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Clicks' Customer Service Not Cutting It with Consumers

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Posted March 26, 2001 By Randy Scasny     Feedback

The leading reason for customers' dissatisfaction with online customer service is non-integrated product inventory--the result of the click-and-mortars traditionally running their online/offline operations separately.

As B2Cs merge, consolidate, or rethink-the-business model trend of the moment, click-and-mortars are moving centerstage as the primary online purchasing platform. While the clicks are benefiting from the demise of the B2Cs by increasing online sales and market share, new evidence suggests that they have a long way to go before they satisify the online customer.

According to a recent study by Jupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq: JMXI) called "CRM Moves into the Check-out Aisle" online consumers aren't happy with the clicks' customer service and this may very well mute the benefits they are receiving from the changing marketplace.

The problem is one of perception: while the clicks have traditionally run their online/offline businesses and customer service departments separately, including product inventory, consumers view both channels equally and expect to weave between the two as they see fit. (For example, buy online, pick up or return products offline, and vice versa.)

This has exposed a wide gap in online customer service. So wide, say Jupiter analysts, that the leading reason for customers' dissatisfaction with online service is non-integrated product inventory--the result of running the online/operations separately.

The report also found the following key customer service gaps:
  • 83 percent of online buyers would like to be able to return online purchases at offline stores.
  • 59 percent said that they would like to order a product online and pick it up an offline store.
  • Only 18 percent of click-and-mortar retailers are capable of accessing a customer's consolidated account activity across all sales and service channels (online and offline).
  • Only 18 percent of multichannel retailers offer in-store pickup of items ordered online.
  • 70 percent of U.S. online buyers will spend less money at that merchant's offline store if they experience poor online customer service from the merchant's online store.

"Click-and-mortar retailers need to build their customer service infrastructure for the long-term, and changes in the market indicate that bringing those operations in-house is the only way to retain relationships across multiple channels," said David Daniels, Jupiter analyst.

While this may sound like an expensive project, the report says that companies can cut the costs of "an in-house operation by outsourcing infrastructure and deploying hosted CRM applications that allow business managers to focus on customers and staff instead of technology."

Another way to improve the customer relationship is by using browser-based CRM applications to allow store managers to add comments to customers' service history. "This will help build a single, cross-channel view of customer's transactions," Jupiter analysts said.

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