Magazine Article | July 18, 2007

Your Customers Are Waiting

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

How long will they wait?

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2007

I read an editorial recently that lambasted call center performance in phone-centric service industries, including retail. It cited a CFI Group survey of consumers that had recently placed calls to call centers in industries including catalog retail, banking, PC, cell phone, satellite TV, cable, and insurance. User satisfaction rates were low. The study found that two-thirds of the survey's participants considered abandoning the service provider and 20% of those surveyed finished the call with an unresolved issue.

Are You CSR Savvy?
As a retailer, you surely scoff at the idea that a consumer might hold interaction with your CSRs (customer service representatives) in the same low regard as that with an insurance salesman. But according to recent research released by Mitel, retailers should keep their customer service braggadocio in check. The study, which focused exclusively on the retail sector, found that consumers think they're waiting in line too long to purchase goods in stores. In fact, 31% of customers have had to wait up to 4 minutes, and 11% have been kept waiting for 6 minutes. Unfortunately for retailers, a full 44% of consumers said they'll only wait in line 90 seconds to buy goods, and if they're not served in that amount of time, they'll forego the purchase and take their money elsewhere. Ouch.

The picture is equally bleak at the call center. Only 34% of consumers will stay on hold for 90 seconds, and 80% say they're frustrated when they're on hold with no idea where they sit in the queue. That results in 64% of consumers believing retailers must make their call centers more user-friendly.

Technology Enables Customer Service
Clearly, efficiency of service is the number one consumer value proposition cited in these studies. The convergence of networked customer and inventory information available to CSRs via broadband WANs should be the core enabling infrastructure of a more efficient customer experience, both in stores and on phones. Multimedia contact centers can give phone reps access to customer relationship management (CRM) and product data in real time and at the click of a mouse. Smart solutions for receiving calls provide automated Touch-Tone information for simple queries (hours of operation, account balances, other FAQs) and ensure only more complex issues are queued and handled by CSRs.

On the store floor, wireless IP (Internet Protocol) phones and handhelds are among the technologies that enable the same multimedia information access to store associates. This reduces the necessity of putting live, in-store customers 'on hold' while CSRs check stockrooms and back office computers or place phone calls looking for product information or availability.

Retail is rarely the industry that sets the standard for technology adoption. But it's always the industry where customer service is paramount. Centralized CRM and product data applications, broadband networks, multimedia call centers, and wireless handhelds are not bleeding edge technologies. The longer you wait to adopt them, the longer your customers will either be waiting in, or abandoning, your lines.