A retail customerWith the recent increase in business rates coming into force this month, retailers are baring the brunt of the 2.6% increase, during already austere times. Retail was reported as one of the hardest hit sectors in the first quarter of 2013 with the number of insolvencies rising 1.75%.

Major names like Jessops, HMV, Comet and Blockbuster are obvious examples of the devastating impact of spiralling high street rent and immense online competition for sales. Whilst physical high street stores are suffering, online retail is continuing to grow, but with margins being eroded by fierce competition, how can companies ensure they survive?

What makes a customer want to stay loyal to your brand and come back again?

The main differentiator between those retailers who thrive or go into decline is not just down to price but down to their customer service and the customers cross-channel shopping experience.

A recent Forrester study found that Customer Experience leading companies had a 22.5% stock market return over the last five years versus a 46.3% loss for Customer Experience laggards.

Jennifer Beck at Gartner also recently commented on the impact a website has on a customer, saying ‘It can take a prospect from cold to conversion in minutes or it can frustrate and disappoint them so they never return.’

With recent research showing that 67% of consumers prefer online channels to voice for after-sales customer service and support – retailers need to ensure that they are offering a consistent multi-channel customer service, regardless of what channel a customer chooses to contact them over.

So how do you make your customer service stand out from the crowd?

1. Ensure customers can find answers to questions quickly & easily

Have you made it easy for customers to find information for themselves? Providing web self-service with an intelligent centralised FAQ knowledge-base, clearly sign-posted on your home page and contact page, will allow customers to find answers to their own questions. This will also significantly reduce the volume of avoidable contact via in-bound calls and e-mails to your contact centre, helping to reduce customer interaction costs.

2. Provide escalation to live chat for complex enquiries

Do you provide an opportunity for those customers with more complex enquiries to be seamlessly escalated to one-on-one dialogue with a contact centre agent, saving them the frustrating experience of having to call the contact centre and wait on hold for minutes at a time? These web chat sessions can be automatically triggered to help reduce abandonment rates.

3. Ensure consistency of information in your contact centre

Have you extended your knowledge-base into your contact centre to ensure that agents are giving customers consistent, accurate and timely answers to their questions? This will help to reduce agent-training times and increase conversions, whilst improving the overall customer experience.

4. Multi-channel engagement

Are you offering the same level of customer service and extending your FAQ knowledge-base onto your mobile or social media sites?

5. Monitor and analyse your customers feedback

Do you offer the customer an opportunity to rate your web self-service or produce management analytics, which help you to better understand how you can improve the information and service you provide?

Offering your customer the right information in the right place at the right time is crucial.

Find out more about deploying consistent information across your channels.