I knew companies were offering consumers an option to self-select their representative for live chat. But I learned a great more about the benefits at a conference put on by Liveperson in 2013. Now I am an advocate for consumer choice. It makes so much sense.
One of the speakers at the conference was Jill Layfield. She is CEO of Backcountry.com, an online specialty retailer that sells clothing and outdoor recreation gear for hiking, camping, snowboarding, fly fishing, etc. She has a team of Gearheads. Consumers can choose their Gearhead based on background and expertise. My son is an avid rock-climber and when he needs new ropes or other climbing apparatuses, he not only wants to talk to a representative who understands the importance of having the right equipment, but also one who knows what to recommend. It’s a life saving decision.
According to Ms. Layfield, “Gearheads are heroes to our customers because they’re living the dream.” They connect one-to-one, in some ways like a personal shopper, but in other ways like a mentor or friend. Gearheads are encouraged to network with customers on social media and at live events, as well. “Using social media to share their life builds that authenticity in the customer’s mind but also just creates a bond,” Layfield said, emphasizing that the program is about building relationships and providing service, not just making sales.
Everyone who clicks on a website does so with a feeling of hope they will interact with a company that can help them find what they need or get answers to questions. Allowing consumers to self-select an agent puts them in control of the interaction and helps to immediately establish a person-to person connection. The consumer is in the driver’s seat and can make a choice. This is a first step in developing trust, a basic tenet of any relationship.
I recently posted an article about Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers. Jack offers his customers who shop online to either self-serve or choose a personal style advisor. The advisor’s background, expertise and photo appear below their name. The site acts as a remote store more than an online site. It also includes a complete history of the consumer’s purchases and sizes in “their closet” for easy reference. Mr. Mitchell’s team has created an online site to fit every customer.
Design your ecommerce site to include an option for consumers to engage human-to-human to maximize your company’s propensity to generate repeat business. Technology should be used to enhance the customer experience, not detract. Technology is not a sole instrument to sell and service just as a way to reduce costs. While it may save dollars, think of the big picture. Don’t allow cost cutting to diminish the exceptional customer experience. The result could be a lost customer to a site that combines the benefits of technology with the human touch.