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South Africa has experienced something of an online retail boom since the start of 2020, largely because of the pandemic which has pushed shoppers online. In fact, local research firm World Wide Worx recently reported that online retail in the country doubled from R14.1 billion in 2018 to R30.2 billion in 2020.

This phenomenal growth has motivated many retailers to move their businesses online to meet demand, but it has also presented them with a new set of customer service challenges.

As 1Stream CEO Jed Hewson explains, “Call centres have traditionally existed to handle queries that customers couldn’t resolve in-store. Now, with large numbers of customers shopping online, they’re having to deal with the logistics-related queries and issues that come with online retail – which many of them are ill-equipped to do.”

When launching an online platform, what should businesses consider to ensure they deliver the same high level of customer service online as they do in their brick-and-mortar stores? With call centres being the main point of contact for online customers, 1Stream suggests retailers assess their readiness in terms of the following five factors.

  1. Queries across multiple channels

Most contact centres are designed to handle calls and emails, but as customers move online they want help in real time on channels like chat and WhatsApp. Adding additional support channels is complex and needs to be implemented in a way that enables you to report consistently across all channels.


  1. A wider range of queries

Are your agents prepared to handle a range of queries relating to late deliveries, order fulfilment errors, and the other logistical issues that are part and parcel of online retail? To manage these queries effectively, you may need to implement a different system that allows your agents to log and track issues.


  1. A shift from SLA to issue management

Call centres have traditionally been managed with SLA, using metrics like answering 90% of calls within 10 seconds and first-call resolution. However, these metrics may not be as relevant in online retail, where many of the issues agents deal with relate to logistics or order fulfilment – and where issue management is likely to be a more important measure of success.


  1. The eyes and ears of the business

The contact centre needs to be able to measure call volumes associated with specific issues so that recurring problems can be identified and reported back to the business.


  1. Self-service support

Chatbots and self-service options have become a ubiquitous part of the online customer experience. These systems must be able to measure and report on common customer queries, and you need to have an automated solution in place to resolve these queries without human intervention. If you get it right, self-service can provide a quick and convenient customer experience. But if you get it wrong, it will result in even more calls to your contact centre.


About 1Stream

As the leading provider of cloud-based contact centre technology in Southern Africa, 1Stream offers an integrated omni-channel solution that works with CRM platforms to facilitate meaningful connections with your customers. For more information, visit

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