In the digital transformation race, retail’s big brands are investing in super-local customer communications for their stores. Here’s why.
How do you keep your customers happy in a world where people increasingly want instant communications with brands via messaging on their phones?
This summer the French grocery giant Carrefour showed us how, by deploying Google’s Business Messages across 1230 of its local Hyper and Market stores, through the Critizr Connection platform.
This is the biggest rollout of its kind in European retail and signals a commitment from Carrefour (one of Critizr’s longest standing clients) to putting their customers first, so they can connect quickly and directly with the stores they shop with locally.
How does it work? Google’s Business Messages takes people from the search results on their mobile to a conversation with a local store manager, quickly and directly, when they hit the ‘message’ icon on Google search.
In today’s ‘messaging first’ world, doing this is completely intuitive for shoppers. The challenge for brands has been the expectation that they can keep up, when their capabilities and technology quite often mean they can’t – all the while recognising the negative impact of a customer question left unanswered.
Google’s Business Messages solves this problem. Integrated into Critizr’s platform earlier this year, instead of just collecting Google reviews, local stores can hold two-way conversations with their own customers, responding with the ease and speed of a text message from their mobile phone on the shop floor.
For Carrefour, the decision to implement this innovation across their business came after a successful 30-store pilot of Critizr Connection last summer, which showed just how simple and effective it was for in-store teams to manage direct customer requests instantly. It also sits within a wider business drive to put customers front and centre of all decision making and to push customer satisfaction scores up – a commitment that resulted in the company’s Net Promoter Score rising by 16 points across the board in 2020.
Stéfen Bompais, Carrefour’s Director Of Customer Experience & Employee Engagement France and Group, explains: ‘At Carrefour, customer orientation is a reality of everyday life, where every action must result in customer satisfaction. The teams in our stores, warehouses and headquarters are our best ambassadors. Interactions with our customers via digital and physical channels are diamonds, representing thousands of opportunities to better understand our customers’ expectations, so we can weave a sincere and lasting emotional bond and create proximity. The deployment of Google’s Business Messages allows us to accelerate this commitment. It’s a solution that is part of our strategy to give customers our fullest attention and place them at the centre of all Carrefour activity.’
This milestone rollout for the business is also of course linked to a need in the wider retail sector to recalibrate after the pandemic. Online is more important than ever for customers, but so is the need to connect at local level. Brands have a chance to reap the benefits of closing the gap and nurturing these local business relationships. But they can’t do this without staff having the means to be present and hold personal conversations digitally, as they would do in a physical store environment.
Consider also the golden opportunity for customer engagement this offers brands at the ‘pre-visit’ stage of the customer journey. Typically, customer interactions are about feedback: after people have visited a store and have something to say about it, positive, negative, constructive or otherwise.
Google’s Business Messages is used by customers in advance, when they’re in ‘discovery mode’, researching and deciding where they are going and what they want to buy. These are the enquiries that would once have been done via a phone call to the store or by email – questions about opening times and product availability, but also personal advice tailored to their specific needs. Handled well, there is huge potential for brands to build strong, close and lasting customer relationships that will drive satisfaction scores up.
The beauty of Google’s Business Messages is also that it is instant. Unlike the past when people would hold for their turn on the phone or wait for an email reply, speed truly is of the essence when it comes to serving today’s customers. There’s an expectation that a brand’s response will be fast, friendly and dynamic – more like a messaging exchange between friends. The Critizr team recommend a 1 hour maximum response time if the store in question is open and they want to convert an enquiry into a happy customer.
Critizr Co-Founder and CEO Nicolas Hammer sums it up: ‘This is a very powerful strategy for local businesses to attract potential customers and engage in a fresh, interactive and rewarding way. With Google’s Business Messages, you can answer questions, provide suggestions, tips, locally relevant information and ultimately attract more customers to your business. Using this type of direct messaging is more commonplace In North and South America, so I’m very encouraged that Carrefour is leading the way in Europe.’