Every facet of a retailer’s business can present a challenge when it comes to providing the perfect customer experience — sales, inventory, shipping, delivery, you name it. At some point, those challenges will give rise to issues, and it’s no secret that when consumers encounter a problem, they reach out to the source to get it resolved. As the business landscape becomes more and more saturated, retailers are fighting to establish and maintain customer loyalty, and for many, customer service has become the differentiator to help achieve that outcome.
Today’s savvy consumers have both voice and choice. They have voice to express their displeasure through multiple modes of communication, and choice when it comes to which companies they give their business. That means if customer service isn’t available on the consumer’s channel of choice, and retailers aren’t delivering on emotional factors like security, confidence and value that are desired after investing in a brand, they stand to lose customers in the blink of an eye.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever that retailers understand how their customers use and perceive customer service so they can continue to provide an experience that would make going somewhere else unthinkable. Five9 recently released the findings of its annual Customer Service Index, which engaged with more than 1,000 respondents across all ages in North America, to help retailers better understand their customers.
Omnichannel is the Retail Future, But Voice Calls Still Reign King
A significant component to the customer experience puzzle is providing consumers with the opportunity to access a retailer through the channel that best suits them. This omnichannel approach puts the consumer in the driver’s seat and ensures that they're able to reach the company via phone, text, email, social media and more — i.e., whichever is most convenient for them as they go about their day-to-day activities and depending upon the issue at-hand.
What an omnichannel approach doesn’t require is retailers focusing their efforts across all those channels equally. Instead, retailers should understand the needs and expectations of their customers, then invest more heavily in the channels that are most relevant.
However, no matter the audience’s age, a strong call center strategy is important. While logic might dictate that millennial and Gen Z consumers would prefer to report an issue or ask for help via text message or chat, that in fact isn’t the case. Fifty-nine percent of Gen Zers and 48 percent of millennials chose the phone as their channel of preference, according to the Index. Fifty-six percent of respondents across all age groups agree, up from 29 percent in 2018. For most consumers, the phone is a trusted channel, and the go-to for the fastest service. For retailers, a call should mean an issue is of high importance and the customer is looking for a quick resolution.
Retailers Can Get Creative With Data
While the usage of customer data tends to be a wary point for many, when used properly it can strengthen everything from internal business processes to customer satisfaction. Although it may be easiest to turn data into insights in digital channels, technologies like the cloud and artificial intelligence, as well as a straightforward process for consent that consumers are already used to, can make the phone a boon for retailers.
Though it remains a top concern among consumers, this year’s Customer Service Index illustrated that customers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of retailers having access to more data about them, as long as it leads to a better overall customer experience. For example, 50 percent of respondents stated that they’re very comfortable allowing for the use of past purchase history if it will lead to a higher level of customer service, and 74 percent believe that customer intelligence is at least somewhat important for improving customer experience. The ability for retailers to hone in on these insights, even if it's for minor fixes, can go a long way.
It’s quite simple: customer service can make or break a business. In a world consumed by online activity, customers may only ever directly engage with an organization when they have an issue, but retail brands need to ensure that their customer’s expectations are considered at every touchpoint. It’s essential for companies to provide a great customer experience each and every time, especially if they want to establish and maintain brand loyalty.
Scott Kolman is senior vice president of corporate and product marketing at Five9, a contact center software provider.
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