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Article : Want To Keep Your Products ‘Sold’? Start With Your Multichannel Contact Center!
What does your contact center have anything to do with product returns? The connection may not be obvious at first blush, but it’s quite strong.
There’s no question that manufacturers, telcos and also retailers want to minimize or eliminate product returns. The root-causes of returns are many - a common cause being the purchase of the wrong product (for example, wrong size or fit) or poor quality. In retail business, returns are often caused by impulse purchases that consumers don’t really need and low-price guarantees (shoppers sometimes return products, when they find better bargains elsewhere). But, if one were to look under the covers, buyers often return products when they are unable to get help on how to install, troubleshoot and use them.
Consumer products, whether they are mobile phones, electronic devices, home appliances or even dietary supplements, are proliferating and getting more complex, increasing the need for help in using them. Moreover, as these products get sold to broader segments of the population, the need for such hand-holding will increase even more. When they get stuck, consumers simply call the manufacturer or retailer’s call center or visit their web site for help. When they are not able to get answers quickly, many simply return the products. Most manufacturers, telecom service providers and retailers have a returns-friendly policy to reduce barriers to purchase and are often forced into such policies to keep up with competitors. While this may help improve sales, these businesses will have to eat the ‘hard’ cost of lost sales and returns processing, and the ‘soft’ cost of poor customer experiences and reduced brand loyalty.
Clearly, customer service organizations cannot address root-causes of returns such as product quality and consumer fickleness but they can surely help resolve customer queries on product features, benefits, usage and troubleshooting, and thus reduce returns significantly. Here are some proven best practices for success that we have compiled from our clients.
1.Clone your best problem solvers
While one could wish for it, not all customer service agents are created equal. The best ones are able to troubleshoot effectively and efficiently by asking the right questions at the right time, and others are not. Such problem solving expertise and answers to customer queries from subject matter experts in the organization (knowhow and content) can be captured in knowledge management systems and served up to all agents at the point of their interactions with customers, effectively ‘cloning’ your best agents!
2.Give consumers a GPS for web self-service
The curse of many web sites today is that consumers cannot find what they need. It’s as though they are driving blind, groping for answers, often in vain. Keyword search is not intelligent and tends to dump irrelevant ‘hits’ on the time-constrained customer. Here’s the good news: intelligent search technologies that can guide consumers in their search process - similar to how a GPS guides an automobile driver - have become available. These technologies are good at understanding the intent of the consumer and keeping them on target in their search for answers.
3.Crowd-source and crowd-push help
Setting up online forums is a great complement to your customer service organization. Such forums have taken off, especially in tech, consumer electronics and telco sectors, where customers are happy to help their peers with answers and tips. Posting useful seed content (answers to FAQs, for example), rewarding knowledge-contributing customers, and promoting such forums through other customer touch-points are among important best practices for successfully creating, promoting and managing online forums. Forward-looking customer service organizations are taking it a step further by ‘crowdsourcing’, i.e. harvesting answers from these forums and publishing them as trusted content after "scrubbing" them for quality. B2C businesses are also ‘crowd-pushing’, i.e. publishing trusted answers to social networks such as Facebook(R) and Twitter(R), convenient touch-points where the consumer ‘lives’ in this day and age.
4.Manage your SKUs and pricing wisely
If you are a retailer, your own brand is closely tied to the brands that you carry. Watch your returns closely and analyze by product categories and brands. You are better off jettisoning SKUs that are experiencing high returns as a pattern. If you are a retailer with a low-price guarantee, you better deliver on that promise. Otherwise, you will experience returns when shoppers find better prices elsewhere. ‘Mystery-shopping’ on an ongoing basis at competing ecommerce sites or retail outlets will give you a feel for competitor pricing, which, you can then use as a reference point to sustain your low-price leadership.
5. Use field service as the second layer of defense against returns
This can be accomplished in two steps:
- Field service avoidance: In the case of big-ticket items like white goods and other household appliances (e.g. washers, refrigerators, etc.), manufacturers and retailers can reduce unnecessary ‘truck rolls’ or field visits through effective problem resolution by contact center agents or on their web site. A leading white goods manufacturer has saved tens of millions of dollars every year that way with eGain’s knowledge management solution.
- First-Visit Resolution: In instances where a problem cannot be resolved in the contact center or website, knowledge management systems are able to increase the odds of resolution in the first field service truck roll by suggesting the right spare parts, tools and problem-fix to field technicians.
So when it comes to reducing product returns, look beyond the obvious! Improving your customer service through contact centers, your web site and social channels might very well be a good place to start.
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About Anand Subramaniam:
Anand Subramaniam is the VP of Marketing for eGain. Prior to eGain, Anand served as an executive in corporate and product marketing, as well as product management and pre-sales roles at companies such as Oracle, Intel and Autodesk.
About eGain Communications:
eGain customer engagement solutions power digital transformation for leading brands. Our top-rated cloud applications for social, mobile, web, and contact centers help clients deliver connected customer journeys in an omnichannel world.
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012