With increasing numbers of online shoppers spending more money than ever online, this year is set to be another record year for online retail outfits in the run up to Christmas. A new report from Numero (www.thisisnumero.com), a customer interaction services provider, suggests that retail contact centres will be flooded with five-fold the volume of queries from disgruntled and anxious customers than at any other time during the year.
Retailers have consistently been criticised for their online customer service, with the perceived sense of disconnection between customers and the retailer coupled with the disappointing online customer service received from contact centres. With 11 million registered broadband users in the U. K, and with numbers increasing at a rate of some fifty thousand registrations per week; allied with a further seven million dial-up users, this existing problem seems set to be amplified come Christmas.
Much like the general retail market, online shoppers tend to leave it late before making their purchases; and the last 10 days have been highlighted as a particularly problematic period for customer services. This peak activity period is blamed on anxious and disgruntled shoppers who have damaged or undelivered goods.
Although the online retail market is booming, with more and more customers are relying on online retail services, further new research suggests that many internet users research potential purchases online before moving offline in order to make the actual purchase. The e-consultancy report suggests that the internet massively influences customer research into products and services, and subsequently offline sales. Previous studies have suggested that internet users are reluctant to spend money directly online over fears of security and fraud.
Alternative online retail models such as Loot and other, similar online classifieds services bypass the issue of late delivery, customer service concerns and security issues. By connecting buyers and sellers of goods through an online forum, direct contact between buyer and seller can be established, thereby removing the sense of disconnection highlighted as an issue with online retailers.
With online shoppers each set to spend an overage of £375 online in the run up to Christmas, it looks like online retailers will be paying out Christmas overtime to customer service centre staff. As the take up of broadband continues and the online retail market expands further, online retailers will have to look to increasingly sophisticated models of customer interaction to guarantee their customer a Merry Christmas.
Martin McAllister is a freelance online journalist. He lives in Scotland.