online sales

How Increased Online Sales Continues to Increase the Customer Support Needs

Think back to 1983 when the internet was first introduced. For those who remember it,  you probably couldn’t fathom how it would change the way we do business. And for those who weren’t born yet, you probably can’t imagine life without the internet. The internet has allowed us to connect with others across the globe and have access to goods and services at our fingertips. You can get anything you want on the internet – from a cup of coffee to a personalized jet. It’s estimated that trillions of dollars are spent in online sales transactions for every imaginable product/service out there. As we couldn’t imagine life with or without the internet, depending on when we were born, we also couldn’t imagine living in a pandemic and how it would impact e-business and more importantly the customer service businesses provide – both online and offline.

What is e-business?

First, let’s take a look at what e-business is. E-business is more commonly known as e-commerce which is a commercial transaction that is conducted electronically on the internet and what we will refer to it as moving forward. The e-commerce trend first began at the beginning of the 21st century and since then, businesses have sought to provide exceptional customer service to their customers whether they are consuming electronically or in-person. What most businesses weren’t prepared for was the shift that was coming with a global pandemic.

How has the pandemic affected online sales?

Have you noticed that you shop a lot more online since the pandemic started? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Digital Commerce 360 analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce data, online sales grew tremendously in 2020 and into 2022. The data shows that sales increased by:

  • 43.7% in Q2 2020
  • 36.3% in Q3 2020
  • 31.9% in Q4 2020
  • 39.1% in Q1 2021
  • 9.2% in Q2 2021
  • 6.8% in Q3 2021

While online sales aren’t up as much since the start of the pandemic, sales are still growing with groceries and other household products having unprecedented demand. As companies have shifted and adapted to the new demands that the pandemic has brought forth, they’ve enhanced their ‘Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS’) experiences with more comprehensive cleaning protocols and have implemented other ways to shop like curbside pickup, and in some cases even offer delivery services directly or through a third party. 

Increased Online Shopping Has Created More Hurdles for Businesses

In order to survive the pandemic, many businesses have had to make some major shifts in the way they do business. Some things they have implemented to keep up with demand are:

  • Cross-train staff for their new services such as curbside pickup.
  • Hire more staff to offer new services like BOPIS.
  • Implement e-commerce as a way to purchase products.
  • Enhance their existing e-commerce platform to support new ways of shopping.
  • Hire more staff to provide additional customer support due to increased sales overall.
  • Enhanced cyber security to protect consumer data.
  • Enhanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems to improve the customer experience and data gathered about buyer behavior.

Many of these changes require extensive training and more capital which can be challenging alone. As we all know, hiring has been quite a struggle for businesses across the United States, as well. 

Increased Sales Means Increased Customer Support

With increases in online shopping, comes increases in shipping and returns. A recent survey by Power Reviews shows that 72% of shoppers returned items bought online. People return items mainly because they don’t fit, it was damaged or the item didn’t match the description. No matter what the reason, a return requires some level of customer support and the definition of support is changing. With e-commerce, phone support is not all that is expected nowadays. Customers now expect:

  • Knowledge bases on company websites
  • Live Chat
  • Bot support
  • Some level of customization with their experience
  • Fast shipping
  • Immediate resolution. 

Despite the challenges faced to adapt to new ways of shopping and customer expectations, those companies who were able to provide the best customer support saw increases in customer satisfaction and loyalty as well as word-of-mouth sales over the past 2 years. In our next blog, we’ll discuss 3 companies that continue to offer exceptional customer support despite any adjustments they had to make for new demands.

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Customer Service Institute of America