Online customer complaints jump 138% with delivery the biggest bugbear
As online shopping has increased in popularity over the past couple of years, so too have customer service complaints. With rising competition among digital brands, it is very simple for a disgruntled consumer to go elsewhere if their complaint isn’t properly addressed.
It is a serious issue as complaints regarding online shopping rocketed between April 2020 and March 2021, jumping by 138% on the previous 12-month period, according to Resolver’s Annual Complaints Data 2020/2021.
While consumers criticised many aspects of retailers’ customer service, delivery was the most contentious issue. More than 111,000 complaints were received about deliveries against online retailers, while 91,906 complaints were made specifically against delivery firms.
Blaming Covid just won’t do
It’s been a very challenging time for everyone but using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse doesn’t wash any more. Consumers are demanding the same, if not better service than before the pandemic began and will invariably vote with their wallets if they don’t get the experience they want, writes Gary Bennett, VP UKI/MEA/Northern Europe at Enghouse Interactive
Organisations ought to understand that delivering the right experience to customers is central to attracting and retaining their business. Engaged consumers are loyal, spend more and would recommend a company they are happy with to family and friends. In contrast, unhappy, disengaged customers are unlikely to value products and services and will quite easily switch to other brands.
The moment of truth
Given the importance of the customer experience, it is essential for businesses to ensure they are meeting their requirements at the crucial “moment of truth,” which describes key points in an interaction.
Identified by McKinsey, the moment of truth is a time or times when customers can be won or lost depending on how an organisation responds. They can often be highly emotional moments, such as when a product has gone wrong when it is needed most, or when a much-anticipated delivery has gone astray.
What is vital to understand is that consumers will remember and act on how they feel at these particular moments. So, even if a company provides excellent service at every other time, handling routine queries quickly and successfully, they can lose customers if they fail at these crucial times.
Don’t be difficult to contact
Now more than ever, retailers and other businesses need to show consumers that their questions will be attended to promptly and competently, as that is frequently the make-or-break moment. Organisations must ensure that customer interactions are seamless and frictionless. If they don’t get the support or answers they need, they will go elsewhere.
Sadly, too many companies make it difficult for people to contact them directly, which can damage a company’s image and will encourage them to complain in other ways, such as via social media.
While social media is a good channel for companies to show how important customers are to them, they need to respond rapidly and in a friendly way if a customer uses it to complain. The answer is not to simply tell them to call the service hotline. In fact, this can do more harm than good. A customer that is already disappointed and frustrated at not getting a fast resolution to their problem could become further irritated and annoyed by being kept waiting in a queue for a protracted period. Key to the issue is that people expect a quick response and resolution to their complaint or query.
Complaining via social media is an effective way to get the attention of the most responsible and responsive companies. For instance, when they see a negative tweet they are likely to react to it right away and attempt to solve the problem before it attracts too much attention or even goes viral. However, organisations ought to provide a variety of methods for people to contact them, and of course respond to them in a timely manner, no matter what channel is used. This should be a win-win for both sides, as the company will improve its brand image and the customer will feel valued and engaged.
First contact resolution
Unfortunately, most businesses are still a long way from improving their customer service rates and reaching their improvement goals, according to research in the ContactBabel UK Customer Experience Decision Makers Guide 2021-22
Solving problems quickly and effectively is central to achieving high satisfaction levels. Consumers don’t want to be forced to make several attempts to resolve an issue or have to wait for an agent to call them back with an answer.
In the report both consumers and customer service professionals agree that First Contact Resolution (FCR) is key to customer success. In fact, across every age group, consumers ranked FCR as the most important factor when dealing with a business, ahead of waiting times, long opening hours and polite employees. Meanwhile, 50% of businesses said their customers valued getting problems resolved first time as their priority, with a further 31% putting it within the top three.
Invest in a centralised knowledge base
Accurate, up-to-date knowledge is key to delivering the highest levels of service, so it is essential to give customer service agents easy access to the right information when they are answering calls and emails, and during chat sessions. By investing in a centralised knowledge base that spans all of their communication channels, organisations can use this information to power both website self-service platforms and chatbots too. It is important that this information is consistent and kept up-to-date, particularly if this is handled by different teams, whether they are dealing with queries over the phone or via digital channels with the same information mirrored on the company website.
Interactive self service
Giving people the ability to help themselves by providing quick resolution to their enquiries is an important aspect of a fully integrated customer experience. It can help optimise engagement and satisfaction by improving first call resolution (FCR) rates, reducing delays and hold times, and optimising operational efficiency, while meeting needs and expectations.
Consumers want to find easy solutions to their problems and one way of doing this is by providing them with the information, delivered consistently across every channel that they use. For instance, this can be in the form of FAQs on the company’s website. This simple self-service method is available 24/7 and frees up call times for contact centre agents. In addition to FAQs, easily understood information sources such as infographics and video explainers and even access to forums can help people quickly find the answer they’re looking for.
For complaints that can’t be resolved using these methods, businesses can implement chatbots or virtual assistants for live resolutions. Virtual assistants are very useful as they can capture customer information from the first Interactive Voice Response (IVR) point of contact to ensure that appropriate resources and responses are ready to resolve inquiries or problems.
It is important to highlight also, that if any of these digital modes of interaction should fail to deliver what customers are looking for, there should always be an option to escalate their enquiry to a live agent to give the best possible chance of the issue being resolved as part of a single interaction.
Be proactive and transparent
It’s also important for organisations to be proactive with the information they provide, if there are, for instance supply chain problems, leading to deliveries being delayed. Customers won’t necessarily want to spend time in a call or emailing a contact centre to enquire about an issue that they could have easily been made aware of on the company’s website, on Facebook, via Twitter and even by text or messaging apps informing them of the delays ahead of time. This approach will still give reassurance while reducing incoming contact volumes, freeing up agent time to answer other queries and shortening waiting times.
Being transparent and honest with customers can help foster loyalty. And engagement doesn’t just have to be about bad news. Keeping consumers up-to-date with good news is effective too, as in the case of notifying them that their order has been shipped ahead of schedule!
Escalating a complaint or enquiry
When a customer can’t resolve a query themselves and the matter needs to be escalated, it is important that they are made aware about what the next steps are towards a resolution. This can be explained on the website’s FAQ, or from information coming from chatbots and virtual assistants. Equally, it is important that they are still given a choice of contact methods such as telephone, video, chat and email. No matter how customers make contact, these channels need to deliver a joined-up experience, as customers expect to be able to switch seamlessly to other channels during the course of an interaction. For example, where a video call is used to show a faulty product, an email delivers a written audit-trail, and a phone call brings personal, conversational help.
An effective way of delivering this type of omnichannel service is for organisations to integrate their contact centre with collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams. This allows a company to easily deliver agile, collaborative communication within internal departments as well as with their customers across all channels.
In a world where people can easily change allegiance to a competitor, being open and honest with consumers, and communicating with them with integrity, no matter what channel is used, is important in building up trust and confidence in a business. It is certainly a powerful and valuable commodity that is directly linked to customer satisfaction and loyalty.