Does digital enthusiasm come at a high price for customer service?

Endaba Group

Ecommerce sales in the UK will double in size over the next three years to £645bn. The UK has the world’s largest ecommerce sector with a 14% ecommerce share of the UK retail market, as opposed to the US only having 10%. As digital increases, the only thing that’s not digital is the customer! Historically, retailers have invested in digital sales and marketing and Customer Service has been a secondary thought. Customer Service is not just customer support when things go wrong, it is the branded, customer experience and service before, during and after a purchase. With poor service, comes customer defection. And the problem? The lack of the human touch. Retailers need to evolve their customer service strategy to keep up with digital, whilst maintaining the human connection.

Retailers have invested significantly in digital technologies to create more personalised connections, and as a result, have driven profitable growth. Still, there is a growing demand for an increase in digital; 40% of consumers* want more digital channels. However, digital interaction has its limits.  Customers want to be heard, understood and empowered. They want to feel taken care of and valued; digital only offers cold comfort. In fact 73% of consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital to solve Customer Service issues. Human connections make customers’ experiences more satisfying.

Service is critical for companies in retaining digital customers. 73% of consumers admit it is frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them. 64% of consumers moved some or all of their business from providers that failed the service test. For example, more than half of consumers would shop elsewhere if their preferred method of delivery was not available from their regular retailer. When intensely digital consumers can’t find the answers using digital self-service options, they abandon the digital world for the physical. This means the physical channel is the final chance to salvage the relationships. If disappointed by both, 60% won’t return. What does this show? Unsatisfactory customer service means losing customers!

What can retailers do? Customers are more than happy to ‘channel-hop’ between online and physical touchpoints in a journey where they could research product reviews online, compare features on social networks, reserve products on an app and pick it up in-store. 51% of UK customers are comfortable crossing back and forth between multiple channels, even within a single interaction. And yet, retailers are still investing disproportionately and blindly across their touchpoints. Only 36% of businesses could track a customer journey which spans multiple channels. When they do invest in their Customer Service, they are merely investing in the technology (online chats, forums) but not focusing on that all important human connection!

Some retailers more than others are now investing in their Customer Service:

Digital technology itself is not the problem. Some retailers are using digital technologies to mimic the element of a human connection:

This shows it is not always about interacting with a human being, but the feeling that they are valued and looked after on a personal and human level.

It is imperative for retailers to develop a holistic, 360, human, Customer Service strategy in line with the development of digital technologies in order to retain customers and provide not only the best but an integrated, experiential journey both digitally and physically.


*The 11th annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey measured the experiences of 24,489 customers in 33 countries and across 11 industries to assess consumer attitudes