Unified customer view critical for omnichannel customer service
In the past, retailers treated each channel as its own specific entity – an online site might as well be managed by a completely different brand than the physical store. However, customers have higher expectations now, they view all of these different sales channels as a single shopping platform under one retail brand. Merchants need to respond accordingly and ensure they can serve customers, regardless of their sales avenue preferences.
Omnichannel customer service woes
Offering this level of service to customers is no easy task, however. There are numerous stories of retail brands leaving their customers hanging because service agents cannot answer questions or resolve issues for omnichannel shoppers. In fact, we even reported one incident of this earlier this year. A Target customer found a treadmill on sale for a lower price through one of the Target eBay channel and opted to make the purchase through the eBay store to save $1,000. However, a shipping fiasco resulted in the treadmill being returned to the warehouse, where it was promptly sold to another customer. To make matters worse, Target’s in-house customer service could only work with direct buyers and not marketplace shoppers, resulting in a frustrating experience for the patron.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident – many retailers struggle to serve omnichannel shoppers. An in-store employee may not be able to return an online purchase, or a call center worker may not be able to add items to a purchase ordered in-store. Even something that seems like it should be simple, such as checking on the status of an order, can be a problem for some omnichannel sellers.
In fact, recent research conducted by Retail Solutions Online found more than one-third of merchants noted the lack of contact center technology as being a top barrier that prevented them from becoming fully integrated. When contact center agents do not have the technology and tools needed to serve omnichannel customers, it becomes nearly impossible to meet shoppers’ high expectations when it comes to customer service.
To make the situation worse, some customers even reported that contact center employees provided them with conflicting information regarding their orders. Retail Solutions Online cited a CFI Group study that found as many as 78 percent of customers occasionally or frequently receive information from contact centers that does not align with information from other channels. For example, a contact center employee may tell customers an item is in stock when it isn’t or they may say an item has been shipped when it is backlogged or still being processed.
Implementing the contact center tools to improve customer service
While customer service is often viewed as requiring a lot of person-to-person skills, the fact of the matter is that these people also need to have the right information at their fingertips to do their jobs. Whether answering questions about product availability, helping customers add more items to orders or dealing with other customer service requests, it all starts with a universal view of the supply chain, customer profiles and inventory information across all channels.
Backend eCommerce solutions can help tie all of the various channels together into a single view, which not only helps retail operations such as order fulfillment and inventory management, but can also be extended to customer service teams as well. Customer service plays a vital role in a memorable shopping experience, so empowering service agents with accurate information and giving them the tools they need to help customers should be a top priority for any seller.