With Customer Service Week having just been and gone, Cyara co-founder and CEO Alok Kulkarni (pictured below) has penned this timely piece on how retailers can take their relationship with consumers to new heights.
In the past few years’ Australian retailers have made significant strides to improve the quality of their customer service. Although most retailers are complying with the requirements of the digital age, many still lag behind and struggle to offer experiences that match Aussie customers’ expectations.
The retail sector needs to come to terms with the fact that customer service is now no longer about how a customer is greeted at a door, or the content of a ‘thank you’ email after a purchase or subscription sign-up. Today, the customer experience is just as much about the speed of a webpage loading, the reliability of a payment going through, or the security of customer data, as it is about the buyer-seller relationship.
It’s this complexity that has made customer expectations seemingly impossible to reach. The faster retailers can test, use, and optimise the technology behind their products to gain and maintain the trust of their customers, the stronger their customer loyalty will become. Customer Service Week should have acted as a reminder for retailers to continue to develop customer-centric strategies to improve their customer experience, and ultimately profitability.
Sharing (data) is caring
As the Australian retail sector prepares for the looming arrival of Amazon, small businesses in particular might be feeling pressure to get their omni-channel customer journeys in order. While large retailers have the resources to build new systems or re-architect existing ones, smaller retailers aren’t always in the same position.
The first step towards customer service innovation is simple: invest in testing. Today’s customers engage with companies in multi-channel and cross-channel journeys, pausing them and resuming them over time. With the customer voice so powerful, that one wrong move could alter mass perceptions of a brand overnight, safeguarding an organisation to establish long-term loyalty and increase digital growth is a must.
For example, Pizza Hut recently came under scrutiny after customers discovered that they had been charged up to five times for the same order. Many complained they were unable to resolve the issue on the app and opted to call the store instead, to little success. Customer complaints ranged from being transferred between various staff members and having to repeat themselves at every stage, to long call wait times. These poor experiences reflect a clear lack of investment in operational customer experience measurement and the absence of customer service best practice initiatives across departments.
Ultimately, the overall perception of an organisation’s CX will be greatly improved through providing the customer service team with the tools to pre-empt a customer’s enquiry. To expand on the Pizza Hut example, if a customer begins a conversation on the app about being overcharged and it’s not resolved, it is likely they will then call the store to seek further help. If staff have easy access to the relevant customer conversation history on the app, they will be able to pre-empt that the customer is likely calling about the same overcharging issue and can then easily pick up where the app conversation left off.
Time-poor customers never want to feel like they’re interacting with an organisation for the first time. Information should be easily accessible so that repetition is kept at a minimum and interaction times are reduced. Not only does this improve the customer’s experience, it also reduces operational costs for the organisation.
Staying ahead of the curve
Delivering on ever-evolving customer expectations may be a daunting prospect for many retailers. With global retail giants like Amazon leading the customer experience game, demand for omni-channel customer experiences is higher than ever before.
However, there are a few simple yet effective measures that retailers can take to achieving omni-channel success. Looking to win the customer satisfaction race, retailers must invest in operational customer experience (OCX) measurement. Measuring OCX provides the organisation with the ability to view a customer’s journey across all digital channels with an outside-in perspective in an objective and repeatable and way. This allows for flawless customer experiences because it detects operational failures that lead to customer dissatisfaction so they can be resolved before a customer ever encounters them.
Staying ahead of the curve and delivering consistently perfect customer service may seem impossible, but having the right technologies in place to protect and future-proof the retail industry from the unpredictable is essential for retaining customer loyalty. For example, if you don’t have an app, or your site isn’t mobile friendly or is hard to navigate, you will lose existing and prospective customers. Therefore, effectively managing the customer experience is no longer a ‘nice to have’, and an organisation’s OCX needs to be precise, flawless and at a lower cost, otherwise they risk losing market share.
Given the ease in switching brands, time-poor consumers are very unforgiving and will easily turn to competitors after experiencing CX failures. As retailers chase customer satisfaction, they must ensure communication is cohesive across all channels. With the rise of digital disruption in the retail space, organisations must communicate with customers through a number of technologies that come together to form one journey across different channels.