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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Most consumers opt for online customer service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Automated customer service interactions are changing the role of contact centers, and how retailers are solving customer issues.

As companies include more help options via their websites, mobile apps, or other digital tools and resources, 80% of consumers try to resolve their issue somewhere online before contacting customer service, according to a new report from CFI Group and Radial.

Advances in digital technology and artificial intelligence are broadening the role of contact centers by providing customer service across the customer service journey. As a result, 60% of customers try visiting the retail company website before contacting customer service. Another 34% visit the retailer site with a mobile device. Only 21% said the company website is “not at all helpful.”

Those who find website tools helpful have a satisfaction score of 86 (on a 0-100 scale), compared to 40 for those who see the site as not at all helpful.

When it comes to offering more automated interactions, retailers are adding more chatbots or IVR self-serve tools to customers. There is also increased attention being given to visual IVR tools. Currently, 18% of customers are familiar with visual IVR, and 55% said they are likely to use visual IVR if given the option.

Despite these digital enhancements, the role of the service agent is not going away. In fact, retail contact centers that integrate agents within the rest of the company can expect dividends through greater customer lifetime value (CLV).

However, this requires agents that are well-integrated with the company (38%), have experience (38%), are well-trained (49%), and have the tools needed to help (55%). Customers who interact with these well-integrated professional agents have higher customer satisfaction (+19%) than the average customer, according to the report.

“Contact centers play a critical role in a retailer’s success. Professional agents who are well integrated with the company have a significant impact on sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty,” the report explained.

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Synchrony to acquire Loop Commerce

BY Marianne Wilson

Synchrony is expanding into the fast-growing market of digital and in-store gifting.

The financial services company said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Loop Commerce, whose services and solutions include GiftNow, an e-gifting platform for retailers. The platform is currently used by such brands as including Athleta, Banana Republic, DXL, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Target and Vera Bradley. (The digital and in-store gifting market segment is estimated to be more than $400 billion in sales and growing, according to a report by Deloitte.)

The acquisition will help diversify Synchrony’s business, broaden its reach, provide more strategic value and capabilities for partners, and deepen its technology portfolio.

“The acquisition of Loop Commerce allows Synchrony to move into an adjacent space by expanding our suite of products and services for retailers and consumers,” said Margaret Keane, president and CEO of Synchrony. “The acquisition of Loop Commerce will deepen our bench of digital talent and create new capabilities in gifting, as we continue working toward creating the most compelling consumer experience at every touch-point.”

Founded in 2012, Loop Commerce is widely regarded as helping to pioneer the market of gift-commerce. Its GiftNow platform allows retailers to offer consumers an innovative way to shop, buy and deliver any product as a gift from their online store — and the gift recipient can change the color, size or even the item before it ships.

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Target reportedly making smaller shipments to NYC stores

BY CSA Staff

Target is determined to reduce its stockroom inventory and improve digital fulfillment efforts in the Big Apple.

The discounter’s warehouse in Perth Amboy, N.J., is supporting a just-in-time test of more consolidated inventory shipments for its New York City area locations, according to the Pacific Business News, which cited the Wall Street Journal.

In the report, the 718,000-sq. ft., year-old warehouse, dubbed “the flow center,” will support more frequent, smaller shipments that are tailored more closely to specific stores’ demand. The facility would reduce the need for stockroom space — something that’s particularly valuable for stores in denser, urban markets, the report explained.

At the Retail Chain Supply Summit in New York last week, Preston Mosier, Target’s senior VP of global supply chain and logistics field operations, spoke about the facility, and the test. He added that shipments from the flow center could be sent directly to the store floor, or to a packing center for delivery to a neighborhood customer.

To read more, click here.

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