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Experience is key

By Retail Technology | Wednesday September 6 2017

Customer experience (CX) is essential to the success of any modern retail company but what role does technology play in this? VoiceSage’s John Duffy explains

Technology is everywhere, from smart phones to smart TVs, we can shop 24/7, browse in store or from the comfort of our sofas – but one thing is common amongst them all, our desire for an easy and seamless customer experience. 

CX has become pivotal to getting a competitive edge in the omnichannel retail marketplace. Back in 2012, only 30% of companies surveyed by analyst firm Gartner said they expected to compete primarily on delivering a superior CX. In 2017, 89% of marketers expect CX to be their primary differentiator. This marks a huge change in the retail landscape in just over a decade. As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50% of organisations will redirect their investment to customer experience innovations. 

Today customers interact with retailers across multiple channels, from the telephone and email to social media and chatbots. Having an effective and longsighted CX strategy works.
Excellent CX achieves results for retailers. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement channels retain an average of 89% of customers, compared with 33% of those with weak omnichannel strategies. 

CX and technology are increasingly collaborating to enhance CX. But how are organisations doing this in the UK marketplace, where omnichannel has just taken off? An extensive market analysis exercise my company carried out in partnership with the UK Contact Centre Forum sheds some light on the topic. 

The survey base was broad, which means we get a panoramic view of the UK retail market space – with responses coming back from car rental and holiday companies to home services, health and leisure based across the country. 

A proactive approach

The biggest take away is that UK retailers are getting more proactive, with 75% saying that they already have a proactive strategy in place. With proactive customer service you are letting customers know in advance about a problem – even before they have noticed it and sharing updates along the way. As a retailer to deliver proactive customer service you must know and understand your customer. The telephone is still the most popular tool for proactive outreach (64%), although 26.4% said they are using email. 

Proactive customer contact via SMS and automated voice, however, are being increasingly adopted by retailers. 51% of respondents said they had started using SMS as a proactive tool and 70% said it was effective or very effective as a proactive tool. 19.3% said they had started to explore automated voice for proactive outreach and 58.3% said they are finding it very effective. 

The survey also spotlights the growing role of SMS, in particular with those yet to adopt proactive who show a strong preference for that channel (37% compared with 31% for telephone and 17% for email). Meanwhile, 71% believe SMS technology would mean less in-bound calls for their teams, while greater use of SMS plus social media would mean staff could manage more interactions. 

New technologies will undoubtedly make it far easier for retail agents to multi-task on customer outreach. While they can handle only one call at a time, they can handle four Twitter or SMS and five LinkedIn or WhatsApp contacts. What’s more, specific campaigns can be personalised and sent out via smartphones for example, such as Black Friday promotions, with calendar appointments and interactive maps showing stores that have specific deals. 
Not surprisingly a huge number of respondents 87% said that proactive services will ultimately make major savings on in-bound contacts to their organisations. 

The customer journey

Thanks to omnichannel retail offerings, the customer journey has become paramount. Mapping the processes and capturing the total customer experience across touchpoints, joining the dots, and identifying where improvements can be made has become crucial in building and retaining customer loyalty.

Having the ability to utilise technology to enable access to previous conversations with customers on the same issues across channels has become important in providing an efficient journey. Although this is still a challenge for some retailers, nearly 56% of respondents said they could now pass customer conversation notes on a specific issue team across channels immediately. This means that retailers have invested in deploying integrated information and contact routing systems to get ahead of the game. 

The changing face of retail

From the results of our survey it shows that UK retail is going through a serious digital transformation and is investing in better support mechanisms to improve CX.
As omnichannel continues to mature in the retail sector the lines have faded between online and store. Fast thinking retailers have been fast to embrace new communications channels to make omnichannel a real and lasting proposition. 

At the same time it looks like newer technologies such as SMS, voice and social media are being adopted as a robust and reliable way for brands to offer a proactive approach to CX in a streamlined, efficient and cost effective way. 
We have seen rapid change in the retail sector that has forced retailers to take a new look at their strategies to transform and personalise CX in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Forward-thinking retailers are looking to further integrate technology to boost customer engagement and CX – growing customer trust and loyalty and providing up-selling/cross-selling opportunities. The future of retail is a highly connected one. 

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