in line with The National Retail Federation forecasts that November and December sales will increase 3.9% year over year to $602 billion.

Overall, Fitch is maintaining a stable credit outlook for U.S. retailers in 2014. However, the modest negative tilt to rating activity will continue, given ongoing top-line pressure on some large industry participants.

Fitch expects liquidity to remain strong for most U.S. retailers with solid levels of cash and unused bank lines, most of which do not expire until 2016 or further. Debt maturities for 2014-2015 remain manageable for investment grade retailers. In the high yield segment, most retail issuers took advantage of favorable credit conditions in 2013 to extend maturities well beyond 2015.

There is some potential for LBO or acquisition activity, and debt-financed dividend payments or share buybacks, but Fitch expects the pace to moderate significantly given the strong level of activity in 2013.

Fitch’s 2014 sales growth projections assume 2%-3% in same store sales. Store growth is expected to be modest given the overstored profile of the retail industry. Consumer electronic and office furniture store closings will offset some moderate square footage growth in the discount space and ongoing rapid growth in the dollar store segment.

The ability to maintain market share remains a key challenge for many traditional retailers, in view of the strong growth in online sales on top of the continued encroachment by discount formats. Traditional retailers that are willing and capable of investing in a multichannel strategy will continue to drive market share gains at the expense of retailers that struggle to maintain relevance in a mature but dynamic sector.

The full 2014 Outlook: U.S. Retailing is available at Fitchratings.com.

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FINANCE

comScore: Online holiday spending off to solid start

BY Marianne Wilson

Reston, Va. — For the holiday season-to-date (Nov. 1 – 24), $18.9 billion has been spent online using desktop computers, up 14% versus the corresponding days last year, according to comScore. Tuesday, November 19 was the heaviest online spending day of the season to date at $963 million. Two other shopping days – Thursday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 24 – have also seen at least $900 million in online retail spending.

“The 2013 online holiday shopping season is off to a solid start with nearly $19 billion in desktop e-commerce sales, an increase of more than 14% versus last year," said Andrew Lipsman, comScore VP of marketing & insights. "The heaviest online spending day thus far fell just shy of $1 billion in sales, and though we’ve not yet reached that benchmark we can expect to see that spending threshold eclipsed numerous times during the post-Thanksgiving period. Black Friday and Cyber Monday can both be expected to easily surpass that total, with Cyber Monday already beginning to point toward $2 billion."

comScore expects mobile commerce (i.e. buying on smartphones and tablets) to reach $7.1 billion for the November-December holiday season, representing 13% of total digital commerce. Total spending across digital channels is expected to be $55.2 billion for the season.

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