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GUEST COMMENT Customer value in-person customer service in the age of digital

Traditional retail methods such as cash-only payments are no longer in line with today’s shoppers

Traditional retail methods such as cash-only payments are no longer in line with today’s shoppers

Store closures in the UK this year are expected to be the worst in a decade. According to research by the Centre for Retail, over 10,000 stores will be shut down by the end of the year.

With added heat from online rivals such as Boohoo, ASOS and Zalando boasting year-on-year success, other retailers are following suit in ramping up their online sales. Most recently, H&M started heavily investing in creating a seamless customer experience online in a drive to compete with its online competitors. H&M’s team say that their investment paid off as they saw a 32% boost in online sales in the third quarter as a direct result.

As the retail landscape continues its virtual move, the expectations of today’s customers have evolved. Having an online presence no longer simply means adopting the latest technology or the best design. Research from Salesforce tells us that 75% of people now expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands. Customers are becoming more and more connected across different channels and they expect a single brand service.

The modern consumer is accustomed to moving seamlessly through their retail experience, across whichever channels are most convenient.

The key is to create a seamless experience. Price and quality may be top of mind for purchasing choices, but a positive experience also influences repeat purchasing decisions. According to PwC, 65% of customers finds a positive experience with a brand more influential than great advertising. Positive experiences are most commonly associated with speed, convenience, knowledgeable insight and friendly service, especially when it comes to dealing with complaints. Customers want to be able to directly address their problem and get an instant solution. This means you need to constantly monitor and track customer feedback online to execute faster responses.

‘Conversation Commerce’ is growing in importance and brands need to deliver everything from 24-hour customer service, to personalised recommendations based on shopping behaviour. This in turn means streamlining the back office – from order management to financial management, inventory and warehousing, so you can focus on the customer and respond to them quickly. Proper use of analytics and smart data can maximise business value and reduce customer effort. Automation will drive accuracy as well as create agility to solve the disconnect between systems. The key is to create a great experience by reducing the work your customers must do to find solutions to their problems.

But even as shoppers opt to engage with apps and websites, retailers must remember that they still prefer human / human-like interaction, especially when something goes wrong. Many retailers are now exploring chatbot technology, which offers them a cheaper, smarter and more efficient way to engage with their customers across channels.

Social and mobile technologies are rapidly changing the way shoppers interact with retailers in today’s market. With customers having multiple channels at their disposal to shop, browse and engage, they expect anytime, anywhere service. Customers are becoming more connected across different channels and they expect a single brand experience.

As a result, retailers need to streamline different channels to achieve engagement across all avenues. Chatbot technology will enable retailers to deliver 24-hour service which is more cost effective and supports human agents dealing with multiple enquiries simultaneously. With chatbots, customer enquiries can be resolved in one call, without the need to pass them from one agent to another resulting in 34% reduction in repeat calls and 25% more optimised efficiency in call handling.

Chatbots use semantic analysis and data insight to understand the nature of customer calls, direct them to the right department and deal with customer refunds quickly and effectively. It acts as a resource to support customer service agents using technology to complement the human element of customer experience. Effective customer experience leaves your customers feeling heard, seen and appreciated.

A strategic combination of technology and people will empower employees and drive customer satisfaction. The future of online retail does not consist of faceless brands. Ensuring customers feel heard and appreciated will ultimately mean finding ways to provide them with ways to get in touch and get answers as quickly and easily as possible.

Author: Rajnish Sharma market leader for Teleperformance D.I.B.S, U.K & Europe

Image credit: Fotolia

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