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Customer Service and the Need to Improve

Customer Service Is Lacking On Improving

"In the U.S., there is a 5 percent increase in switching due to poor customer service from 46% to 51%. Globally, there is a 4 percent increase in switching due to poor customer service from 62% to 66%." This quote comes from the 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey from Accenture where the focus was the "Switching Economy," or the shift of consumer loyalty from one provider to another due to poor customer service.

The report lists a number of customer service practices that aggravated the 13,168 respondents, 74 percent stated that, "having to wait for a response after I've requested customer service," to be a cause of frustration.

In Digital Customer Service - A Masterclass in How Not To Deliver It Dan Smith relates a story that shows just how frustrating it can be when contact channels are not effective. When his wife needed to report a problem with an order they found that three different telephone lines were listed and none were available during the weekend despite this being a globally recognized brand. Time zone differences also presented a challenge for making phone contact during the business week. Email contact was also eliciting no response for their complaint either. A message sent via Facebook, however, received a response rather quickly.

Harnessing social media as a way to improve customer service is certainly a good practice, however, it shouldn't be the only channel for customers to reach you through.

You're Doing It Wrong...
The story of Mrs. Smith's handbag coincides with some of the most common mistakes that retailers make on their ecommerce sites.

"Browsing around the web, I have discovered that many sites are actually doing terrible customer support. It may not be their people or the tools they use, but how those two are handled," says Maria Lebed, a customer support advocate at Provide Support.

One of the points she highlights is the exact problem that Smith and his wife experienced; live support is not online. Yet this is not the only issue she has found in her research. Other signs of poor support include:

  • The live support button is always offline

  • The site fails to tell customers the hours when live support is available

  • The live chat button for support is not easily found

  • Lack of branding or personalization makes it look as if support is outsourced

  • Mass impersonal chat invitations

Fixing What's Broken
The same survey conducted by Accenture showed some promise for retailers who are looking to improve how they provide service to their customers.

Even though customers around the globe were less satisfied with customer services as a whole, two areas that are most important to them are ones that can be accommodated with a bit of creative thinking.

Being able to access customer service and support using multiple channels should be the reality for any online business. Support should be available via phone and email at a minimum. Online chat and social media should also be incorporated to provide answers to customers. These channels can also help bolster sales and marketing efforts.

Having access to customer support when I want it and how I want it tops the list. Providing multiple channels of support 24/7 might be expensive for smaller retailers, but by being honest and flexible customers are more accepting and realistic about the times when support is not logistically available.

More Stories By Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is a writer, as well as a tech, social media and environmental enthusiast, living in San Francisco. He is a contributing writer at Forbes, Technorati and The Huffington Post.