Retailers are Suffering From Long Wait Times and Decreased Sales During the Pandemic. Using Live Chat Can Help Close the Communication Gap, Increase Customer Satisfaction, and Drive Future Purchases.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on life as we know it. One of its major ripple effects? An increasing frustration with customer service.
Consider this scenario: consumers are stuck at home and placing more online orders due to stay-at-home restrictions.
At the same time, retailers have fewer warehouse employees. Customer service staff are working from home, and shipping delays abound.
Customers are calling in for service and experiencing incredibly long wait times. Macy’s and many others have even taken the step to notify customers of long wait times on their website. Amazon asked customers to wait 3 days before calling about a missing package.
Though many retailers have rebounded since the initial lockdown, customer behavior is likely changed forever. Consumer safety is still paramount, which will likely continue to affect in-person shopping behavior. And many businesses are already pushing customers to chat functions:
- Salesforce reports that customer service inquiries in its function for retail and CPG clients increased by a whopping 426%, when comparing April inquiries to February.
- Liveperson said that some of its customers logged more chat inquiries in April 2020 than they did for the entire previous year.
Not surprisingly, live chat already has quite an established following with consumers. Almost half of consumers prefer live chat support over other channels.
Live Chat is a Key Tool For Retailers Looking to Adapt to the New Retail Landscape
There’s a couple of ways of looking at live chat: from the business’s perspective and the customer’s view. As a customer, what you see is a way to chat online with a business.
When viewing a webpage on a computer or phone, there’s usually a chat function on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Sometimes it’s the messenger function on Facebook or an SMS capability.
The other perspective is what customer service agents see when they are chatting with customers. They have access to many chat conversations at once via a dashboard view. These chat conversations can be organized by priority, topic, or a set of customized rules that you determine.
Chat functionality can start with a customer self-selecting the category of their inquiry – product questions, order inquiries, returns, shipping, etc. – before interacting with an agent.
Live chat seems pretty straightforward. Customers can chat with staff to get answers; staff have a comprehensive way to view many customer chats and manage them by priority. Reaping the full benefits of live chat through its integration into your customer experience platform are a bit more complex.
These are 4 of the key ways retailers can win big with live chat:
1. Reduce Customer Wait Times
Rather than making a phone call, navigating their way through a list of options, and waiting on hold for an agent, a customer can simply open a chat window, choose their topic, and type in a question. They can even go off to another browser window and do something else while they wait, as the chat will ping them when there’s a new message.
Generally, customers are not waiting long. Live chat wait times average around 46 seconds, which is many times faster than call center wait times.
And it makes sense: a customer service agent (CSR) can only handle one phone call at a time. But that same CSR can answer multiple customer service inquiries simultaneously. As consumers grow increasingly impatient due to faster technology, retailers will need to continually work to reduce time spent waiting.
2. Test Out Personalization
Much like in-person and phone interactions, 1:1 conversations between customers and agents are totally personalized. The customer asks about their specific question and the agent helps the customer get an answer.
For retailers who have yet to make the leap to automated personalization tools, live chat offers an opportunity to try out personalization without a big time and resource-intensive investment
What this entails is taking a look at chat conversations after they happen to take follow-up actions with specific customers.
Maybe there’s a high percentage of chat conversations about styling for apparel or bundling for electronic devices, for example.
After reviewing those conversations, retailers can flag the customers and create content with discounts and promotions around that theme. And with over 90% of shoppers saying they prefer to buy from brands that make personalized offers, retailers need to make personalization a priority.
3. Meet Shoppers Where They Are
Consumers have access to a dizzying array of communication channels today. They can call a retailer on the phone, send an email, use a website chat, look them up on Facebook, connect on Instagram, follow them on Twitter, etc. And the great thing is this: most live chat programs can communicate with shoppers regardless of channel.
Instead of implementing live chat on a retail website and having that be the only chat channel, customers can access it on their platform of choice. The retailer is effectively showing up wherever the customer already is, making live chat easier to say “yes” to.
Retailers who adopt this omnichannel strategy can expect returns: according to the Aspect Software, companies that use omnichannel have customer retention rates higher than 90%, year-over-year (YOY).
4. Integrate Seamlessly Across Platforms
Make no mistake: a live chat tool will definitely improve outcomes for customers. However, it can’t do that as a standalone. Live chat needs to be connected to other critical platforms that manage the customer experience.
- Connecting to the retailer’s CRM will allow chat transcripts to be stored in the CRM, for review during subsequent customer conversations.
- Linking to a retailer’s knowledgebase and helpdesk system will enable chat connections for stored content and ticket recording, respectively.
- Tying directly to Google Analytics or another measurement platform will make it possible to connect measurement stats to chat conversations.
- Linking to the email service provider (ESP) and e-commerce platforms also enable further personalization.
These connections are critical for the retailer to understand the full picture of a customer, regardless of where they look.
And customers are increasingly demanding this 360-degree view: over three-quarters responding to Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” survey report that “connected processes such as seamless handoffs or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions are very important to winning their business.”
The Time to Adopt Live Chat is Now
Where once it was a nice-to-have, live chat functionality is nearly a necessity for retailers looking to make it to the other side of the coronavirus pandemic. Customers are not willing to wait anymore. Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report said it best:
“76% of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.”
Retailers have many tools at their disposal to make the customer experience as memorable and sticky as possible, and live chat is one of the most critical.
- Live Chat Reduces Lengthy Customer Wait Times,
- Helps Retailers Test Personalization,
- Brings the Brand to the Shopper (instead of vice versa), and
- Integrates With Mission Critical Platforms That Drive the Customer Experience.
Want to learn how Linc’s customer experience (CX) platform supports live chat interactions? Contact us today for a demo.