By Ricardo Layun, Vice President, Customer Care Services
Delivering a personalized customer experience is crucial in today’s retail environment that is all about the hyperconnected consumer. Studies have shown that 59 percent of shoppers will not return to a store after they’ve had a bad experience. Meanwhile customers that have had a great experience will spend 2.5 times more than those that did not.¹
Whether interactions are via phone, chat, or email, your customers expect a frictionless, seamless, and authentic experience. In fact, 49 percent of customers purchased items they didn’t intend to buy due to a personalized recommendation.² And 71 percent of consumers express some level of frustration when their experience is impersonal.³
While more than 70 percent of retailers say personalization is their top priority, there is a disconnect between recognizing the need for personalization and executing those experiences well. A big factor is the proliferation of technology and ability to understand a customer’s history and preferences across digital and physical channels. Understanding the customer journey across the myriad of channels in which today’s consumers research products, make purchases, and interact is complex. While the data is there and available, it often sits in silos versus providing any customer service agent or store associate, from any location, the ability to quickly act on the data to deliver a seamless and personalized customer experience.
For example, making sure that a live agent immediately knows that the customer on the phone who is calling to follow-up on an order recently placed has been a loyal customer for 10 years. The agents can then treat that customer with special attention and even make offers to reward that loyalty like free shipping on the order. Or something even more basic like just making sure that the agent has the data on hand to quickly determine why the customer might be calling to provide faster resolution and a seamless interaction. But this is rarely the case, instead, even some basic customer service inquiries go awry creating fiction and frustration—like when customers have to explain to a live agent what they just tried to figure out through IVR or via chat earlier.
DIFFERENTIATING WITH CUSTOMER CARE
The fact is that wow is only wow for so long before customers expect it. There are a few fundamental things that retailers and brands should do to stay competitive and exceed today’s customer expectations.
1. Understand the Customer Journey
Customer journey mapping allows businesses to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors. That data can then be used to maximize every interaction with them to drive loyalty and reduce friction. This includes everything from understanding a customer’s ordering and buying habits and preferences across physical and digital channels to make ordering easy; to leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to intelligently cross-sell to customers based on their known product interests.
But what’s also important is giving customers choices to be as transparent as they like about how and how much they share their buying history, preferences, and interactions. For example, provide them with choices to opt-in or opt-out with any experience and to determine the extent that they want to share their information to drive personalization. It’s important for businesses to define how they want to influence the customer journey. What’s the desired outcome? Start with strategy and build from there.
2. Leverage Self-Service
A consumer experience survey by Aspect found that 73 percent of customers surveyed want the ability to solve service issues on their own, while 76 percent said they will view the customer service they receive as a true test of how much a company values them as a customer.⁴ A CFI study also revealed 83 percent of shoppers indicate they prefer using self-service tools to resolve issues on their own.⁵
While there are many self-service trends on the horizon, providing customers with AI options and Visual Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology are two popular and effective solutions available.
Chatbots are among the most recognizable AI applications for customer care. These virtual agents can answer basic questions for consumers and guide them on their journey to get answers online and are ideal for helping consumers access information and complete basic tasks that save retailers money and improve the customer experience. After all, customers find the need to interact with retailers to fulfill many different requests that don’t necessarily require a live agent, such as order status and billing questions to troubleshooting and product inquiries. Virtual agents powered by AI provide a fast and cost-effective way to access a variety of information and data that can solve customer inquiries without having to go through traditional IVRs or live agents.
Bottom-line: Make it easy to get service and leverage the power of AI and machine learning to provide personalized customer experiences via loyalty programs, eCommerce sales, as well as in-store sales.
3. Invest in Mobile
An estimated $669 billion in global retail commerce revenue will come from mobile this year.⁶ Recognizing the huge revenue potential that mobile presents, retailers are doubling down on their mobile technology investments. In fact, Boston Retail Partners’ 2017 POS/ Customer Engagement Study found that mobile ranks among retailers’ top engagement priorities: with 57 percent focused on mobile alignment and 46 percent on empowering associates with mobile tools.
With mobile devices in hand, customers can easily search and compare products and prices online, as well as read customer reviews and get instant feedback from their circle of friends via social media. This transparency makes the retailer’s job that much more difficult as they can no longer just differentiate on product or price. The customer experience is what drives customer loyalty.
In many cases, the physical store is falling short of meeting expectations in personalized service. The digital retail environment has reshaped what customers expect. They want personalized offers and recommendations when shopping online or via mobile that they don’t usually receive when they shop in a store. This is an area of opportunity for retailers as digital and physical retail continues to converge, and the key to personalizing the experience is the ability to identify a customer as soon as they enter the store.
Creating valuable and memorable customer experiences requires a commitment to process improvement and innovation, and there’s no magic wand. Set the course, connect dots, get the data, and make sure the technology is in place to continuously measure improvement and drive results. Businesses that are laser-focused on their customer journey strategy and leveraging the power of self-service tools and the mobile channel will be the ones that can successfully exceed customer expectations in today’s integrated commerce environment.
- “2017 POS/Customer Engagement Study,” Boston Retail Partners.
- Hyken, Shep. “Personalized Customer Experience Increases Revenue and Loyalty,” Forbes. Oct. 29, 2017.
- “The 2017 State of Personalization Report,” Segment. Oct. 26, 2017.
- “The Aspect Consumer Index,” Aspect. May 2016.
- “2016 Radial/CFI Study,” CFI Group. May 2016.
- Crowl, Jonathan. “How to Provide a Personalized Mobile Retail Experience: 3 Critical Steps,” Mobile Business Insights. Mar. 13, 2018.