A new research report titled "Customer Experience Management Benchmark (CXMB) Industry Insights: Retail" was recently published by COPC Inc. and Execs In The Know, with sponsorship support from Gladly Inc. Topics included comparisons between online, in-store and mobile shoppers in the United States, and consumer opinion toward the retail customer experience.
The report is intended to help foster the industry’s understanding of what today’s retail customer thinks, expects and desires. The 37-page report is packed with more than 50 findings. Here are three highlights and commentary for retailers:
1. Forty-six percent of online shoppers and 47 percent of in-store shoppers think retail brands should focus improvement efforts on the customer care experience vs. other types of experiences, like the shopping, purchase and ownership experience.
What this means for retailers: While the entire customer experience matters, the customer care experience has an especially powerful impact on brand opinion and future purchase decisions. Consumers are vocal about this. Similar to a personal relationship, the customer-brand relationship isn't tested when everything is going well. The relationship is tested when things go badly.
With so much competition, retailers have to be careful how they react when things go wrong. Brand loyalty is becoming increasingly scarce, and winning customers back is a difficult and costly proposition. This doesn't mean brands should focus on customer care to the exclusion of other aspects of the customer experience. Instead, brands should view customer care as an opportunity to not only solve the customer issue, but do what it takes to enhance the relationship and, ultimately, strengthen brand loyalty.
2. In the event of a customer care issue, 68 percent of online shoppers and 75 percent of in-store shoppers would rather interact with a human vs. a self-help system to resolve the issue.
What this means for retailers: Most retail customers still want to talk to a person to resolve their issue. While brands become ever more intent on pushing customers into unassisted channels, they should make sure this is what their customers want. Brands should also strive to understand how interaction preferences change depending on the reason for the engagement. Simple questions or routine transactions might make sense for self-help tools or online widgets. However, when customers feel like there was a violation of trust or a company simply didn't meet its obligations, nothing can take the place of an empathetic ear.
3. Seventy-nine percent of shoppers say they were satisfied with a retailer’s offerings and price, but were so disappointed with the customer care they received that the brand, ultimately, lost some or all of their future business.
What this means for retailers: Consumers seem to have no hesitation pulling business from brands that disappoint. Perhaps that is due to the advent of having so much information at their fingertips, or maybe it’s the arrival of new players in the industry.
Brands often operate under the assumption that if they can turn a negative experience around and save the day, customer loyalty goes up. However, the data shows this is rarely true. In related research, also conducted by COPC Inc. and Execs In The Know, it was discovered that among consumers who had a negative experience, 82 percent said their future purchase decisions would be impacted even though the issue was eventually resolved. Therefore, brands should do everything possible to ensure negative experiences never happen in the first place.
Jim Von Seggern is director of marketing at COPC Inc., a global consulting, training and certification company for customer experience operations.