The New Face of Customer Service in a Digital World


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If retailers want to remain competitive in today’s multichannel commerce world, they need to abandon the traditional reactive customer service model and take a proactive approach, one that anticipates and addresses shoppers’ needs before the sale.

How many times have you shopped online for something and had a question, but you couldn’t find the answer? Did you hunt down contact info and call or email the company? Or, did you simply go someplace else? Chances are, you went someplace else. And therein lies the problem. Traditional online customer service doesn’t truly service the customer, at least not before the sale.

The traditional online approach to customer service: the wait-and-see model

Walk into a bricks-and-mortar store, there are salespeople to greet you, who you know you can turn to if you have a question (regarding size or color, for example) – or who seemingly anticipate your needs (by paying attention to what you are doing, as well as your body language).

Enter an online storefront and traditionally, you’ll be met with a pretty flat, faceless experience, — it’s so much different than shopping in a physical store.

That personal touch, or human interaction, has been missing from the online shopping experience. In the ecommerce store, there is no one to greet you. You have a question? Instead of someone rushing over to help, you have to fill out a contact form, call a toll-free number (which goes to an automated phone tree and sticks you in a queue), or send an email – none of which give you the answer you need when you need it, or a warm, fuzzy feeling about the retailer.

No wonder why in-store conversion rates are 20 to 30 percent while online conversion rates are only 3 to 1 percent.

Indeed, the only time customers are likely to encounter or communicate with a representative when shopping online is after the sale, mostly likely because they have encountered a problem. And by or at that point, the retailer has probably lost that customer.

Still, ecommerce sales have continued to grow, though not as quickly as predicted or hoped.

How the Millennial generation is changing customer service

Enter the Millennial generation (people born between 1981 and 1997) – aka generation text – the generation that was seemingly born with a smart device in their hands. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, Millennials, who make up one in three workers (i.e., consumers), tend to use texting and instant messaging as their primary form of communication (as opposed to email or telephone).

Millennials are also far more likely to shop online than previous generations, especially via a smart phone. Indeed, according to Business Insider, Millennials spend more money online than any other age group.

If they are shopping for something on their smart phone and have a question, they want an answer now, while they are on that page. They are not going to pick up a phone, fill out a form, or compose an email and wait for someone to get back to them. They will simply go elsewhere.

So if brands want to win over this demographic, they need to change their online customer service strategy – and make it more like the in-store customer experience.

Instead of waiting for shoppers to contact them, e-tailers need to be proactive. They need to greet customers when they enter the site. They need to empower consumers, giving them the information they need (sometimes before they realize they even need it) where they need it and how they want it.

The next generation of customer service: anticipating the customer’s journey and questions

Aiding brands in their quest to deliver a more proactive customer experience are new technologies that can help retailers predict the customer journey and anticipate and address customer questions, no matter how consumers engage with them (whether via a mobile device or a desktop computer). Now, instead of shoppers having to go to a separate FAQ page or send an email, retailers, using intelligent, predictive customer experience software, can provide on-page answers to frequently asked questions. They can also offer live chat. And if a shopper has an issue at checkout, say a coupon code isn’t working, an online customer care representative can jump in and provide her with a code that does work.

How will these changes benefit retailers? At Moxie, our research has shown that when customers feel welcome and acknowledged, they have a more positive feeling about the brand. That’s true for not just Millennials but for all shoppers.

Moreover, by changing from a reactive, retailer-centric model to a proactive, customer-centric model, anticipating customers’ needs and offering immediate assistance on product pages as well as at the point of sale, online retailerswill see an increase in conversion rates and a reduction of problems post sale.

Tara Sporrer
Tara Sporrer is SVP Marketing at goMoxie, a leader in digital engagement across the customer decision journey. With more than 15 years of business experience in enterprise software, Sporrer is responsible for delivering marketing programs that positively impact the company's market presence, revenue achievement and profitability.


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