By Gary Bennett, VP UKI/MEA/Northern Europe at Enghouse Interactive
We are rapidly approaching the busiest time of the year for retailers and thanks to ongoing supply chain disruptions, this year looks set to be an even bigger challenge.
Retailers and customer service professionals will inevitably be impacted with the lack of product availability, resulting in spikes in complaints. It is a situation made worse by taking place at a time when resources are stretched with many customer service agents still working remotely or being forced to isolate.
How these complaints are handled will therefore be key and be the difference between losing business and strengthening the all-important long term customer relationships. Invariably, customers want their issues dealt with quickly and efficiently and the level of demand can be reduced if information is readily available through self-service options. Therefore, giving customers access to information about store opening hours and real time access to items remaining in stock, as well as status updates about when to expect the delivery of their new book, item of clothing, or set of saucepans, will be essential in ensuring the customer relationship stays strong.
If they are dealing with a routine interaction like a repeat order for an online grocery item, consumers will expect their service experience to be straightforward, but, if the interaction is more complex, such as a query on a new television purchased on Black Friday, or a dispute about an inaccurate bill, they also want to be able to connect at a personal level, and not be forced to speak to a chatbot, or be held in a long queue.
In unpredictable times, videoconferencing can serve as an effective channel to establish more personal connections with customers. Often, when faced with a problem, particularly a technical one, like a washing machine, or a vacuum cleaner requiring repair, customers may need some handholding. Having a service agent on hand, working through an issue can make the process easier, with the added convenience of offering co-browsing capabilities and sharing URLs, to help save time and reduce further frustration.
Having the answer to hand
Having clear customer service processes is pointless if the customer service advisor cannot provide satisfactory answers to complaints.
Therefore, use of a centralised knowledge base can underpin the customer service process, providing agents with instant access to up-to-date consistent information. This same knowledge can power customer-facing self-service solutions that make it easy for consumers to help themselves. Options such as web self-service, IVR, chatbots, automated emails and SMS all streamline the process. These all deflect more routine queries before they reach a contact centre agent and give customers faster answers, improving the whole experience.
Beyond this, it is also important that retailers deliver consistent levels of service and coherent answers across all channels, whether the customer chooses to interact in-store or online.