3customerWe all know that good customer experience is key to online retailing as it leads to higher conversion rates, more repeat shoppers and positive recommendations. In fact, it is spanning the entire online retailing cycle from the usability of a website to ease of checkout process, shipping and delivery of products, all the way through the returns process.

And here the SmartHub studies come into play, Innotrac’s proprietary benchmarking tool that provides clients and strategic partners with intelligence and analysis of the online retail purchase cycle that is actually published every 6-8 weeks.

Innotrac Corporation is a best-in-class commerce provider integrating digital technology, fulfillment, contact center, and business intelligence solutions to support global brands. The company’s latest SmartHub eCommerce benchmarking analysis focused on the customer service experience including multiple studies conducted in June and August of 2013, providing clients and strategic partners with intelligence and analysis of the online retail purchase cycle. The studies evaluate over 225 leading merchants across 81 data points, tracking the entire eCommerce experience from ordering, to shipping, packaging, customer service, and returns.

"In our latest study we wanted to take a closer look at customer service within the new commerce landscape," said Melissa O'Keefe, Sr. Director of eCommerce and Marketing at Innotrac. "Live chat, email support, visibility to in-store inventory and policy knowledge, are all things that consumers expect from retailers. It's not just about shopping when and how they want anymore, for today's consumers it's about total engagement with their brands on their terms."

The current release includes live customer service capabilities of the phone and chat channels and reveals the following findings:

Customer service has a direct and lasting impact on consumer behavior

A 2013 customer service survey revealed that customer service impacts future purchasing behavior and, more importantly, those impacts can be long lasting.

The top factors determining a good or bad customer experience include speed of resolution, whether the customer’s issue was resolved as expected, and the demeanor of the customer service representative.

Over half (52%) reported that a negative customer service interaction had resulted in a decision to stop purchasing from that retailer. Furthermore, the study found that consumers have long memories when it comes to negative customer service interactions. Nearly 40% reported that negative interactions continued to influence purchase decisions 2 or more years after the incident. Additionally, 44% of consumers reported that a negative experience resulted in a negative recommendation.

These results tell us that a single negative interaction can result in lost sales for many years, not only for the consumer, but for anyone who may be influenced by that consumer.

Just as poor interactions had negative results, positive customer service experiences brought in future consumer purchases (42%) and positive recommendations (44%). However, it should be noted that positive experiences don’t seem to stick in the memories of consumers as much as negative with just 24% reporting the experience had impact 2 or more years later.

In the recent SmartHub® Benchmarking studies, live customer service capabilities of the phone and chat channels for retailers have been evaluated, revealing that of the 225+ retailers participating in the study, all (100%) offered some form of email support either through a form on the website, an email address, or both. Almost all retailers (97%) offered phone support, but only 37% offered support via live chat, contrary to the expected 69% of consumers.

So, the gap between customer expectations and retailer offering seems to be wide when it comes to live chat support.

Speedy customer service resolution is top priority

The study also revealed that a speedy customer service resolution is a top priority and that real-time customer support was viewed as useful for online shopping. It has been measured, for instance, that 58% of the time it took overall less than a minute, and 84% of the time less than 2 minutes to reach a live representative and that it’s generally faster to reach a live person on the phone within a minute 61% of the time, but only 46% of the time for chat sessions. The study revealed further that 53% of chat transactions took more than 4 minutes to complete, while only 16% of phone transactions lasted that long.

There is no doubt that speediness is an important measure of customer service satisfaction for consumers, but it’s not the only factor. After answering the phone call or chat request quickly, consumers naturally want their issue resolved according to their expectations, and preferably by the first person encountered. Hence, the survey identifies “speed” as the top element of a great customer service experience - as identified by 82% of respondents - followed by single interaction resolution at 56%, and a friendly customer service agent at 45%.

smarthubBeyond simple timing and effectiveness of the live agents, other customer experience factors were measured as well. Some retailers, for instance, recognize the importance of positive customer service interactions and have put into place systems to measure satisfaction with their customer service experience. Nearly 10% of the retailers in the study offered a survey as part of the customer service transaction. Only 4% of the customer service interactions included promotional offers or any sort of marketing messages. Most involved information about a current sale, promotion, or some other offer as a part of the customer service transaction. Besides that, chat interactions were more likely to include marketing messages than interactions by phone. Interestingly, 27% of consumers identified the customized offers or discounts as one element of a great online customer service experience, an opportunity not capitalized on by a vast majority of retailers in the study.

However, retailers who have both an online presence and physical stores have a long way to go in providing consumers with information about product availability in their brick and mortar stores. Live agents were unable to answer questions asking if a specific product was available in a certain store 41% of the time.

To download the full white paper, go to https://www.innotrac.com/news/smarthub-benchmarking-study-october-2013-customer-service-for-online-retailers/

By MediaBUZZ