All I Want For Christmas Is A Response From Customer Services

Retailers’ online customer service teams deal with 80% of customer email queries within 24 hours – unless it’s Christmas … when only around 25% are queries are tackled.

With more people than ever predicted to be shopping online this Christmas, a frustration will rear its ugly head over the festive period – the response, or lack of it, from retailers’ customer services departments to queries via email or the ‘Contact Us’ button on websites.

“With the largest online retailers expected to each be making more than 250,000 deliveries per week in the pre-Christmas period – the best performers will be delivering 99% of these without a hitch, leaving the other 1% or 2,500 customers disgruntled and frustrated,” said Tim Easton, MD of numéro.

“Factor in that it’s December and those same retailers will see the number of inbound customer emails increase between five and ten times as much as in a normal month, and you can begin to understand the magnitude of the challenge retailers face – and the frustration it leads to for the customer,” he said.

In a normal month, it is estimated that 80% of customers can expect a response to their email query within 24 hours of having sent it, and that the remaining 20% will see a response within three days.

At Christmas, the reverse is true. Response within 24 hours drops significantly to around 25% and the problem snowballs with customers sending frustrated emails to chase their original query – leaving customer services agents swamped.

With email contact to customer services departments increasing year on year by between 40 and 80%, the problem looks set to continue.

“Email is just as important in a retailer’s customer contact strategy as the ‘phone. Handled incorrectly, it can potentially loose the retailer its online reputation and repeat business – and never more so than at Christmas when the pressure is on,” said Easton.

In today’s 24×7, fire-and-forget world, customers no longer want to wait on the end of a phone for an agent to help them, but would rather send an email and wait for a timely and accurate response. Receiving a less than helpful reply can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a customer – they get a response, but it hasn’t answered their original question, and so requires further contact, time and patience.

With the use of SmartAgént technology, retailers can acknowledge receipt of the original email, provide a time frame as to when to expect a response, handle seasonality, prioritise emails and route them to the correct agent in the right department to deal with them in a timely and accurate manner.

“Online retailers must realise that the website is the front door of any company and in the majority of cases displays a ‘Contact Us’ button on the home page – its like the door being open for business, but there’s nobody on the front desk,” said Easton.