Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone and several retail analysts are saying holiday sales have been a little less than stellar. While sales were up last year 4.1 percent, this year they will be closer 3.5 percent according to Dana Telsey, CEO of Telsey Advisory Group. Kind of like a gift card from a home improvement store. Nice yes, but you’re kind of hoping for more. So even though seasonal sales have picked up from 2014, the outlook for robust consumer spending is not so robust.
But wait, there’s more. The outlook for retail customer service is just as tepid as the latest Aspect Consumer Index found that a third of consumers will have lower customer service expectations during this holiday season. Retailers may find that weak customer support proves a greater long-term revenue impact than sales after the holidays have passed. And the proof is in the Christmas pudding.
Let Them Eat Fruitcake
Even with lower expectations, half of those surveyed by Aspect say poor customer service adds frustration to their holiday season, resulting in a whopping 52 percent of them saying they have moved their business from retailers in the past year that have provided poor service. How do consumers characterize sub-par Santa-level service? Customers cite getting bounced around from one customer service rep to the next as frustrating, but increasingly are asking why do they even have to go through a person to get their issues resolved? So just how bad is the state of holiday service? Frustration runs so high with some consumers that nearly a third surveyed said that they would rather eat a piece of last year’s fruit cake that dry, jellied-fruit cake concoction than contact customer support.
Ironically, while companies focus on beefing up the number of reps handling calls during holidays, it’s this reliance on traditional voice support that could be causing the Yuletide logjam. According to a recent Dimension Data report, contact centers anticipate a 35 percent drop in voice interactions over the next two years. And Salesforce.com’s recent State of Service report found that high performing customer service organizations believe service inquiries across mobile apps, mobile chat, and social networks are expected to increase more than 20% over the next 12 to 18 months.
Text is the New Talk
Today’s customer service reality, especially during the holidays, is that too many brands force their customers into the traditional voice channel for support. But consumers today don’t call their friends and colleagues, they text and tweet them. The Aspect research found that more than 40% of consumers would opt to use text or messaging for customer service, but don’t because it’s either not available or woefully one directional. The Aspect survey found that if privacy and security were the same across all communication choices, consumer text and chat usage would increase dramatically: 250% for chat, 367% for text. Plain and simple, text is the new talk. The problem is, most companies aren’t giving consumers the option to text – according to the Aspect survey, this is good news for fruitcake makers.
So beyond walking the walk, can companies successfully ‘text the talk’? It is increasingly clear that talk is losing its status as the preferred method of communication. If you don’t believe that, ask a Millennial what voicemail is – you’re likely to get a blank stare. So why shouldn’t this notion of “text as the new talk” apply to business processes that have been traditionally call only? Say for example, customer service? In other words, when a consumer needs customer support, traditional thinking says a customer calls an 800 number, navigates through a frustrating phone tree, presses 1 for this and 2 for that, eventually ends up in a phone que waiting for an customer service rep who more often than not, has no idea why the customer is calling in the first places
We Wish You a Merry Message
Intelligent, text-based interaction offers a more engaging and effective way to break the bottleneck than most companies realize. Not only does it ease rep volume but it gives consumers exactly what they want, a simple way to get questions answered quickly and correctly and in a manner they prefer. Which in turn, is going to keep a better percentage of those customers from going somewhere else. So in a way, a company who ignores the consumer calls for more non-voice interaction options sends a clear message: Will that be one slice or two?
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