Today's ultra-empowered shoppers have a very low tolerance for poor customer service, crave a more-intimate relationship, where retailers know their needs, wants and preferences, and want retailers to respect their time and business, according to a report from IT customer engagement specialist Kana.
When asked to compare customer service during online versus in-store/brick-and-mortar shopping, 40.5 percent of respondents said that online was better, whereas 33 percent thought both were about the same.
Nearly 18 percent said in-store customer service was better, and 8.5 percent had no opinion on the matter.
The survey also indicated retailers have more work to do in creating omni-channel customer service strategies (Web, in-store, etc.) to ensure consistency in omni-channel retailing.
When asked about their preferred customer service communication channels used to engage with retailers in the past six months, the channel named most often as preferred was the Web (24.5 percent), followed by email (17.9 percent).
"It's no surprise that organizations are leveraging Web self-service and email more and more as our survey shows consumers prefer these channels," Scott Hays, senior director of product marketing for Kana, said in a statement. "We not only see Web and email infused with strong knowledge management, we have also observed that Web self-service addresses a new way that consumers are engaging with brands—in a multi-modal fashion."
Channels cited least often as preferred were video chat (named by 30.2 percent of respondents) while the survey found phone was the next least preferred channel, named by 22.6 percent of respondents.
"Customers often use multiple channels at once, such as speaking to an agent while browsing the company's Website and expecting near-immediate confirmations by email," Hays continued. "The challenge now for organizations is to weave those experiences together in real time to provide optimal engagement with the customer."
Other specifically requested technology-oriented conveniences included email receipts, mobile checkout and user-friendly Websites.
The fact that consumers name these features is an indication that there is a relatively high level of awareness of technology's role in customer convenience, the report said.
Survey results also indicated customer service in the retail space is a winner-take-all game, as an overwhelming amount of consumers indicated they would be highly motivated to jump ship to a competitor following a poor or disappointing customer service.
"To create great customer experiences, there needs to be a partnership between marketing and customer service throughout the customer journey," Hays said. "All of the above responses point to the need for a higher level of sensitivity and personalization for each customer. As retailers try to differentiate themselves with a superior customer experience, it's critical to support marketing efforts with excellent customer service."