Why do your customers love you? Why do they keep coming back to your site again and again when there are plenty of rivals offering similar products or services, and perhaps at a lower price? Or to put it another way, what differentiates your site from those of your competitors?
These can be tricky questions to answer. Online or offline, customer loyalty is no longer something that can be taken for granted. Consumers may flock to High Street stores to check out the latest products but that doesn’t mean they’ll make the purchase in the shop. In fact, they may well go home and buy online from a competitor. Meanwhile, a huge amount of online trade is driven by price comparison sites. Even if yours is a premium brand, the pressures of commoditisation are never very far away and the danger is that you begin to compete on price and price alone.
My own view is that customer service is emerging as one of the key differentiators for online businesses. The web is mostly a self-serve medium but there will always be times when customers need help. And if the online merchant can provide help in real time – when the customer is still browsing through the site – then that ability to deliver assistance represents an enormous value-add. Put simply, live engagement with customers makes the site stand out from its less pro-active competitors.
Getting into high gear
The simplest way to engage in real time with customers is to introduce a chat facility enabling the customer to talk to an agent without having to go offline to pick up a telephone. However, that may only be the start of the digital journey. Yes, the commonest form of real time engagement is via web chat but there are other channels which can not only provide the assistance consumers require but also enhance the experience.
Mobile is a case in point. If a customer needs further information on a product, chat provides a low cost means to deliver assistance, but what if the consumer is sitting in the living room watching one of your TV ads or out on the High Street. In these circumstances consumers are increasingly buying via tablets or smartphones or using those devices for additional product information. So for retailers and other online merchants, the logical next step is to extend the chat facilities from the web to apps and the mobile internet.
Meanwhile, if you really want to present a complex or premium product to its best advantage, rich-media tools provide the means to create a totally engaging experience. This could take the form of a video chat with an agent, a multimedia walkthrough or additional content served pro-actively on the back of an analysis of the customer’s behaviour.
And increasingly, at LivePerson, we’re seeing online merchants gearing up from chat to embrace a range of complementary tools.
Mobile operator 02 is a case in point. In addition to web chat, the company is now working with LivePerson to offer mobile chat and rich media to its customers. The company’s goal is to provide the best possible service to its customers by engaging with them across a range of channels.
It’s an approach that recognises not only the value of live customer engagement but also the changing expectations of consumers and the importance of offering the very best level of service in a competitive mobile marketplace.