4 customer service takeaways from ‘Cyber Weekend’

December 7, 2016 05:31 PM

Cyber weekend 2016 was huge for online retailers this year as consumers continue to move their shopping to digital channels.  According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, more people bought online over the four-day shopping period than in-store (108.5 million versus 99.1 million). Mobile sales, in fact, were up 33 percent over last year.

Customer service continues to be a core focus for retailers this year.  From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, an audit of contact center performance of the 30 retail brands in the StellaService Index showed increasing focus being placed on the quality of service and engagement with consumers. Key findings include 

More Retailers are Moving to Live Chat

More brands offered live chat throughout the weekend than ever before. This year, 90 percent of the StellaService Index offered chat—an uptick of 10 percent over last year. Nearly all the top performers made chat available all weekend long.

Fastest Response Times Are Almost Immediate

Response times for phone and chat are lightning fast among top performers, and these speeds are only getting faster. Our top three chat performers for 2016 (Home Depot, Estee Lauder, and Lowe’s) all came in at 13 seconds or less, beating last year’s #1 performer (Target, 17 seconds).   In fact, the top performers for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire weekend crushed the industry averages for phone and chat response times. For example:

  • For the four-day period, the average phone response time was 114 seconds (a bit slower than last year’s 101 seconds). But L.L. Bean, our top performer in this category, averaged 8 seconds.
  • The average wait for a live agent via chat was 65 seconds (one second faster than last year); Home Depot led the pack with an average response time of just 11 seconds.

4 Takeaways from Top Customer Service Performers

Brands that delivered excellent customer service on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all weekend long know their strengths and limits and what their customers value most. Here’s what every retailer, large and small, can learn from them—and some suggestions for where to concentrate efforts before the next holiday rush.

  1. Offer the Truth About Wait Time:  A critical component to customer service during the holidays is to manage customer expectations. Customers know the holiday rush brings heavier call and chat volumes, and they understand and often anticipate a longer wait. They look to retailers and brands to offer the honest truth about their own wait time. 
  2. Train Customer Service Teams on Policy:  During several of the brand audits, we spoke with customer service agents who couldn’t explain why products weren’t available for in-store pickup but were available several days later via ship to store. Customers expect the same degree of knowledge and quality of service across all brand channels—365 days a year. Top retailers must keep service agents up to speed on temporary policy changes so they can clear up any confusion (rather than add to it).
  3. Re-Orient Customer Service Efforts to Deliver Quality: If contact center reps are overwhelmed during the holiday rush it can make sense to temporarily suspend underperforming channel(s) and focus on delivering better service elsewhere. The customers won’t mind; they’ll gladly use whatever channel is available to them, so long as they can connect with the brand in a reasonable amount of time and get their issues resolved.
  4. Set Reasonable, Attainable Goals: Retailers wanting to present themselves as a service leader should aspire toward results from the industry’s top performers; however it does not need to happen all in one year. Depending on where retailers fall in the spectrum of customer service, many should first focus on meeting or exceeding the industry average.  Or set concrete, reasonable service goal, such as meeting an average response time of under 30 seconds. Retailers should set their sights on direct competitors and aim to meet or beat their customer service performance—and then incrementally improve their own, one transaction at a time.

More and more, best-of-breed retailers are using customer service to strengthen engagement with consumers in a way that drives sales.  While shortening wait times is one element, retailers are focusing efforts on customer communication, consistency of message across channels and quality assurance while always setting their sights on improving.  Those that do will benefit from increased customer loyalty and more opportunities for sales all year long 

StellaService tracks the customer service performance of online retailers.





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