New digital shoppers mean ecommerce is everyone’s business

Life before the global pandemic sometimes feels like another era. Retailers who were once focused on how to engage with Gen Z’s and millennials online – the ones at the forefront of the ecommerce experience – are now considering how to cater for every generation. As a result of the pandemic, online adoption has accelerated and even my grandmother now shops online!

The sudden move to online is no longer just about convenience. Instead, the pandemic has influenced a shift in cultural and societal norms. Those who were once hesitant about the shift to ecommerce, now find digital has become ingrained in their day to day lives, quickly shattering any negative preconceptions.  

In fact, according to our 2021 Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report, during the pandemic, nearly a third of UK customers (29 percent) claimed they started shopping with a new business; and 45 percent reported they used a new channel. Evidently, consumer behaviours are changing, and quickly. With 61 percent of UK customers indicating that they will continue to use these new channels for support, businesses will need to ensure they understand their customers and adapt their customer experience strategy accordingly.  

Ongoing and unconditional support 

Humans are creatures of habit and so the volatile nature of 2020 filled many of us with dread. But it wasn’t just consumers left feeling the pressure. Businesses felt it too. The retail sector for example, was placed under extraordinary pressure due to the sudden increased demand for online shopping. Orders took longer to process and customer service teams were having to deal with an increased volume of new queries and requests from online shoppers new to the idea of WISMO (where is my order) or finding the right fit online. Customer service teams within the hospitality and travel industries were inundated with more cancellation requests than ever before. Essentially, businesses were operating in unfamiliar territory, at breakneck speed, to an unknown destination. 

At times like this, a little bit of reassurance and regular communication can go a long way to improving customer loyalty during difficult times. In fact, some 65 percent of customers want to buy from companies that offer quick and easy online transactions. Meanwhile three quarters (75 percent) of customers have said that they’d be willing to spend more with companies that deliver a good CX. It is clear that fast and reliable – often real-time communication – can help provide a seamless and frictionless customer service.

For those consumers who are now planning to make shopping online the norm, their first interaction with any brand will dictate what happens next. Remember, a positive and frictionless service will see customers return. But, a poor experience will see them opening the digital doors to another brand and, in some cases, a negative social media megaphone. 

The rise of the messaging platform 

When it comes to good customer service, the expectation is for responses to be fast, convenient, and helpful in nature. It’s no wonder we’re seeing an increase in the popularity of messaging platforms since the onset of the pandemic. Of the 40 percent of companies that added a new channel this year, 53 percent turned to messaging. This includes the likes of WhatsApp, SMS and messaging which is often embedded into a company’s own website.   

Customers also want to be able to connect to businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to convenience, messaging facilitates a continuous flow of communication between customers and support teams. Customers no longer have to repeat themselves if an agent is disconnected; the chat history will be readily available to provide context for the new agent who may take over. As appetites for messaging continue to increase, the Big Tech companies are latching on to this new craze.  Apple, Google and Facebook for example, all placed greater emphasis on improving their messaging services for businesses over the past year.  

Digital transformation in customer service 

Customer service is constantly evolving, especially with the introduction of new and innovative technologies such as chatbots and AI. Yet, for some businesses, the thought of adding another communication channel can be daunting. Many businesses are concerned that this will be overwhelming for both customers and employees. But that doesn’t need to be the case. 

Companies can make better use of the agents that they already have. Beyond providing training and upskilling opportunities, it’s about empowering employees to flex within one agent workspace. By encouraging agents to be more efficient, you don’t necessarily need to hire new people to do the job. 

One of our customer’s, Balearia, a maritime transportation company who carry millions of passengers and tons of cargo across continents every day, has proven that introducing a new messaging platform can significantly improve CX. At the onset of the pandemic, Balearia’s customer interactions spiked over 500 percent. Customers were increasingly requesting cancellations or raising concerns over safety risks.

Working with Zendesk, Balearia were able to employ Chat and Whatsapp in a matter of days. This allowed them to provide regular, real-time updates to customers over one messaging platform, which enabled seamless conversations and provided a 360 view of customer data. By deploying an omnichannel approach, Balearia has been able to improve its overall CX.  

Despite the obvious benefits of being able to connect the dots from each touchpoint of the customer journey, investment in omnichannel actually fell last year. The challenge here is that without visibility into who your customer is and access to the right data on what they need, it becomes much harder to assign the right resources, support and personalization to that individual. Remember, in order to make it easier for your customers to get the support they need, you need to empower your staff. A good starting point is to enable staff to become more self-sufficient through the service center. Investing in new approaches that can help your staff find the answers they need to the most frequently asked questions, naturally frees up their time to focus on engaging with customers on the more complex issues.

Driving a new perspective

2021 will be about much more than a good CSAT score, or quick response rate. It will be about driving customer loyalty and getting creative in terms of how you keep customers returning to the ‘online’ store.  

Working towards that goal means equipping your teams with the tools and technology they need to work more efficiently, with less obstacles in the way. A sustainable and quality CX isn’t about ticking a box. It’s about investing now, in the pursuit of building a truly great business.

Peter Lorant, COO, Zendesk EMEA

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