3 Tips for Retailers Struggling to Surpass Customer Service Expectations
The massive shift to e-commerce in the last year significantly raised the bar for consumers’ expectations of customer service. Consumers today expect to get what they want, when they want it, and anticipate quality help and support along the way.
As a result, retailers must adapt how they engage with their customers and their employees. Brand loyalty, for example, has never been so fluid. Roughly 75 percent of Americans changed brands during the pandemic in what McKinsey calls a “shock to loyalty” — often due to availability and convenience.
Challenges associated with meeting the growing demand in customer service expectations can be tricky to navigate. However, retailers now have an opportunity to seize this influx in digital and online engagement in multiple ways to improve their business outlook, which will ultimately benefit both their employees and consumers.
Reimagine the Workforce
Many retailers with large brick-and-mortar footprints were caught flat-footed when faced with the need to rapidly shift to e-commerce. Those that were able to quickly get it right, however, saw this as an opportunity and used their best asset — their formerly on-the-ground retail associates — to parallel the in-store experience. They retrained “in-person” employees to become virtual customer service agents to provide personalized service, such as style and fit advice.
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, for example, recently partnered with Perfect Corp. to launch personalized online beauty consultations. Using augmented reality and artificial intelligence, Bobbi Brown is pairing its shoppers with a makeup artist to provide personalized product recommendations. The online consultations are meant to mimic the in-store experience by giving customers one-on-one time with specialists.
Proactive Customer Service
Another tip is to ensure that customer service is proactive. Reactive consumer service will normally result in unhappy customers. By leveraging automation and deep learning tools, retailers can be proactive and get ahead of any problems that may occur. On the contrary, reactive customer service means you pinpoint and address the problem at the moment it's happening or in most cases after the customer is upset. Proactive customer experience nurtures the customer relationship and heads off problems before they emerge.
Take, for example, if a clothing retailer receives several complaints to its contact center about a delivery taking too long. Without deep learning or automation, the only way to deal with complaints about delivery is reactive (i.e., after the problem has already occurred). Using automation and deep learning tools a brand could automatically check in with customers after its products are delivered to make sure they arrived. Automation can also proactively share top installation tips or important FAQs upon delivery, reducing the likelihood of issues occurring.
Such tools can also be programmed to communicate with customers according to their preferences, such as the time of day they would like to be contacted and via their channel of choice, such as a text message.
Leverage Intelligent Virtual Agents
In the Five9 2020 Customer Service Index, 36 percent of respondents said that getting the right answer from a representative — even if it takes more time — had the most impact on whether a customer service experience was good or bad.
This is an area where intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) can play a key role in delivering a more seamless and personalized customer experience. Unlike early chatbots and IVR, IVAs can go beyond recognizing keywords to communicating in a conversational manner while responding to more complex customer concerns.
IVAs can also provide customers with faster self-service options to get their questions answered quickly, without the hassle of long wait times to talk to a live human. At the same time, should a customer wish to speak to a live agent, IVAs can transition the call seamlessly while informing the agent of the results of the conversation so far. The ability to use natural language to direct calls makes the AI and technology in IVA practical and a step above where it has been.
The pandemic forced every business to quickly adapt to changing consumer behavior. Even as consumers return to in-person shopping, retailers must be digital as a matter of survival. Those that can continue to provide the best customer experience will be best positioned to weather future disruptions and will create brand loyalty that can outlast switching.
Dan Burkland is the president of cloud contact center platform Five9.
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Dan Burkland is the President of cloud contact center platform Five9. By leading implementation, professional services, and customer support organizations, Dan has elevated the exceptional, industry-recognized customer service that Five9 provides to its clients. Dan has more than 30 years of contact center experience building and scaling successful sales and leadership teams.