In the land of multi-channel retail, customers not only expect to have a consistent experience that transcends channels, in many cases they are forced to in order to complete the research, checkout, fulfillment, and service life cycle of an online purchase. The following five enhancements (ordered by their ease of implementation) can empower your customers to satisfy their needs on their own and in turn, reduce the volume and overhead on your call center and service channels.
- Give customers a voice on your site, not in your call center: Tools like GetSatisifaction and User Voice have come to market to offer a service for retailers to capture feedback and identify/prioritize issues customers are having with their shopping experience. What was once a problem that lingered on a site for days or an issue that solicited hundreds of additional calls to your call center, can now be mitigated by adding a “Feedback” tab (like the one on the left hand side of this page) or similar functionality to your site; thus reducing the burden on your service channel. These tools are very easy to implement (can increase in difficulty as you attempt single sign-on) but can dramatically reduce unnecessary call volume while also allowing customers to vote which issues are most important to them from a resolution stand point. While not many ecommerce sites have adopted this functionality yet, I see this being a quick win and valuable tool for any storefront.
- Customer generated Q&A on product detail pages: Some retailers have started adding a Q&A tab to their product detail pages in order for customers to pose questions about a product and have those questions answered by either other customers (promotes engagement and interaction between customers) or service representatives. While reducing the need for the customer to call the call center to ask additional questions, this data can prove to be more useful than merchandised product information and adds a point of differentiation for researchers on your site. [frame_left] [/frame_left]Backcountry.com has done a great job by implementing a “product wall” to their detail pages, mimicking the social vibe of a Facebook page to allow customers to add their questions, photos, videos, reviews, etc. One other fringe benefit from this type of functionality is that it allows you to identify which customers on your site are your most active contributors and knowledgeable about your products. You should take the opportunity to target these customers and reward them for their dedication to your brand (these are usually your most prominent external influencers!).
- Credit card authorization via the web: By enhancing your payment gateway services and requiring that all payments pass a vigorous web authorization and AVS checks you can reduce down stream chargebacks and timely follow-ups for your billing department. One of my clients has estimated that each chargeback can take on average 1-2 hours for an agent to resolve between the customer, banks, and financial institutions.
- Self-service returns & exchanges: Give customers the ability to log into their accounts and initiate a return or exchange via the web. [frame_right] [/frame_right]While the functionality sounds simple, many challenges around re-pricing, historical promotions and coupons, and other various accounting and logistical obstacles must be overcome during design and development. Zappos.com and Music123.com have done a great job of streamlining this flow for the customer by integrating the flow with UPS in order to provide a printable shipping label, packing slip, and RMA ID.
- Post order management actions: In many instances, once an order has been placed a customer realizes on the order confirmation page or email that they have made a mistake on their billing address, shipping address, or other required fields and wish to make an update. Due to the systems limitations that most eCommerce landscapes face with a typical one-way order push to the order management system for processing, this can become a difficult functionality to implement, yet a highly useful tool for some customers. Amazon.com offers customers a 30-minute time window on orders that ship directly from their warehouse to make changes without speaking to a customer service agent. I have seen other retailers use this time window to offer “exploding” time-based offers or incentives in an attempt to increase the basket size. While the functionality seems important to many customers, it is important to assess the number of calls that the service centers receive around these issues to see what cost you are trying to mitigate (you may find that the implementation is more expensive than the benefit).
While this is not an exhaustive list of enhancements retailers can introduce to reduce their cost to serve, these are some great first actionable options as you analyze service channel overhead. I would love to hear what your site is doing to reduce cost to serve while keeping customer experience a top priority for your customers!