Keeping up with technological advances is one of the biggest challenges for retailers in today’s challenging landscape, according to Retail Business Technology Expo. Up to a quarter (25%) of organisations see issues around customer service as their greatest obstacle, as consumer demands continue to change rapidly. In this piece for RetailTechNews, Anne de Kerckhove, CEO, Freespee, explains that the key to achieving improved conversational experiences could be through digital transformation – with the implementation of technologies being fundamental to creating a more ‘human’ and personalised approach.
By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator between brands. The businesses that thrive will be those implementing customer-centric engagement strategies that deliver a more personal, ‘human’ experience. In today’s competitive landscape, consumers expect to be dealt with as individuals, with specific needs. For complex or big-ticket purchases, buyers will often have questions that they want answered before they’re prepared to reach for their credit card. They want to know that they’re being listened to, and treated personally – as well as a priority.
Technology that is entirely un-synched from a human connection between a customer and vendor will only do half the job. And doing things by halves – delivering mediocre experiences, where algorithms allow you to get it ‘almost right’ – will be the thing that renders many brands irrelevant and, ultimately, unsuccessful.
The opportunity businesses now have is to make customer experience delivery instinctive, intuitive, flexible, and personal. But how can they go about doing this?
Don’t be ‘good’ – be ‘great’
According to Salesforce Research’s report ‘State of the Connected Customer’, 84% of customers say that being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business; whilst 69% of business buyers expect Amazon-like shopping experiences.
Retailers are continually competing to provide the highest levels of customer service possible, across both online and offline channels, but the algorithm-driven customer experience that brands often opt for is only good, rather than great. Consumers won’t stand for good when they’ve experienced great elsewhere.
Successful businesses must truly connect with their customers – and context will be key. Brands should match their customer’s curiosity, commitment, and concern for finding the best deal. In short, the best customer experience in 2018 – and moving forwards – will need to have a personal ‘human’ touch.
Building a business around the customer
As the industry looks to adopt better customer experience, there is plenty of talk about ‘customer-centricity’. Being customer-centric means building your entire business around what is best for each client; therefore, your website and other communication platforms must also be centred around the customer, to create a personalised customer journey that satisfies each buyer’s needs.
Most companies instead build their business processes around delivering their product as cost-effectively as possible, whilst driving shareholder returns. Similarly, their customer experience is moulded within a framework that their teams and departments find convenient to deliver.
Successful companies will be those that listen to their customer and look at what they perceive as great customer service. Those that fail to do this will see their customer base steadily decline, as consumers realise that they can receive better service elsewhere.
Converting browsers to buyers
Not listening to customers effectively can lead to massive client and revenue losses. Research has shown that 98% of online customers leave a website without doing anything. Each one of those browsers represents a lost sales opportunity.
As a business, it’s important to consider: Why are customers leaving? Why did they come to the website in the first place? What did they want to see, and why didn’t they stop long enough to engage or purchase?
Businesses may not be making it easy enough for shoppers to ask a particular question via the website. And that question could have opened up a meaningful conversation that then converted the visitor into a customer. Few things are more powerful in helping chart the future of a business than hearing a customer’s question and being able to answer it effectively.
One example of this is Ted Baker’s new chatbot, which is facilitating shopper communication and helping boost engagement.
Next-level customer service
The marketing industry has spent many of the last few years talking about digital transformation. However, it is worrying the amount of businesses that still haven’t defined how digital technology can transform and improve their customer service, or even what really good customer experience really looks like.
New forms of technology should be embraced by businesses in order to enable great conversations with customers. Without doing so, businesses risk standing still while competitors race ahead.
Customer expectations, on the other hand, are rapidly evolving. Businesses need to keep up – as it is likely that what works today, won’t work tomorrow.
Simplifying processes is the best place to start for a company that is unsure how to approach digital transformation. The success of their business depends on it.
‘Be human’ and talk to customers – or you could find that they start talking to competitors.