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Customer Service is Personal, so Show Me the Love

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Service is a mission-critical activity that deserves your attention today and every day. Key findings and surprises from Bizrate Insights’ January 2024 survey of 900 online shoppers provide a framework to view what is most important to the demanding online shopper.

Retailers must beware. A look at the mindset of the online shopper relative to customer service should remind every retailer that they are only as good as their current interaction. Online shoppers focus on current needs, as only 12% consider prior interactions with customer service reps important when using online customer service.

Satisfaction is the gauge that retailers use to measure their performance. Positively, 73% of online shoppers say they received good or excellent customer service from online retailers. Only 27% of online shoppers surveyed rated customer service received from online retailers as average or below, which suggests retailers are getting the job done.

Think year-round love with these five critical customer service tips. Now is the perfect time to test your customer service and ensure it’s ready for prime time as you build toward the all-important holiday season.

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1. Offer multiple customer service touch points and make them accessible on the site and via all communication.
Online shoppers embrace online retailer customer service; half interact at least monthly. Surprisingly, some are all in, as 26% of online shoppers interact with online retailer customer service at least weekly.

Our research found that 63% of online shoppers favor live chat with a human being for online customer service, and 37% of those using it are likely to place an order. Personally, it is my favorite way to interact with online retailers, as it’s quick, convenient and allows me to multi-task. Automated live chat (bot) was also very interesting, seeing 52% usage. Unfortunately, and maybe not so surprisingly, it didn’t perform as well, seeing a low 11% likelihood of garnering an order. Like me, other shoppers may not be getting the information they need to make smart decisions.

2. Make sure your mobile customer experience is optimized.
With 64% of online shoppers completing at least half of their customer service on mobile devices, a mobile-first experience is mandated. While this might be expected, the fact that 19% of our survey respondents conduct all of their customer service needs via mobile was a bit of a shocker. On-the-go shoppers expect to be able to solve most of their shopping problems on their phones, so access and convenience should be a given. 

3. Don’t underestimate the human factor.
You can be sure I will call you if I need something urgent and want to be sure the answer is correct. When it comes to reaching out, placing a phone call to customer service (62%) is on par with live chat/human (63%) and email (61%). A substantial 31% of online shoppers interacted in-store with customer service. Interestingly, when using customer service, only 38% of online shoppers considered self-service options on the website important.

Given all the talk of texting and social media use, I expected more adoption on the customer service front. Here, only 11% of respondents had a social media interaction with customer service, resulting in just 5% placing an order. Additionally, three customer service touch points performed poorly (less than 10% suggest it drove conversion), including text (7%), social media interaction (5%) and virtual appointments (1%).

4. Ensure responses are timely and relevant, clearly addressing shopper requests.
Let’s face it: shoppers expect you to respond with the correct answer that squarely addresses their needs. No matter the touch point or the technology, getting customer service right comes down to three critical elements that haven’t changed for most of us over the years: superior online customer service includes getting a timely (75%) and quality response (72%) from a competent associate (69%). Given the prominent presence of automated tools on retailer websites, it’s insightful that only 17% of survey respondents found automated tools such as chatbots important for customer service.

5. Revisit return policies to ensure they are customer-centric and accessible for shoppers, including time to return orders and choice of locations.
If you don’t have customer-friendly policies, shoppers won’t even consider you when shopping.Like many shoppers, I wonder in advance of hitting the buy button what happens if it doesn’t work out. I hate to pay to return an order, and the more options I have for making my return, the happier I will be. Return dynamics are top-of-mind for online shoppers. Saving money means free return shipping, essential for three in four surveyed shoppers. Evaluate if free return shipping makes financial sense for your company.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) appreciated a straightforward, easy return policy. The preference among 46% was for sufficient time to return products, as a no-pressure policy was viewed as favorable. Convenience was also highlighted by the ability to return an item to a physical location beyond the store, such as UPS, Whole Foods or FedEx, which is essential when placing an order for 44% of those surveyed; this is more than a return to the retailer’s store (39%) or an Amazon store location (18%). Leverage stores to support pickup and return conveniences.

Remember, you’re only as good as your current interaction. Regularly monitor customer service satisfaction levels and go the extra mile to keep customers coming back. 


An ecommerce pioneer with 30 years of experience, Lauren Freedman joined Bizrate Insights in 2023 as Executive Director, Content Marketing. She focuses on consumer research and developing marketing initiatives in the ecommerce vertical. Before that, she worked as the Senior Consumer Insights Analyst at Digital Commerce 360, responsible for B2C and B2B buyer insights in research initiatives, reports and editorial coverage. Starting in 1993, as president of the e-tailing group, she delivered thought leadership and go-to-market strategies for technology platforms and point solutions. She has long supported top B2B practitioners and B2C retailers, having piloted the first online mystery shopping survey, which provided data to retailers for 20 years and established metrics for the industry at large. She has been a frequent industry speaker and author of “It’s Just Shopping.”

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