Transforming ‘Lip Service’ into Customer Service


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Consumers live in real time, minute by minute. They bank online and check real-time account balances. They book flights with real-time visibility of seat availability, and they select the seat they want, online, in real time. More importantly, they buy products online and check stock in real time.

Despite the real-time nature of consumers, most businesses don’t analyze consumer interactions in real time, leaving major gaps in customer service and opportunity. They don’t know when customers just had a problem, or that because of problems, you’ve just caused them to abandon the shopping cart. Sure, it might show up on some aggregated data dashboard during the week, but what does that do to save the sale?

Someone, typically an analyst, also has to notice as well. And because your individual problem was reported in an aggregated form, along side other successful transactions, no action is taken.

The result is very frustrating: we watch consumers disappear in the thousands. They’re turned into an aggregate number or average that de-personalizes the online experience. Consumers are ignored. Companies call this service. I don’t. This is lip service, not customer service.

This is just not good enough.

With the exception of most of the pure e-retailers, service standards in multi-channel ‘clicks and mortar’ businesses are truly appalling.

The cause is simple: individual customer behaviors, actions and issues are lost in averages and aggregated data. Individual actions are ignored across channels. If I abandon an online application for a bank account, I have no expectation that the call center will even know, let alone that I could pick up from where I left off.

This is an opportunity for forward thinking organizations to shine and to deliver stand-out service to customers that they’ll love. I want the call center to treat me as an individual, where they know exactly where I got to in my online application, so that I can finish up over the phone.

This is now straightforward to deliver, but it requires a change in thinking about how we manage online business. We need to move from looking at patterns of what happened yesterday to servicing individual customer’s needs based on their unique personal experience of using our services.

This requires stepping out of our shoes and into those of our customers. It also means that disconnections between systems — delays caused by data being out of date or out of synch between different systems — need to be ruthlessly weeded out so that we can automate individual customer service actions and put the teeth back into customer service.

Welcome to the world of real-time web analytics, where individual actions are the order of the day. Actions to improve service, drive satisfaction, differentiate your brand and ultimately to generate sales.

Some skeptics believe that this is intrusive, and if implemented carelessly, it can be. But implemented well using best practices, proactive customer service actions turn a bad experience into a highly positive one. We all know that when there’s a problem, customers are judging us based on our reactions or absence of reactions. ‘No reaction’ simply isn’t service and a missed opportunity to shine. These are the critical points of inflection that are so significant in defining the relationship between vendor and customer.

Since we originally announced SeeWhy Abandonment Tracker, several significant things have happened. Firstly, web teams have flocked to use the service, and it is growing very fast. Clearly it has caused a lot of excitement and a little controversy.

Secondly, some traditional web analytics vendors, known for their aggregation of data and presentation of data, have started to react too. And they need to, either by partnering with SeeWhy or by adapting their offerings. Web teams are demanding real-time optimization solutions to simplify the complexity of managing web conversion. It’s too hard, too out of date and too manual.

And finally, that magic word ‘Free.’ It catches the eye and stands out from the page, doesn’t it? Free is compelling simply because these capabilities are readily available for all — to improve service, today, for their customers.

It’s a real-time world we live in, and the future for web analytics is real time. It’s as inevitable as night following day.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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