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Report: Retail Lags in Omnichannel Customer Service

Retailers around the globe learned to adapt during the pandemic, quickly pivoting to offer curbside pickup, mobile payments, and online storefronts. Despite making strides in digital adoption, a new report finds that many retailers are still missing the mark on omnichannel customer service.

According to the 2022 Omnichannel Service Index, released by Incisiv and Genesys, 90% of shoppers now begin their buying journey online, but just 30% say they are satisfied with the service offered during the discovery phase of the experience. Retailers of all sizes, and particularly small and mid-size businesses, are failing to provide seamless customer service experiences across channels. The majority of retailers still don’t offer basic personalization across touchpoints, and just 15% of chat agents address customers by name.

“While everyone has been talking about omnichannel and one unified experience for years, it’s surprising how disintegrated the platforms and other tools are for most retailers, and how difficult it is for the agents either on call or on chat to get the right information quickly,” says Amar Mokha, chief operating officer at Incisiv.

Using detailed assessments of global retailers’ digital capabilities based on a proprietary benchmarking framework, Incisiv collected insights from more than 60,000 shoppers and 2,500 consumer industry executives. The company also conducted detailed experience audits, from e-commerce to store visits, across more than 500 global retailers, and found that the vast majority of retailers still see customer service as an issue resolution mechanism. Fewer than 20% of retailers are using customer support interactions to push sales.

“The benchmark of excellent customer service is being set by technology and user-experience leaders across industries like Tesla, Apple, [and] Uber, Mokha says. “As digital becomes the front door to the retail experience, retailers straddled with legacy processes and technology will struggle to sustain competitive advantage.” 

Even the most basic omnichannel customer service use case requires process digitization, channel integration, and data unification — for example, querying the status of orders placed using a mobile application for in-store pickup. Complex omnichannel customer service use cases require extensive backend infrastructure, which few mid-size retail chains have invested in thus far. 

In the coming months, Mokha hopes retailers will begin to realize that they need to get aggressive in how they  digitize processes, integrate data, and orchestrate service processes across the ecosystem to offer the kind of fast and transparent customer service that customers want.

“Retail has always been about knowing the customer and their preference — and with digitization online, it has become an imperative,” Mokha says. “Customer expectations from retailers are sky high.”

Although personalization has been talked about for many years, Mokha believes that 2022 may be the year retailers finally start focusing on offering personalized experiences to their shoppers and using customer service as a sales channel.

“As the path to purchase becomes increasingly non-linear, retailers are expected to use this touchpoint as a personalized selling opportunity,” Mokha says.

VR as a Service Tool

Incisiv found that the biggest point of friction for shoppers purchasing online is an intuitive and accurate product search. Just 32% of shoppers are satisfied with the search and filtering options on retailers’ websites. In addition to improving the accuracy of their search tools, retailers could begin to improve these metrics by investing in product discovery tools like virtual mirrors, AR/VR technology, demo videos, and other brand interactions.

Global retailers like Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Levi’s, Macy’s, and Sephora appear to have a significant leg up in the successful adoption of omnichannel customer service experiences, according to Incisiv’s research, but smaller brands shouldn’t feel defeated. Even without multimillion dollar budgets, Mokha says small and mid-size retailers still have opportunities to compete.

“Retailers offering best-in-class customer service experience invested early on in these foundation elements and took a 360-view of customer service just looking at it as [an] issue resolution mechanism,” Mokha says. “To emulate leaders, smaller retailers should consider [investing] in channel unification to offer a seamless service experience across channels, devices and touchpoints [and allowing] shoppers flexibility and convenience through digital self-service.”

​​Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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