A recent study by retail software company Eptica has found that only 7.5% of retailers respond to customers through web, email, Twitter and Facebook, while only 2.5% of retailers provide consistency in their answers to customers across all four channels.
Omni-channel Customer Expectations High
One of the factors that have amplified the apparently negative findings of the report about retailers is the fact that customer expectations of the level of service and communications in the modern omni-channel environment are so high. For example, the Eptica study showed that in an environment where consumers (particularly younger ones) are used to interacting with retailers online, in-store and by mobile, 69% of consumers said their expectations are rising.
Immediate, High Quality Shopping Experiences Valued
Retail experts agree that consumers demand and value a high-quality experience from retailers, and part of this is the speed and quality of their communications. Real-time communication is highly valued by customers.
The huge choice that the digital retail environment affords customers means that they can be very fickle. Even though brands still build loyalty to their products through multi-channel advertising and promotions, letting customers down through slow and poor communications e.g. when responding digital to queries / questions can quickly destroy customer loyalty. For example, the Eptica study showed that 93% of modern customers are more likely to be loyal to a brand if they receive a good customer experience.
One other factor in the marketplace that retailers need to take account of is that customers value (and are coming to expect) customised retail experiences.
Challenges For Retailers
One of the key challenges that the Eptica study has uncovered is that many retailers are struggling to keep up with queries submitted through single channels, let alone being able to communicate through multi-channels, answer queries in real-time, and switch channels during a conversation (which 77% of customers want them to do).
Eptica figures show that companies admit that they can only answer less than half of the customer queries submitted over email, web, Twitter and Facebook, and that the number of queries answered across each channel has fallen year-on-year, with 39% of queries answered on Facebook (20% down), and a drop in answered Tweets from 45% to 44%.
The key reasons why retailers aren’t responding quickly or well enough appear to be a lack of resources, time, and expertise, as well as a lack of understanding of modern digital customer expectations.
Another factor that the survey has shown to frustrate customers is the inconsistency in the answers to their queries. For example, the Eptic survey showed that 58% of retailers provided consumers with different answers to the same questions depending on the channel customers used to interact with the brand.
According to the survey, all this has of course led to high levels of dissatisfaction among consumers. Only 47% of consumers surveyed said they have been happy with their experience of interacting with a retailer through web, email, social media and chat.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Based on the results of this survey, retailers clearly need to understand more about the value of fast, high quality communications in providing good customer experiences and building loyalty. Retailers should, therefore, be giving greater to priority and allocating more time and resources to multi-channel communications as an important part of the selling process. Retailers could therefore consider providing more training to those within the company tasked with answering communication, or buy-in expertise in this area. Care should also be taken to ensure that consistent information is given out across all channels. This may require improvements in the retailer’s own internal communications systems.