COMMENTARY

How to make the shopper's buying experience a competitive differentiator

How to make the shopper's buying experience a competitive differentiator

Photo by iStock.com

By Jeff Bubak, vice president of business development, Alorica

Customer experience is more important than ever in today's competitive world, especially in the retail marketplace. A recent Walker study found that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. This means companies must be prepared to meet a high-level of customer experience every time — no matter the channel.

As if this industry wasn't already competitive, now companies are tasked with focusing on not only creating the best product, they must pay equal (and arguably more) attention to the service they provide. Taking a deeper look at how to communicate with customers on the right platform, and at the right time, is key.

Give customers control over their experience

Know your customer — this has been the retail industry's mantra for the past several decades. The first step in accomplishing this is to understand when, where and how your customers communicate, whether it be traditional, digital, self-service or automated channels. Remember: not every demographic has the same preferences. While you may not be surprised to hear that younger generations typically gravitate toward digital channels, don't pick a channel because you think you know what your customers want. For example, seven in 10 Americans use social media platforms to connect with others, monitor the news, share information and for entertainment purposes. There are more people on social than just millennials.

Chat is another support channel that is becoming increasingly relevant and valuable. From web and video chat to co-browsing and proactive chat — there are many ways to engage potential and current customers. While chat offers quick resolutions for customers, it also enables the capture of valuable interaction data, allowing agents to handle multiple conversations simultaneously, while reducing average interaction costs in some cases. In addition, live chat can increase conversion rates and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

Another important option? Self-service. Great customer support means solving customer problems quickly and effortlessly, but it doesn't mean a customer must speak with a live person to get that help. Empower customers to easily resolve problems before picking up the phone. There is a range of self-service options including web portals, video tutorials and customer communities.

While social, chat and self-service are a few ways to reach your customers, providing options offers shoppers flexibility and the freedom to get the information they need based on their own communication preferences.

Connect the dots with a seamless omnichannel approach

A channel strategy is crucial. An important first step is to identify which communication channels to offer based on customer preferences. Next, be sure the communication process and data is seamless across all forms of communication, from traditional to digital channels, for example, the buyer should easily continue receiving assistance when they cross channels. Further, make sure you can successfully implement cross-channel support on a single interaction — such as chat to phone or chat to video — across the entire customer experience cycle.  

Especially in today's world of hyper-personalization, consumers expect fast and personalized support. The same way our phones retain our search history, they expect a similar approach from a contact center. If a customer sends an email about a shipping delay, they expect an agent to have record of that email when interacting later in another channel.  

By intelligently integrating data, customer support teams can take action — using it to optimize cost-effective contact alternatives, including self-service, social media and chat options. It is about arming your staff, whether in-store or on the phone, with the information they need to create a personalized and effortless customer experience.

Create customers for life

There are a lot of factors to consider when creating the best possible experience to attract new customers and to keep current customers happy. It's essential to take a deeper look at how to communicate with consumers in the ideal channel and at the right time. Creating consistently great customer experiences is key — and can accomplished with a well thought out omnichannel strategy in place. The world's leading retailers have proven that a maniacal focus on a seamless and effortless customer experience is the competitive advantage that brings shoppers back for more.

 


Topics: Assisted Selling, Consumer Behavior, CRM, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Marketing, Merchandising, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Retail - Analytics, Shopper Marketing


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