The trend of increasingly disappointing customer experiences across industries continued over the 2022 holiday season, according to a study published today by Simplr. The 2023 State of Ecommerce Customer Service Report, compiled from digital customer interactions with more than 400 major consumer brands, found that 28.5% of brands turned off live chat over the 2022 Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend. Additionally, 40 percent of pre-sale emails sent to those brands went unanswered, up from 30% in 2021 and 27% in 2020.
"Turning off live chat before Black Friday is akin to firing your in-store retail sales associates on Thanksgiving day. It's a self-destructive move that hurts both short term sales revenues and long-term customer loyalty," said Daniel Rodriguez, Simplr CMO. "But due to being unprepared in their internal processes and unconfident in their outsourced BPOs to handle the surge in digital inquiries, many brands, unfortunately, felt like they needed to do it."
The study is the latest in a string of reports that underscore a marked decline in customer experience in recent years. According to Forrester's US 2022 Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) rankings, "CX quality fell for 19% of brands in 2022 — the highest proportion of brands to drop in one year since the inception of the survey." A prior 2022 study from Simplr also found that only 24% of businesses in certain industries are producing "exceptional" end-to-end customer experiences.
"The delta between consumer expectations and what brands could provide in terms of CX continued to increase in 2022, resulting in brands appearing to be even more unprepared when it came to the holiday shopping season than they were in 2021 and 2020," said Rodriguez. "At a time when consumers are already stressed and overwhelmed, poor CX can be calamitous for brands, which, sadly we saw over the holidays."
Chatbots continue to produce more problems than solutions
Despite recent rapid improvements in AI and conversational intelligence, the vast majority of consumer-facing chatbots failed to live up to expectations over the holiday season. Among the 400+ brands studied for the survey, 71% had chatbots implemented which could not understand the initial question posed by a consumer. And 36% of chatbots required customers to repeat themselves more than two times.
However, when the bot was supported by human intervention, the results were notably better. Forty percent of such interactions were rated as "very good" or "exceptional", and 72% of consumers saying that would be "likely" or "very likely" to repurchase from that brand.
"The issue with most chatbots today isn't just the technology, it's the implementation," said Rodriguez. "When customer service leaders are required to work with multiple different BPOs and chatbot providers to piece together a bot-human intervention and escalation process, too often the result is a disjointed and slow customer experience. Simply put: customer service leaders need to demand more seamless integrations and collaboration between their various outsourced providers if they really want to meet modern customer expectations."
Click here to download a free copy of The 2023 State of Ecommerce Customer Service Report.