Amazon has changed the game for e-commerce, but Chinese brands are now setting the bar for what seamless customer service online looks like, says e-commerce expert Nicolas Zurstrassen.
As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com once said: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works. I don’t know about you, but most of my exchanges with cashiers are not that meaningful.”
Amazon has set the expectation for what the e-commerce experience is. And there is no question that Jeff Bezos is a visionary.
“ The problem is that brands that aren’t selling commodity products have also applied Bezos’ e-commerce lessons ”
However, his business works best when products are treated as commodities and price is the key differentiator. It’s the wal-martification of the online retail experience.
The problem is that brands that aren’t selling commodity products have also applied his e-commerce lessons — when they would never consider doing this in their offline stores.
How many brands easily provide customer service to their online consumer as they are shopping? Zappos, acquired by Amazon, provides it and considers it their core advantage. But so few other brands do it — and none of them seem to consider it a core competency.
“ In the offline world you would never consider opening a store with no retail staff to help guide the customer ”
Yet, you have a customer who is visiting your brand and looking to find out more. Isn’t this the best time to be speaking with them, introducing your brand and the variety of products available?
In the offline world you would never consider opening a store with no retail staff to help guide the customer. So, why are you refusing to speak with your customer online?
Chinese brands are leading the world when it comes to providing this online service.
There are a mixture of reasons for this:
1. A low trust environment means that consumers want to build a relationship before purchasing
2. Simple tools provided by Alibaba which have made this possible
3. A ranking system and encouragement by Alibaba that has made this expected
4. Brands that have realised that the revenue and brand benefits outweigh the costs
5. A manpower cost that makes this more economically feasible
Whatever the reasons, brands view high touch online customer service as an important tool — and consumers regard it as indispensable. It is seen as a key pre-sales revenue driver rather than a post sales cost.
“ Almost 90% of the conversations happened in real time on the Tmall or JD chat tools ”
At my last company, Baozun, more than 75% of our consumer inquiries were focused on pre-sales questions related to either product or promotional information. Consumers wanted to know if the shoes were small or large, if the colour was a true sky blue or when the next promotion was happening.
And almost 90% of the conversations happened in real time on the Tmall or JD chat tools.
Every online store had dedicated staff to the customer service role. The more advanced companies treated these teams as an important sales channels and provided them much of the same training as their in-store staff. And then there were the game changers, like Burberry, who made no distinction between their online customer service staff and the in-store retail staff.
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