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Today’s ultra-empowered shoppers have a very low tolerance for poor customer service and crave a more personal and intimate relationship where retailers know their needs, wants and preferences, and respect their time and business.
According to KANA Software’s research survey, many shoppers value convenience of technology-enabled shopping experiences.
KANA®, a Verint® Company, conducted a research survey in April 2014 to gather consumer sentiment on customer service in the retail sector.
Consumers want interactivity and personalization.
When asked about their preferred customer service communication channels used to engage with retailers in the past six months, the channel named most often as preferred was Web (24.5%), followed by email (17.9%). Channels cited least often as preferred were video chat (named by 30.2% of respondents); phone was the next least preferred channel named by 22.6% percent of respondents.
“It’s no surprise that organizations are leveraging Web self-service and email more and more as our survey shows consumers prefer these channels,” Scott Hays, senior director, Product Marketing for KANA, said in the report. “We not only see Web and email infused with strong knowledge management, we have also observed that Web self-service addresses a new way that consumers are engaging with brands–in a ‘multimodal fashion.’ Customers often use multiple channels at once–e.g., speaking to an agent while browsing the company's website and expecting near-immediate confirmations by email. The challenge now for organizations is to weave those experiences together in real time to provide optimal engagement with the customer.”
Perceptions of Customer Service
When asked to rate the perceived overall quality of customer service received, more than 60% of respondents rated retailer efforts a 7 or higher on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being poor and 10 being exceptional. Males were most apt to characterize their overall customer satisfaction as average–with more than two-thirds polled giving a rating of 5, 6, or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Female respondents gave higher rankings overall, with 63.7% giving a rating a 7 or above on a scale of 1 to 10.
The sector that was perceived to be best-in-class in customer service was Apparel and Accessories, with 54.9% of respondents giving a rating of 8, 9, or 10. Those sectors perceived to be least customer service oriented were: Consumer Electronics/Telecommunications (28.3% rating a 5 or lower) and Automotive (18.9% rating a 5 or lower).
Respondents were split when it came to rating two retail sectors: Pharmacy/Drug and Convenience Stores, and Grocery. More than 44% gave Pharmacy a rating of 8, 9, or 10, while 18.9% rated their experiences with Pharmacies/Drug and Convenience Stores a 5 or lower. And 49% gave Grocery a rating of 8, 9, or 10, while 17% gave Grocery a rating of 5 or lower.
“Jumping Ship” Following a Poor Customer Experience
According to the survey results, customer service in the retail space is a winner-take-all affair as an overwhelming amount of consumers indicated they would be highly motivated to “jump ship” to a competitor following a poor or disappointing customer service.
Respondents indicated they were most likely to discontinue doing business with a retailer following a poor or disappointing customer experience in the following sectors: Automotive (58.5% rating an 8, 9, or 10); Furniture and Furnishings (56.6% rating an 8, 9, or 10); and Consumer Electronics/Telecommunications (50% rating an 8, 9, or 10). Not surprisingly, these sectors featured products that were more expensive, where customer service expectations are generally greater.
Following a poor or disappointing customer experience, respondents indicated they were least likely to discontinue doing business with retailers in the following sectors: Apparel and Accessories (21.7% rating a 1, 2, or 3); Pharmacy/Drug and Convenience Stores (17% rating a 1, 2, or 3); and Automotive (15.1% rating a 1, 2, or 3).
Online vs. In-Store
When asked to compare customer service during online vs. in-store/brick-and-mortar shopping, 40.5% of respondents said that online was better, whereas 33% felt both were about the same. Nearly 18% said in-store customer service was better, and 8.5% had no opinion on the matter.
Most Highly Valued Customer Service Traits
Survey respondents were asked, what is the MOST IMPORTANT thing a retailer can do from a customer service perspective to keep your business? When responses from males were analyzed, the most important customer service aspects cited were:
When responses from females were analyzed, the most important customer service aspects cited were:
Peak shopping period pet peeves most often cited by women included:
“To create great customer experiences there needs to be a partnership between marketing and customer service throughout the customer journey,” Hays said. “All of the above responses point to the need for a higher level of sensitivity and personalization for each customer. As retailers try to differentiate themselves with a superior customer experience, it’s critical to support marketing efforts with excellent customer service. Likewise, to maximize revenue per customer, organizations must seek out marketing and sales opportunities within existing customer service interactions. All of that must be finessed by very adept use of context about customers.”
In April 2014, a random group of 106 respondents (ages 18-60-plus) were invited to participate in the survey, which was delivered via a Web-based survey tool.
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