Customer service is a major component of the shopping experience and plays a significant role in driving conversions.
In our earlier article, Building Trust Between Seller and Buyer, we discussed the findings of Digital Commerce 360’s January 2023 survey on factors that influence a shopper’s decision to purchase. A test group of 1,060 online shoppers were asked to name the top determining factors for placing an order online. The two most common replies were free shipping and the right price but trailing closely behind was trust in the brand.
How does a business earn the trust of a first-time shopper? Short answer: through presentation, professional legitimacy, and by way of a positive reputation among the public. How does a business obtain a positive reputation among the public? By fine-tuning every step of the customer experience to cater specifically to the individual while simultaneously appealing to the general public, including customer service.
Earlier this month, Digital Commerce 360 revisited their previous January survey findings and noted certain insights that online retailers and businesses should know in regards to customer service.
Key Findings from January’s Survey
- Customers are most likely to convert when they receive free return shipping.
- Buying online is most likely to be influenced by customer service EMails.
- The simplicity of a return policy will encourage online shoppers to place orders.
Eliminating The Guilt Over Returning a Purchase
Buyer’s remorse is whenever a shopper feels negative emotions such as anxiety or guilt over a purchase they made. This is typically reserved for major items such as cars but often enough, it also can apply to smaller purchases such as impulse buys. Shoppers don’t want to feel remorse over their purchases after they’ve been made and they certainly don’t.any additional remorse if in the event their item needs to be returned (for whatever reason). Free return shipping is at the top of the list of customer service policies and initiatives that drive conversions (55%), followed by a simple, straightforward return policy (42%). There is also a strong desire for online shoppers to have the flexibility to return to a physical location outside of the retail place where they originally made a purchase (36%) and to be able to return to the store where they originally made a purchase (32%) if that is possible. Amazon excels in this department, giving their users the option to either drop off their returns at a UPS Store or to visit any participating 3rd party retail store location in their partner network (such as Kohl’s) to have them process the return.
Older Shoppers Expect More
While Millennials and Gen-Z tend to be more impulsive with their purchasing habits, older shoppers in the 55-64 age range (73% of survey participants) and 65+ (64%) are known to be more price-sensitive, value-oriented, and often indecisive when shopping online. They also have steeper demands when it comes to customer service, especially with return policies. Older shoppers appreciate free return shipping and it has been shown that they’ll convert more if a store’s return policies are clear, straightforward, and easy-to-digest. They’re also receptive to flexibility in return locations, which also can net stores with even more conversions from the age 55+ demographic.
The Quality of Customer Service and How It’s Delivered
According to the survey, the quality of the interaction with the customer is the most important conversion factor when it comes to customer service, which is cited by 24% of respondents. Access to on-site customer service information (21%), and the ability to be contacted via multiple means to access customer service (20%), are significant concerns, while virtual appointments are the least significant concern on this front at 8%. Based on the demographics of those aged 18-29 and 30-39, it’s not at all surprising that 11% of those in the 18-29 age range and 14% of those 30-39 gravitated toward virtual appointments as opposed to an average of just 7%. As far as the quality of interactions are concerned, the 11% gap is smaller, with 30-39 year olds slightly more likely to convert (31% vs. 24% on average) compared to those 30-39 years old.
EMails and Live Human Chat Lead to Conversions
Shoppers still prefer traditional options like email and phone calls, which are 40% and 26% more likely to result in a purchase, respectively. After a text interaction, 21% of people are likely to convert. The number of interactions through social media is much lower on the list at 12%. Meanwhile, human-to-human chat is at #2 in the list with a conversion factor of 37%. Conversely, chatbots can’t drive the same level of conversion and only had a 14% penetration rate. Although appointments were a convenience under COVID-19 restrictions, some of their impact may have been lost. Their presence has declined in some cases. Virtual appointments accounted for 10% of the survey. The likelihood of shoppers making a purchase is at the lower end, after in-store interactions at 18% and above an appointment with an associate at only 6%.
Customer Service Interactions With Younger Shoppers
In the younger age group of 18-29, text is preferred more than the average of 20% across all age groups (33%). Additionally, 20% of this same audience (18-29) interacts via social media. In contrast, 21% of those 30-39 prefer it compared with 11% of those 40-49. Younger segments were also more likely to convert through live chat when using a bot, with 17% converting from 18-29 compared with 22% from 30-39. Similarly, virtual appointments fell into the same 17% gap with segment numbers for those 18-29 (18%) and 30-39 (17%), both significantly higher than the average of 9%. Post-interaction customer service phone calls were very popular with older shoppers; there was a much lower preference for it among segments 35-64 (31%) and 65+ (39%) compared to an average of 18% for all age segments.
Loyal repeat customers are created by positive customer experiences. Retailers who listen closely to their customers’ requests and demands build trust with them, which ultimately leads to business success. Retailers would be wise to periodically review and revise their customer service policies so that they are in line not only with their direct competition, but also the top overall names in the industry itself. Retailers should focus on the quality of each interaction, regardless of the type. Last but not least, retailers should make sure that their shoppers are provided with the touchpoints that they prefer.