An uncertain economic environment and changing consumer behavior is causing a major shift in the retail industry, now underpinned more by customer experience and engagement than more traditional measures such as quality and price (although those features remain key)—one in three shoppers will switch to a new brand after one bad experience, affirms new research from next-gen retail insights firm Incisiv.
But while retailers across segments have invested significantly in shoring up digital capabilities around top of funnel engagement and fulfillment, customer service capabilities continue to lag, reports the firm’s 2023 Omnichannel Customer Service Index, in partnership with conversational AI tech agency Nuance Communications.
Customers expect expedited, personalized, emphatic, and consistent service and support experience delivered through the right balance of self-service options, AI tools, and human touch.
According to the index, shoppers’ customer service expectations vary significantly and chatbots have become a popular medium of communication.
The report also shows that retailers still need to evolve their digital capabilities to meet shopper expectations:
- 91 percent of customer service agents provide in-depth knowledge of the product, while only 34 percent provide a personalized experience
- 95 percent of customer service agents can help with payment methods, while only 4 percent have access to cart information
- 82 percent of retailers have IVR (interactive voice response), while only 29 percent of retailer IVRs have a self-service option for order related issues
- Average call waiting time was under two minutes for 70 percent of retailers, while for 15 percent of the retailers the call did not connect, and for 10 percent retailers the wait time was more than 20 minutes.
Through Incisiv’s assessment methodology, 20 brands were assessed as Leaders:
“Retail is a highly competitive industry, and impeccable customer service is a ‘must have’ to stay ahead of the curve,” said Gaurav Pant, chief insights officer at Incisiv, in a news release. “Our benchmark report shows that there is a significant opportunity for retailers to improve customer service capabilities, and ultimately drive customer retention. Retailers who offer the right balance of efficient self-service options and empathetic human touch will win the customer retention battle. We conducted this study to help brands understand how they compare to their peers, as well as to help identify high-impact improvement opportunities for digital transformation.”
“Consumers today are expecting retailers to understand their needs and those that can deliver a knowledgeable, personalized, convenient, and engaging experience will realize enormous benefits,” said Tony Lorentzen, general manager and senior vice president of Intelligent Engagement at Nuance, in the release. “We see AI as central to a retailer’s ability to deliver predictive, customized, and relevant experiences at scale—whether that’s through chatbots and digital platforms, phone conversations, or in-store. Not only can the right technology automate certain engagements to streamline getting customers what they need, it can also be critical in determining which customer interactions should take place via an automated agent in the first place, and which are best to be handled by a human.”
Incisiv’s 2023 Omnichannel Customer Service Index is based on insights from its proprietary digital maturity benchmarking methodology, and assesses the digital capability of top retailers across Discovery, Purchase, and Customer Engagement & Service. Incisiv’s digital assessment methodology spans more than 150 customer service capabilities and assesses the top 123 brands across nine industry segments: apparel & accessories, consumer electronics, department stores, general merchandise, grocery, health & beauty, home improvement, specialty, and sporting goods.