Direct to Consumer (DTC) brands are disrupting the way we purchase products and our expectations for how the brands we buy from engage with us. By removing the middleman, they are in a unique position to build direct relationships through their control of the entire customer experience. As a result, each interaction can mean the difference between creating a fleeting relationship — or reinforcing a lifetime of customer loyalty.
Many of today’s top DTC startups have built their businesses through differentiated, frictionless customer experiences that focus as much on how they serve customers post-sale as they do on the shopping experience. These new brands are building lasting customer relationships that are fueling ecommerce’s rapidly growing share of retail sales.
According to the IAB’s report, the brands that don’t prioritize customer service may see it impact their bottom line. More than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase or transaction because of bad service and 33 percent of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service, as found in the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer report.
Below are five key principles of customer service DTC brands should consider:
Know your customer
Customers today expect you to know their past shopping history and to give them the respect that a returning customer deserves. When they reach out with a question or concern, they expect you will know who they are, what their current and past orders are, who they spoke to last and the potential reason you are contacting them. They do not want to repeat their question or issue or get passed from one customer service agent to another, feeling like another ticket.
By unifying all the rich data they collect on their customers in a single location, smart brands give their customer service teams the context necessary to deliver personalized, efficient service across channels during every interaction.
Communicate across all channels
Omnichannel is no longer seen as something that’s nice to have — it is imperative for success. Today’s customers shop, research and purchase across a number of different channels from in-store, online, social media and mobile. A similar omnichannel experience is now a requirement for customer service communication. It is not enough to just be available by phone, chat, email, social, text and other messaging apps — customers expect to have a single threaded conversation across all of these channels, seamlessly transitioning between them as necessary to get answers to their questions without ever having to restate the question.
Given that most DTC brands extensively use multiple channels for targeted marketing, customers expect that once they’ve purchased they can receive support through the same convenient channels that they were sold.
Value their time
DTC brands have grown from the on-demand economy and benefit of cutting out the middleman to reach customers directly. The convenience of online shopping and the speed of two day delivery are the benchmarks of many DTC brands.
For customer service this means quickly responding to an inquiry, rapidly routing customers to the right agent and then being able to provide answers and take action without agents having to ask a long list of questions. It also means that brands should provide great self-service options across all of their channels. Brands that consistently demonstrate they value customers’ time by efficiently delivering positive outcomes create lasting loyalty.
Make it easy to find answers
The first step in customer service is making it easy for customers to find answers and resolve issues themselves on your website and other channels. This means having a robust, well-organized and easily searchable knowledge base and support site for customers to quickly find what they’re looking for online without having to directly contact customer service.
And even if they do need to reach out, giving them the ability to complete simple tasks like updating an address can save time and frustration before connecting to a live customer service rep. Brands may also turn to bots powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to handle more mundane, simple tasks as well as make recommendations for self-service content. These steps can free up agents to handle high-value conversations that require their personal touch.
Surprise your customers with extraordinary support.
While customers can be demanding in what they expect a brand to know, there is still the opportunity to surprise them with personalized, proactive support.
Whether it’s alerting customers to a mix-up with their delivery, offering a special coupon for being a loyal customer, sending a personalized note or reaching out to a previous customer to understand why they have stopped purchasing, proactive customer engagement is often a surprise that can leave a lasting positive impression. And while customers may be quick to share negative customer experiences on social media, they are just as likely to talk about these positive ones that show a brand going above and beyond expectations.
There’s no doubt that DTC brands have shaken up the retail world with innovative products, on- demand services and being able to tap into a community and social interface that customers now demand. The brands that use the direct relationship with their shoppers to their advantage, — by making things easy, convenient and positive — will be the ones to succeed in the decade to come.
To learn more, download Kustomer’s guide to customer personalization.