chatbot

According to Gladly’s “2021 Customer Expectations Report,” even as consumer behaviors have shifted online, customer service remains the number-one influencing factor in determining a consumer’s long-term relationship with a brand. And while the company notes the digital marketplace has vastly changed the rules of customer service, consumers’ expectations continue to rise — making reactionary problem-solving solutions a trend of the past.

Still, findings from Gladly’s consumer survey indicate that customer service can be a competitive advantage for brands. In fact, 63 percent of consumers say they fall in love with brands because of the service a brand delivers, and 62 percent said they recommend a brand to friends because of its great service. At the same time, 45 percent will stop buying from a brand after two bad service experiences.

Moreover, 83 percent of consumers said they would spend more money with a brand that delivered great online customer service.

“Clearly the service experience has a big impact on loyalty,” said Joseph Ansanelli, chief executive officer at Gladly. “Consumers will forgive one bad experience but the second time, they’re gone for good. On the flip side, a positive experience is a significant driver of loyalty — on par with product quality in terms of things that keep a customer coming back. This year companies should be thinking about every aspect of the customer experience and where there are opportunities to improve.”

For example, Ansanelli told WWD, as consumers return to in-store, companies should ask how they can ensure a cohesive experience between in-store and online, what new expectations consumers may have after a year of shopping exclusively online. These could be factors including personalization and knowing wherever consumers interact with you, as well as how a retailer can bring those aspects to the in-person experience.

What’s surprising, Ansanelli said, is just how quickly consumers embraced the new digital experience. “For example, not only is chat a more popular communication channel than email, but they want and expect that they can complete their purchase via that chat conversation. It’s the pace of change that’s surprising this year.”

Joseph Ansanelli, chief executive officer at Gladly.  Courtesy Image.

Notably, Gladly’s survey found only 19 percent of consumers believe that customer service today is exceeding set expectations — leaving 81 percent of consumers believing they receive service below expectations. Among the top traits that “make it exceptional” were having one seamless conversation across all channels, follow up on issues to ensure satisfaction and proactive recommendations for products. The top frustration about customer service comes from having to explain an issue repeatedly rather than being able to change channels without needing to start a conversation from the beginning.

To that end, consumers reported having mixed feelings about chatbots as a means of communicating with customer service. While 53 percent said they find chatbots most helpful when they don’t want to talk to, or wait for, a real person, 43 percent said they find chatbots most frustrating when they present as an obstacle to speaking with a human representative. Still, 81 percent of respondents said they find it helpful when a chat window appears proactively while they’re shopping to ask if they have a question.

As companies adjust customer service strategies and look to partner with technology solution companies, Ansanelli told WWD brands and retailers should think about the experience they want to deliver to consumers over the next five years and more.

“Don’t feel constrained by the systems and processes you have in place today,” said Ansanelli. “Customer expectations have changed dramatically in the last couple of years and we expect they will continue to do so. To win in this new age, craft your future state then find which solutions align to your vision. Ask vendors how their solution makes the customer experience seamless as they move across channels, how they make it easy and efficient for agents to deliver a great experience in every customer conversation, and any additional costs they should anticipate as they add channels.”

For More WWD Business News: 

Do Recent Adoptions of Subscription Services Have Staying Power?

The Growing Allure of Buy Now, Pay Later

Reigniting Growth by Fueling the Consumer Experience

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