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GUEST COMMENT A complete omnichannel customer experience is a must for retention and loyalty

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Retailers are becoming much savvier in providing many channels for their customers to engage and interact with them. This paradigm shift demands a consistent customer experience across these channels, and is redefining the call centre into the contact centre. While social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter are widely used by consumers to access and share information that influences purchase and loyalty decisions, neither of these existed until the last decade. Furthermore, the use of these channels just five years ago was much lower than today. These changes empower customers to have more control over their shopping decisions and behaviour over the past few years.

Retailers closely monitor this trend, and rapidly reshape their own activities to provide great customer experiences across channels in order to stay competitive. According to Aberdeen Group, businesses that ensure delivery of a seamless consumer experience across multiple channels see a 7.1% increase in customer retention rates. To maximise success in driving seamless customer experience, retailers need to fully integrate contact centre activities with omnichannel efforts. Businesses that already do this enjoy even stronger performance, growing their client retention rates by 9% annually.

The contact centre is becoming a central hub that is shaping customer experience as customers still prefer talking to a live agent whenever they encounter an issue at any touchpoint throughout their shopping journey. Customers expect retailers to have full visibility of their online and offline activity, and resolve issues quickly.

Equipped to provide better service

Leading organisations are already arming their contact centre agents with relevant tools and information they need. According to Aberdeen Group, they are 83% more likely to have contextual routing capabilities in place, which means they capture the context of a customer contact (e.g. issue, prior contact and channel of interaction), and use this to route them to the relevant agent with the right skills and knowledge to solve the issue. This activity helps retailers address customer needs through their preferred channels. For example, if the customer prefers to engage the business through a live chat session, they would be routed to an agent who can manage live chat interactions effectively.

But often, frustrating customer experiences happen because of an enormous gap in visibility within the business, particularly across web and mobile. Agents are not armed with the right information to effectively service customers. For example, if the customer is calling to check on the status of an online order past the expected delivery date, the agent would struggle to provide an accurate and timely answer without having visibility into the order management system through their desktop.

Many retailers are also already looking at bridging the gap between web, mobile and offline channels to effectively serve the omnichannel customer experience, and gain complete context of customers’ web experiences. Using customer experience management (CEM) tools to replay customer sessions and see exactly what the customer was doing and what they saw online, call centre agents can better service the customer and potentially upsell them. If there is an obstacle or issue, the agent can quickly validate what the customer experienced and work towards a resolution. This seamless access to relevant data can also reduce the customer churn costs associated with clients abandoning interactions (e.g. calls or chat sessions) and decrease unnecessary spend on agent expenses as a result of improvements in agent productivity.

The key factors that differentiate leading retailers from their competitors are the tools that help enhance agent productivity by allowing agents to have agents have access to omni-channel data and too to make better decisions and provide engaging conversations that result in increased customer loyalty.

Integrating mobile

Mobile devices are increasingly incorporated within shopping interactions, as consumers use these devices to access and share information influencing their purchase decisions. However, a poorly designed mobile website, or one that is not optimised for different mobile operating systems and screen sizes, hinders the user experience when consumers interact with the company mobile website. Furthermore, if the mobile website isn’t integrated with the contact centre, it adds additional effort for the customer, who would have to look for the company’s number, call and explain the issues he or she needs to resolve. Retailers that integrate the contact centre with omnichannel efforts (in this case, mobile website and applications) provide customers with the ability to click-to-call or click-to-chat from the mobile website and automatically connect with a relevant agent, who has visibility into the journey the consumer took through session replays within the mobile website.

Being more proactive, CEM tools can look for live struggles on mobile applications, and queue up a push notification for a support chat request before the customer abandons. This helps retailers provide timely, personalised support without adding additional effort for the customer. The dynamics of customer/company relationships continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The use of technology tools provides consumers with numerous ways to engage businesses for their product or service needs, and retailers are closely monitoring this change.

While offering multiple channels to buy from is crucial to address the needs of today’s consumers, the ability to deliver seamless messages across all of these is a key differentiator of leading retailers. Creating an omnichannel contact centre is a significant element to achieve this objective, as consumers typically turn to the contact centre when they have issues with products and services. Ultimately, contact centres provide a real opportunity to offer extraordinary omnichannel customer service that brings customers back again and again.

Andrew Jensen is product director at IBM Customer Analytics

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