The rise in online purchases has strained many e-commerce companies, particularly those who are new to direct-to-consumer retail and whose logistics networks aren’t accustomed to the high volume of orders. Those operational issues — combined with a customer base who may be purchasing online for the first time — have led to a rise in customer service queries. In fact, a new report finds an average inquiry increase of 17% across industries.
Although many companies may be focusing on managing inventory or minimizing cash burn, customer service continues to be an important tool for connecting with shoppers. The report, by customer experience platform Kustomer, found that consumers value empathetic and personalized customer service most at this time — even more than quick service.
“With many businesses shutting their storefronts, customer service professionals become the face of the company and are essential to empathizing with customers and preventing issues before they arise,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and co-founder of Kustomer.
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But many companies have not been prepared for the greater volume of requests. The study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.
In order to address this, Birnbaum recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.
A customer support platform can also provide a full view of the customer’s relationship with the company, from purchasing history to preferences, reducing the need to redirect the shopper between departments or repeat information. This streamlines the service process, for both customer and representative, and can mitigate previous negative brand experiences, such as delayed deliveries.
“It is abundantly clear that the way we service customers during a stressful and emotional time is different,” said Birnbaum. “We simply cannot treat customers as tickets or transactions; we must treat them as valued human beings with real needs and emotions.”