Many of the big online stores today are like opulent online malls, with virtual marble floors and high arched ceilings. Using your browser, you can wander around these beautiful online malls and see everything your heart desires in exquisitely designed window displays. When you step into a store, you may get a subtle whiff of flowers or exotic spices. All the products are brightly lit and appealingly arranged. When you go up to the counter to ring up your purchase, the friendly and attractive employee thanks you for your patronage and points you to a door in the back of the shop. You open it and step through…
…and suddenly, you’re in the post-sale experience. It’s a 1950s-era room with low popcorn ceilings, blue and gray wallpaper, and fluorescent lights that buzz. A linoleum floor is peeling up around the edges of the room. People in ill-fitting clothes sit at tables stamping stacks of paper with rubber stamps. You take a number out of a big brown aluminum dispenser and take a seat in one of the folding chairs along the wall. A scratchy speaker announces the next customer to be served. It’s 25 numbers before the number in your hand. You release a long sigh and pull out your phone to play Candy Crush.
That’s the biggest contradiction in eCommerce customer service today: companies want to delight their customers, but they put 99% of their energy into the experience before the sale. But the post-sale customer is the same customer as the pre-sale customer, they’re just in different phases. Sitting in the post-sale waiting room waiting for your number to come up, you may quickly forget how much you enjoyed the online mall. All you want is to get your issue resolved so you can get the heck out of there and never come back.
eCommerce merchants are offering their customers more and more advanced features but they also want to provide quick resolution. Customers have gotten used to luxury features, like extensive personalization, in their shopping experiences. They expect that websites will be able to remember their past purchases and favorite types of items and address them by name.
Why can’t we have equivalent customization in our problem resolution processes? Transaction problems are the most fraught and emotionally challenging of all contacts. As we noted in a prior blog post, transaction problems often quickly jump from sexy Digital Commerce to clunky Analog Customer Support. Getting the “post-sale journey” (aka post-sale experience) right is one of the key ways to communicate to a customer that you have their back. In fact, it’s the exact point in time when your customers are most harshly judging you. How your company responds to the problem means the difference between customer retention and customer churn.
The tendency for many eCommerce companies is to “throw bodies” at the problem, particularly with “squeaky wheel” customers. They figure that human contact is the answer. Angry customers, they think, WANT to talk to a human being. Yet, the reality is that the more their customer service reps get involved the more likely the cost will jump without the guarantee of a fast resolution for the customer.
So how can high performing eCommerce customer service teams bridge the gap between managing transaction problems efficiently and delivering a great customer experience WITHOUT requiring their customer support teams to engage directly?
Based on insights we’ve gleaned from our customers, we’ve created a grid to help you determine when to resolve through human contact and when to resolve through automation: