More chatting. Less talking.

It’s no secret that the future of retail is online. According to the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, there was an 11% increase in UK online retail sales in 2015 and e-commerce sales in 2016 are set to rise to a staggering £126bn.

As more and more consumers choose to buy products online, retailers have increasingly had to refocus their customer service operations to adapt to this shift in shopping habits. 

As a global customer service provider to some of the biggest retail brands in the world, Convergys has carried out numerous surveys to find out what consumers want. Although voice interaction continues to be a popular option, especially when dealing with more complex enquiries, chat is on the rise. In fact, our most recent data shows it is the fastest growing channel for customer service. 

This growth is directly tied to customers’ expectations that companies should value their time. Customers are less concerned about niceties; they want results, and chat has proven to be an incredibly effective means of solving customer problems. 

It’s also not just the younger generation that prefer this channel. More than a third of customers over the age of 57 saying that they use online chat to resolve any queries.

So what does this all mean for retailers’ customer services strategy? Here are three basic, but guiding, principles: 

  1. Chat should hold a prominent place in a retailers’ customer service strategy

Chat isn’t just a fad.  It’s increasingly the preference of a consumer culture that wants everything – including service – to meet them where they are.

  1. Having the right agents can make or break a chat programme

The best chat agents are those with strong multi-tasking and written communication skills, as well as an existing understanding of the brand. 

  1. Analysing the data acquired through chat customer interactions is incredibly important, and the process is dramatically different to mining data from a voice programme

Establishing the required standards and developing them into something a business can use to improve efficiencies is a critical piece of the puzzle. Working with a company whose sole focus is customer service can avoid costly mistakes and make the vast amount of data that exists in chat interactions commercially useful.

Great customer service is increasingly a mix of human talent and technological advances. It’s certainly possible for businesses to effectively navigate this rapidly changing landscape on their own. However, the most cost effective way to deploy a customer service strategy that seamlessly integrates chat is to look to specialist service providers that have already done this successfully.  

By Richard Evans is vice President of operations at Convergys UK

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