New Data Reveals Retailers Need to Create More CX Value Post-COVID-19
The pandemic challenged retail executives to keep up with a sudden, drastic shift in consumer behavior that continues to evolve. E-commerce is still seeing a surge in sales, but to maintain retail success in 2021, retailers will need to up their customer experience (CX) game and truly optimize the digital experience. Businesses that fail to prioritize implementing a responsive, fluid and innovative CX are at risk of losing customers and thus, falling behind on revenue.
Recent research from Sitel Group found the customer experience — whether online or in person — is one of the most important factors in consumers’ purchasing decisions, so much so that 57 percent will grant loyalty to a brand for a positive customer experience. If CX doesn’t live up to expectations, however, over a third of consumers will consider halting business with a company. A negative experience will not only push them to completely drop a brand, but half of consumers will also post a negative review to express their frustrations with prospective shoppers. Since 93 percent of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions, a poor CX can create a ripple effect that negatively impacts the bottom line and tarnishes brand reputation.
Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between retailers and their customers. Nearly all consumers (97 percent) believe brands are working to deliver a positive CX, but 57 percent of customers still think brands need to do a better job aligning CX with expectations. So, how can retailers deliver a CX that aligns with (or exceeds) customer expectations and avoid a negative impact on reputation and revenues?
Retailers Must Focus on the Customer Service Sweet Spots
As demands and preferences evolve, some consumers judge positive CX based on tangible benefits and value for money, while others prefer human services. In fact, the majority (69 percent) say helpful and friendly staff demonstrate a company’s commitment to a positive CX, while others (42 percent) cite value for their money as a top driver for brand loyalty. With shoppers craving top-notch staff services, it’s no surprise that most consumers cite unfriendly staff (25 percent) as the make-or-break to halting business with a brand.
Efficient business operations is another top-ranking CX need. Prior to the pandemic, 82 percent of consumers expected brands to be available 24/7, but companies’ average response time is 12 hours. Fast responses to questions (53 percent) is critical, with 21 percent admitting they’ll drop a business for slow service or response time. User-friendly websites (51 percent) and live chat support (40 percent) are also necessities, signaling consumers’ need for instant gratification. To align with consumer demands and preferences, retailers should utilize self-service technologies that provide the ability to resolve issues quickly and effectively.
Taking a Tailored Approach to Retain (and Gain) Customers
In addition to investments in CX tools, retailers must consider a diverse pool of prospects and take a personalized approach to enriching customer interactions. For instance, 40 percent of all consumers and 47 percent of millennials believe brands should provide an online chat feature facilitated by live agents for effective issue resolution. For Gen Zers, 31 percent say a strong social media presence is synonymous with a brand’s commitment to optimal CX. Retailers must leverage omnichannel experiences to satisfy the diverse CX needs of their multigenerational audience.
Recognizing Nontraditional Tactics to Engage Customers
Traditional CX tactics are not the only important aspects of engaging customers and increasing loyalty. More than a quarter (27 percent) of customers say they prefer to buy from brands with clear corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, as commitments to social issues stand as a major driver of positive CX.
With so many options available for shopping today (e.g., buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), drive-up, online, in-person), customer loyalty can be a complex environment to navigate. While the pandemic has sparked new CX preferences, many consumers (73 percent) say it only takes one extraordinary brand experience to raise their CX expectations for all other organizations, regardless of industry. The majority (90 percent) of consumers are willing to even pay more for a product or service that comes with great CX, but it cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. From new investments in customer service tools, providing instant gratification through customer engagement, and taking a cause-related approach, retailers will find themselves surviving in a competitive landscape while maintaining high sales figures.
Martin Wilkinson-Brown is the chief marketing officer of Sitel Group, a global leader in customer experience (CX) management.