It has been said for decades that the customer is king – however, if you ask many shoppers, some will say that is not always the case. Some companies have made customer service a hallmark of their brand or service and continue to increase their efforts.
The Internet has certainly changed things and given customers more power: unhappy customers can make their thoughts readily known to large audiences through Yelp, Tripadvisor, Amazon, and other sites where people can review their retail experiences. You don’t want to see your business go viral for all the wrong reasons, we have all seen how customer service failures can quickly turn ugly on social media.
That said, given the ongoing struggle between offering good customer service and what is feasible for marketers, MarketingSherpa performed a survey in 2015 to better understand what customers really want to be improved in their buying experience and what marketers can actually do to respond to their customers.
According to MarketingSherpa, the survey asked specifically: “In which of the following ways, if any, can retailers improve your shopping experience? Please select all that apply.” Here were the top answers:
- Free shipping (74%)
- Easy return process (53%)
- High-quality customer service (52%)
- Fast shipping (49%)
- Not requiring registration for an account in order to make a purchase (38%)
- Real-time delivery tracker (37%)
- Easy transition between shopping online and shopping in the physical store — e.g., providing in-store pick-up and returns of products bought online (34%)
- Credible reviews of products from professional, unbiased reviewers (33%)
Many of these requests may not seem too earth-shattering, but nevertheless, there were some differences between what customers desired and what marketers thought was achievable. In addition, while the survey showed that the digital age has changed how business is being conducted in many ways, easy returns, credible reviews, fast shipping, and several of the other concerns on the list, did not request just from the Internet age, but demands that customers, retailers, and marketers have been working on for years.
On the flip side, elements that seem highly important to customers, do not rank as high to marketers in some cases. MarketingSherpa found some disconnects between marketers and customers:
- Customers’ top choice, free shipping (74%), was less popular among marketers (18%). This of course might have to do more with revenue and cost of doing business.
- The second top choice of customers, the easy return process (53%), is also less popular with marketers (19%). Once again, this could mean more staff, more administrative effort, and less time selling and marketing the product.
- High-quality customer service was an area of agreement between customer preferences and marketer practices. It was the third most important option for customers (52%), and the most popular focus area for marketers (52%).
- The fast shipping was more popular among customers (49%) than marketers (22%).
- Not requiring registration was more popular among customers (38%) than marketers (22%).
- Real-time delivery trackers were more popular among customers (37%) than marketers (11%).
- Smooth transition between shopping online and in-store are also more popular among customers than marketers (34% versus 7%).
- Credible reviews of products from professional, unbiased reviewers also more popular among customers than marketers (33% versus 15%), however providing credible customer reviews was also a highly popular choice among marketers (30%).
- Not customizing customer experience and letting them see the same products and services as everyone else — the second most popular choice among marketers (30%), the 10th most popular choice among customers (22%)
Other results showed that what marketers thought very important, were clearly not top of mind for most consumers. Here is a sampling:
- Making it easier to buy products on a mobile phone (e.g., bigger buttons, easier checkout processes) — the fourth most popular answer option among marketers (25%), the 13th most popular option among customers (16%)
- Tailoring promotional emails to customers’ product and buying preferences — the fifth most popular tactic among marketers (25%), the 12th most popular choice among customers (17%)
Marketing Sherpa notes, “To sum up, marketer’s practices were lagging behind most of the customer top choices for ways to improve their shopping experience, except for quality customer service and providing credible customer reviews.”