Today, a successful customer service and experience strategy should be enjoyable from the customer’s point of view, whilst leading to more conversions or repeat business.
But building great customer service and outstanding experiences also means investing in your own customers and making sure their journey is seamless, from the top of the funnel to checkout and after-sales service.
It’s safe to assume that customer experience (CX) and customer service (CS) are two things that every business has thought about before, yet, they still often get pushed down the list when more important things come up – especially in times of crisis.
In the last few years, consumers have become empowered like never before, and brands no longer get to control their reputation. Today’s customers share their experiences with others, and not paying more attention to your CS and CX could cost your business its reputation.
CS and CX are unquestionably key to any business’s success. But how has COVID-19 impacted the importance of good customer experiences online?
To better understand the importance they have taken in the last few months, our team took a look at global review activity on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and July 1st 2021.
In this article, we’ll unveil our findings and arm you with important tips and tools to master the art of customer experience and customer service.
The growth of online shopping and customer reviews
In 2020, the online retail sales growth hit a 13-year high. The total online retail sales growth for 2020 was also up 36% year on year – the highest annual growth since 2007.
There’s no doubt that the love for digital is growing. And review platforms are growing with it too.
In January 2021, the amount of service reviews left on Trustpilot.com was 53% higher than the amount of service reviews left on our platform in January 2020, demonstrating once again that the growth of online reviews is directly linked to the growth of online shopping, and especially during the pandemic.
Amount of service reviews left on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and July 1st 2021
A recent survey showed that 89% of consumers check reviews online before making purchases, and HubSpot found that, in 2020, 69.5% of companies also admit that reviews, social proof and word-of-mouth directly generate revenue.
Online reviews have truly become an integral part of the customer journey, but how does this impact the role of CX and CS in the consumer buying process?
The impact of COVID-19 and eCommerce growth on CX and CS
In times of uncertainty like we’ve been experiencing lately, shoppers are likely to be reading more online reviews than usual before engaging with any online businesses.
During the pandemic, we found that the keyword “service” was mentioned in 21% of 1 and 5-star reviews on Trustpilot.com (left between January 1st 2020 to January 1st 2021). Customer experience and customer service have undeniably become two very hot topics during the pandemic, as many shops and businesses have been forced to close and people have had to do more of their shopping online.
There’s no denying – the growth of online reviews is closely linked to the importance of customer service and customer experience.
Delivering great customer experiences means you’re more likely to increase customer satisfaction, reduce consumer doubt, and boost conversions in the long run. Did you know that 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience? And nearly three out of five consumers report that good customer service is key for them to feel loyalty towards a brand.
Customer experience can also influence on-the-spot purchasing too, as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalised experience before.
As much as consumers understand that times of crisis mean it’s not business as usual, communities coming together and word of mouth travelling much faster are likely to keep consumers’ expectations at a high level this year and next.
To better understand just how important customer service has become in the last 18 months, we spoke to Velstar, a Shopify Plus eCommerce agency:
“COVID-19 has brought with it extended lockdowns, economic uncertainty and sustained attention on health. Combined, these factors have reshaped customer behaviour forever. Expectations have heightened, as priorities have shifted, which means what was previously considered great customer experience is no longer acceptable. Today, customers demand a seamless shopping experience that suits their needs and makes them feel like a valued customer. Brands must adapt to these new expectations and reassess their approach to customer experience if they want to remain competitive and keep shoppers coming back for more. The survival of their business depends on it,” explains the Marketing Manager at Velstar.
Unquestionably, today’s consumers are empowered like never before, and delivering great customer experiences can help businesses drive loyalty and revenue in the long run, and downplaying the importance of CS and CX in difficult times is no longer an option for businesses out there.
Consumer behaviour is shifting towards customer-centric brands
In the current competitive landscape, companies have to work harder than ever to stand out from the competition. And while discounts and low prices can help you acquire new customers, they certainly won’t help you retain them.
76% of people say they view customer experience as the true test of how much a company values them, and while most companies like to say they are “customer-first”, too many of them either do not listen to customers, or don’t have ways to make their feedback actionable.
Trustpilot research found that 61% of people who leave a bad review expect a company to publicly respond to their feedback, and 25% of people said how well companies respond to criticism can help transition them from detractors to overall promoters of that brand. There’s no doubt that responding to reviews – good or bad – and the way you respond can have an impact on your overall reputation.
To support this theory, we analysed our review data to try to understand whether there is a clear correlation between customer-centricity and customer satisfaction.
We sorted this graph by the average TrustScore as well as the amount of reviews that businesses have replied to on Trustpilot.com. Here, you can clearly see that the businesses with the highest TrustScores have replied to the most reviews. This suggests that listening to your customers and responding to their feedback could be one of the best ways to achieve a better reputation and true customer satisfaction.
On the second chart, we can observe that most of the businesses with high TrustScores have collected more reviews, which suggests that actively requesting for feedback is important when it comes to being a customer-centric brand. The quantity of online reviews you collect could potentially have a significant impact on your overall brand reputation, and businesses requesting consumer feedback and responding to more reviews could eventually see better results than businesses who do not.
It is clear that consumers tend to gravitate towards brands who care. Improving your customer experience by listening and responding to reviews is one of the first steps towards success, but actively collecting reviews also matters when it comes to improving your brand’s overall user experience.
The future of CS and CX
In 2020, many customers had no choice but to turn to the Internet for their shopping needs as non-essential stores were forced to close during the pandemic.
While the growth in eCommerce is mostly due to global events, Statista believes that online sales will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. So what trends can businesses expect to see in the coming months?
Smaller, customer-centric businesses will beat the eCommerce giants
In the last year, we’ve also observed a growth in interest in purpose-driven and ethical businesses. Consumers have taken a bigger interest in companies that really care about each of their customers.
This will undoubtedly impact the importance of customer service and customer experience. Consumers choose to shop online for a variety of reasons, such as choice, convenience, payment options, as well as good shipping and return policies.
Whilst many people have had little choice but to shop online in the last year or so, in the near future, customer experience and customer service will determine whether a consumer chooses to shop online or in-store.
In the coming months, it’ll become essential for businesses to consider how they can deliver value to shoppers and customers online. After all, customers are a company’s most precious asset.
If an eCommerce business doesn't treat its customers well, its reputation will spread, shrinking the customer base, and making it harder to acquire new customers in the long run.
That’s why smaller businesses who deliver personalised experience and thoughtful customer service will often attract and retain more consumers than the eCommerce giants who can sometimes be seen as not being as customer-centric.
CS and CX will take a new role this holiday season
In our 2020 holiday report, we found that the most common 2-word phrase found both in 1 and 5-star reviews in Q4 was “customer service”.
Today’s uncertain climate means customer experience and customer service have become key to any brand’s survival and success.
This holiday season, there’s no doubt that great customer experiences and great customer service will help brands drive revenue and stand out from the competition.
To get a better understanding of just how much consumers rely on customer service to do their holiday shopping, we took a look at the amount of service reviews left between August 1st and December 31st in 2019, and in 2020.
Amount of service reviews left on Trustpilot.com between August 1st 2019 and December 31st 2019
Amount of service reviews left on Trustpilot.com between August 1st 2020 and December 31st 2020
Here, we can clearly see that we’ve experienced an increase in service reviews from October time in the last two years. However, in 2020, the amount of service reviews left on Trustpilot.com in the last 3 months of the year was considerably higher than the previous year (about 1 million reviews more!).
We suspect this is due to the fact that most people were still stuck at home, with the majority of shops still closed, and that many consumers had to do their holiday shopping online.
This year, as restrictions slowly continue to ease and after months of online shopping, some consumers could be tempted to do their 2021 holiday shopping in-store.
That’s why we predict that customer service and customer experience will have an even greater impact on holiday and Christmas revenue in 2021. Brands who can truly showcase great customer service and great customer experiences to their online customers will be more likely to win business than brands who do not show any signs of customer-centricity.
Downplaying the importance of customer experience and customer service is no longer an option for businesses out there, as the voice of the customer continues to get louder, and as restrictions continue to ease and competition gets tougher.
4 Easy ways to improve your brand’s CS and CX
Now that we’ve established the importance of great customer service and customer experience, here are four actionable tips you can implement to deliver better experiences.
1. Focus on your shipping and return policies
During the pandemic, most eCommerce businesses started offering free shipping to drive more conversions. So chances are, if you’re charging for shipping, you're losing some of your sales to your competitors. In fact, according to Barilliance, 9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is their biggest incentive to continue shopping online.
Whether you choose to offer free shipping based on the order amount, for customers with an account only, or during a specific time-frame, shoppers will appreciate the effort.
When consumers do their shopping online, they’re also more likely to opt for a brand with a great returns policy. Brands who choose not to offer improved shipping & returns policies could be seriously missing out, especially during the holiday season.
2. Optimise your checkout page to reduce cart abandonment
Did you know that the average cart abandonment rate across all industries is 69.57%?
In the last year, as online sales have continued to grow exponentially, consumers have been exposed to all kinds of checkout experiences. Some of them, better than others.
As today’s online shoppers continue to grow more and more confident, chances are they will abandon their cart if your checkout experience isn’t up to the industry standards.
Having to create a new user account is one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment (22%). Paypal also found that 24% of consumers abandon their transactions at checkout because the retailer doesn’t offer their preferred payment choice.
Make sure you regularly review your checkout page, and start implementing more checkout options to drive more sales during the busiest shopping season of the year.
3. Collect and showcase online reviews
Today, 91% of people say ads are more intrusive than 3 years ago. One of the best forms of marketing a business can partake in is trustworthy social proof and third-party validation.
In short, letting your customers do the talking is the key to success, because their opinion is more likely to be heard and considered by their peers than your own.
Today’s buyers trust customers more than they trust companies. When marketers harness social proof, it can drive more leads than when a business says “we’re the best brand out there”.
Consumers behave a little differently when the holiday season rolls around, and rightly so. As observed earlier, shoppers all over the globe look for and leave reviews more often in October, November, and December.
That’s a great time for eCommerce businesses like yours to focus on a review strategy. By focusing on showcasing and collecting reviews, you’re more likely to show up in a good light for consumers researching their options online.
Implementing reviews throughout the consumer journey is also a less intrusive way of building trust with potential consumers. So reconsider selling hard, and let the voice of the customer build the confidence everyone needs at this time of year.
4. Use feedback to improve your customers’ experiences
While having lots of reviews is certainly great, the benefits of these reviews are limited if you’re unable to learn from them.
First of all, part of the process of learning from your customers is listening and responding to their feedback. Responding to positive and negative reviews can help you learn from your audience. It can also help you turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Did you know that 95% of unhappy customers are more likely to return to your website if you have resolved their issue quickly and efficiently and 64% of global consumers would prefer to buy from a responsive company over one that appears perfect?
Secondly, your customer reviews and feedback can help you detect your customers’ needs, complaints or praise quickly and easily.
Using your customers’ feedback to identify trends and areas of improvement that you can focus on will help you improve your existing customer journey, as well as your customer service.
Once you’ve identified any gaps, you’ll be able to list what works well, and what can be improved to deliver better customer service, and a better user experience, from awareness to purchase and advocacy.
From there, you can make changes to your website: start with the easier steps – the ones that you can easily change in time for the busiest season of the year, and establish a strategy for the bigger items.
Great customer experience and customer service is a must-have for consumers
Our data shows that customer experience and customer service are two very important aspects of the overall user journey.
But in the last few months, the global shift to online shopping has meant that CS and CX have become a real necessity – not just a nice-to-have – for businesses who wish to outperform industry peers.
Brands who choose not to invest time and effort in these two areas could get left behind in the next few months, and especially during the holiday season, when competition gets tougher.
Finding ways to implement our tips will give your brand the best chance to succeed over the crucial seasonal trading period.
If you’d like to find out more about how reviews can help you get your customer service and customer experience just right, why not request a free demo below? It’s quick and easy.