Article

Addressing Customer Service in an Omnichannel World

By Vijay Ramachandran,
Addressing Customer Service in an Omnichannel World Image

Competition has grown fierce in today’s burgeoning omnichannel marketplace.

This has, in turn, cast the spotlight on pricing strategies and merchandise assortments as the mainstays of brand differentiation. The Achilles Heel for many retailers has turned out to be the conception and execution of truly seamless customer service across all channels.

Nowhere is this weakness more apparent than in the call center—the natural ‘middle channel’ between the ubiquitous self-service of eCommerce and the distant full service of the store. Beyond serving the typical “where’s my stuff?” queries of online shoppers, today’s CSRs must also tend to inquiries across all channels, including:

  • Buy online, pickup in store orders
  • Buy online, ship from store orders
  • Save-the-sale or endless aisle orders placed in the store
  • Store POS transactions tied to a customer’s account
  • Returns and exchanges for orders placed via any channel

Let’s face it—shoppers typically call customer service departments because they have to. So when they do call, they want their inquiry answered or problem solved as quickly as possible. To get the maximum value from your customer service operation, you as the retailer also want your CSRs to have the latitude to up-sell and cross-sell items the customer may find valuable—without unnecessarily pushing her to another sales channel.

Put another way, the conversation between customer and the CSR can be broken down into three categories of interaction:

  1. Search. Finding the transaction your customer’s calling about, from any channel, using any piece of information she has available: name, phone number, email, credit card, or (as a last and least user-friendly resort) order number.
     
  2. Service. The crux of the customer-CSR interaction: ranging from an order status inquiry to a request to change an order to a product being returned or exchanged. This capability must be available for orders from any channel, and must delve into the line-level details of an order—particularly if that multi-line order is being fulfilled from multiple sources.

    To provide your CSR the greatest visibility and control over each order, the customer service solution must be a seamless extension of your sales and fulfillment technology. Order Management Systems are best suited to this role, as the most robust OMS solutions intelligently govern the flow of orders and inventory across a retailer’s entire network, allowing CSRs to view and alter orders throughout the lifecycle.
     

  3. Sell. The ability to have the CSR reference customer reviews and product information quickly, and then place an order on behalf of the customer—with visibility of inventory availability across the network, and the capability to fulfill from anywhere, including pickup at the customer’s local store. 

Imagine your CSR being able to do all of this within a few screens, with a few clicks—and without ever putting the customer on hold. Imagine the reputation your customer service team would garner for this level of seamless, straightforward service. That’s what brand differentiation should look like in today’s competitive marketplace.

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