Trials & Tribulations of Online Customer Service

Rae Nyberg
Rae Nyberg

Consumers Are Often Unhappy with Online Assistance

In Outsell’s continuing dedication to improving our current digital marketing services, Dealer Services Manager, Alex Brown, discovered an insightful article from earlier this spring by Diane Clarkson of Forrester Research, Inc about the expansion of online customer service in retail.

Email has been at the forefront for years as an offered online option for customer service, and many retailers that sell their products online have an advantage with online customer service as further methods are being implemented. The difficult aspect for most companies is in aligning their strategies for online marketing and customer service effectively.

Live help is growing rapidly as an online option, particularly reactive chat, the method in which a customer can choose to click on a chat icon and engage an online professional, versus the proactive method that automatically opens a chat window without prompting.

Mobile customer service such as text alerts is rapidly growing as well, despite being one of the currently least offered online services. In the Chat Center at Outsell there have even been a number of growing customers using their cell phones to chat rather than a computer.

Despite attention being placed on additional online customer service methods, Forrester Research, Inc found that most of the companies they polled are not listening to what their customers want.

“Only 49% of survey respondents agree that their brand drives their online and offline customer services strategy. This lack of alignment can be jarring for customers when their service experience is inconsistent with the expectations a brand has promised.”

In other words, most consumers are not as happy with the customer service they receive as retailers promise they will be. More effective online methods may help salvage this disconnect, but only if implemented well, and if companies take into account feedback on how their customer service methods are working.

Forrester Research, Inc summed up their findings in five main points for how retailers can improve:


1. integrate brand alignment into customer service strategy

2. align customer service metrics to brand

3. listen to social channels

4. solicit customer feedback across your customer service channels

5. establish customer service cross-channel and cross-functional collaboration


Online customer service in the form of online chat and potential social media methods are becoming the standard, but to utilize this effectively and provide the best possible customer service to customers, retailers need to have clear goals, clear understanding of how their brand fits into the methods they are exploring, and clear understanding of what their customers want.

If done well, new online customer service options for expanding sales and customer loyalty may be the most beneficial evolution for retailers in reaching and assisting their customers since email, but only if done correctly.

Outsell has recently implemented a survey offered to customers at the end of their chat experience to query how much of consumers’ automotive shopping they want to complete online, and how successful the chat process was for them. Outsell plans to share the findings from this survey later this year.

To download the full article by Forrester Research, Inc please click here.

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