By Paul Scott, Chief Platforms & Partnerships

2020 has seen many organisations explode with demand for their products and services even though we are dealing with a 100-year event in the COVID-19 pandemic.  

One area that has absolutely exploded is e-commerce. 

The numbers coming out of the local New Zealand market are incredible, but some of the global numbers are insane.  In New Zealand for example according to the RetailWatch data, online supermarket grocery spend has doubled between January 2020 and April 2020. For a similar time, frame department stores saw an almost 400% increase in online spend.

In the US, e-commerce is looking at growth of 18% YoY according to Business Insider, with services like Click and Collect up even more.

What we are seeing is people who haven’t shopped online before are now trying it for the first time, and are absolutely loving the experience. There has been about a 12% growth in new online buyers in the 65 year + age group.

This is creating a permanent change in behaviour.

While these amazing acquisition numbers are impressive, the challenge for organisations is to ensure they maintain the level of customer experience, customer service and customer satisfaction that is required to keep these new customers in the future.

A huge 93% of respondents polled said they switched businesses at least once in the last year because of poor customer service. Organisations need to make sure service levels don’t drop with increasing levels of demand.

Increased demand through growth or change of channel

The last thing an organisation wants after acquiring a set of new customers is for their customers to be upset when something goes wrong.

Upset customers that aren’t provided the level of service they expect will tell people about their bad experience.

Customer service departments are under pressure to deliver more, including first call resolution in less time. That coupled with new customers to their online channels, that need more support, means service levels are falling.

Slow customer service

Many customers expect their issues to be resolved quickly, something that going into a physical store can typically achieve. Providing support for digital channels is different.

Forrester reports that 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service.

Given the asynchronous nature of much customer service online, including messaging, emails etc, a perception of slowness is created.

Research has reported many people have used an online FAQ, help centre or other self-serve support resources, although digital natives are more likely to seek out self-help, other customers will struggle with the idea.

This leads many brands to then look to “self” or community help solutions, including knowledge bases or forums, however many organisations have not invested in these or the information is not sufficient, which leads to frustration.

Another issue is fragmented systems that customer service teams use. This means rather than having all information in one place, employees have to search and find information across various systems including order systems, fulfilment systems, delivery systems and technical knowledge base systems. This slows things down considerably.

The expectation for solving problems quickly

In a study conducted by Arise, nearly a quarter of people in all age groups expect a response to their email enquiry within one hour.

An Aberdeen Group study showed that companies who delivered strong omnichannel customer engagement retained 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak customer engagement.

A study by Dimensional Research found 51% of people wait less than an hour before trying another contact method if they haven’t heard back.

Clearly there is the demand for resolving issues quickly which impacts on your brand, leading many organisations to consider if they have “service” as a key part of their business strategy.

Service is the key differentiation

In this omni-channel world, a consistent customer experience through the channels is key.

Research conducted a few years back by Gartner indicated that 89% of companies compete on the basis of customer experience.

Many companies are selling what is seen by customers as commodity services or products. If what you are getting is essentially the same, then service and brand ultimately provide your differentiation. 

The challenge for organisations is to provide this differentiation away from commodity through “service”, which requires maturity that can typically take years to incrementally build.

Agility is the key differentiator

The speed at which organisations operate is without a doubt a key differentiating factor.  This is often seen as the ability to be first to market with a product or service, or being able to pivot quickly when market conditions change, as we are seeing through COVID-19. There are great examples of companies that have capitalised on the opportunity, and others that have suffered.

Technologies such as cloud computing have created a great “levelling” effect. Small companies now have access to the same technology and systems that previously only large companies had access to due to costs. The difference now is the smaller more nimble companies (the speed boat), can move quickly to leverage new technology to differentiate themselves vs the larger companies (slow container ships), which take time to move and turn.

Technology that is not fit for purpose, slow and has manual steps is not a differentiator for organisations and can result in losing customers already gained.

When it comes to customer service, and the need to provide an amazing experience to resolve customers issues, the biggest challenge with growth is trying to use tools that once were manageable, but no longer are once that growth occurs.

A joint research project with Edison Research found that 39% of individuals expect a one-hour response time via social media, but businesses respond after five hours, on average.

Be it trying to use spreadsheets, old databases and systems, organisations are missing out on the step-change in capability they need and their customers need to help them solve issues when things go wrong.

Don’t re-invent the wheel

Luckily there is a way to significantly shift your customer service maturity. Leaders like Salesforce have spent many years refining how to best serve customers, and have packaged it all up in their market-leading customer service solution “Service Cloud”.

Essentially you get everything you need to differentiate your customer experience, and then it’s up to you how fast you can leverage the tools and processes to get going.

Getting value quickly is important as well as showing progress in your business, so we have put together a “Getting Started” package that enables organisations to rapidly gain value from Salesforce.

This means the focus can be put into the important stuff, like communication, adoption and training.

Our package understands your team’s goals and challenges and then finds the best solution for you. 

Typically a three-week initiative includes workshops where we will configure Salesforce’s standard out-of-the-box solution to your needs, depending on your goals. 

Essentially the Rapid Start for Salesforce delivers you a foundation customer service system that you can build upon in the future, while gaining value, benefit and ROI as quickly as possible.

Research from Nielsen, found 92% of consumers follow recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

In summary, if you have recently seen growth or a change in your customer’s behaviour towards digital channels, it’s time to review your current business strategy around “service” and see how you can leverage a leading customer service tool like Salesforce to ensure your customers are recommending your product or service for the amazing customer experience you provide.

Talk to us about how we can help you with your customer experience journey today.

Paul Scott

Paul is ClearPoint’s Chief of Platforms & Partnerships. He is an award-winning, globally experienced leader with a career focused on business transformation, driven by software, integration, business apps, cloud and SaaS.