Solving the multichannel customer puzzle

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With online sales growth outpacing offline sales this holiday season, there is no doubt that the era of e- commerce has arrived.

But this does not mean that companies no longer have to worry about multichannel strategies to keep and retain customers. Analysts have shown that while online commerce is becoming an increasingly popular option, most consumers still prefer to research products online, and make purchases offline - either via a call center, or a bricks-and-mortar store.

Despite growing acceptance of online shopping on the part of the consumer, many companies that offer access to products on their Web sites have failed to match the level of service that customers have come to expect from offline counterparts. As a result, companies are seeing more than 60 percent of online shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a transaction.

For years, retailers have relied on lowtouch online customer service tools such as e-mail, text chat and FAQs, in the hopes that customers would complete every transaction online and avoid more costly telephone interaction. However, a recent

Forrester Research study found that these options still rank well below the telephone in terms of customer satisfaction.

So, how can companies offer the hightouch level of service afforded by the telephone without flooding their call centers with inquiries that can be better handled by self-service tools? What's the missing piece to this puzzle? The answer is click-to-call.

Unlike a toll-free phone number, click-tocall enables companies to monitor and control when and where online visitors migrate from the Web to the phone sales channel.

Conventional phone calls cause a very disruptive gap in the customer experience, because customers are forced to abandon their Web sessions and literally "start all over again" with a call center agent. Click-to-call helps bridge the gap between online and offline sales channels by leveraging cross-channel data passing technology.

Cross-channel data passing transfers information about a customer's online session, such as customer profile, purchase history and billing information, directly to the call center agent when the call is initiated.

On average, companies that use click-to-call witness:

• Increased sales conversions by as much as 100 percent

• Reduced Web site abandonment of 25 percent to 35 percent

• Improved customer loyalty

Using click-to-call, one major retailer was able to reduce time to resolution by more than 70 seconds per call, on average.

Now that's a puzzle every company wants to solve.

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