The digital era hasn’t just transformed a business’ back end; it has revolutionized the customer journey. More and more consumers have embraced digitally native communication channels that weren’t available in the aughts. From text and social messaging, to chatbots and virtual agents, customers now demand that their favorite retailers meet them across their favorite digital channels, with seamless movement between them.
In fact, the NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark study found that 93 percent of consumers want a seamless omnichannel experience. Unfortunately, 73 percent of consumers give companies a poor rating on seamlessly switching between channels, a worse performance compared to 2018.
As retail ushers in a new decade, businesses are on notice: The digital-first experience economy requires their full attention. Data shows that positive customer experiences are a major competitive differentiator. Introducing digital methods of communication for omnichannel functionality improves customer experience, creating lasting connections in the process.
If you’re trying to stay ahead of the changing retail CX landscape, keep these trends in mind.
Evolving Customer Tastes
There's an overwhelming generational shift underway with how consumers communicate with each other — and how they expect to interact with your brand. If you’ve ever tried to call your millennial or Generation Z family member only to immediately receive a SMS or WhatsApp message in response, you know what I’m talking about. Several recent studies, including one by NTT Dimension Data, show over 85 percent of millennials and Generation Z prefer communicating with brands via digital messaging vs. traditional channels. And for Generation X, that divide is a 50-50 split.
When given the choice, customers consistently prove they prefer digital channels. Vera Bradley, the innovative handbags, luggage and accessories brand, witnessed this firsthand when call volume decreased by 7 percent in the first week it broadened communication channels to include SMS. When retailers meet customers where they’re naturally comfortable, they’re able to handle more inquiries, faster and at a lower cost.
Above all else, consumers want to minimize their effort when contacting businesses for help. They want to ask one question on Twitter and address another via text messaging. If those channels don’t resolve the problem, they expect the ability to seamlessly switch to real-time communication over a chat or call. While traditional channels are still viable options, customers increasingly rate digital communications the easiest way to interact with businesses, with private social messaging apps, online chat and even email scoring hire than agent-assisted methods.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a science experiment — it’s having a real, measurable impact on the shopping experience. More consumers now recognize that chatbots make it faster and easier to resolve their issues. According to NICE inContact CX Transformation data, chatbots' first contact resolution increased dramatically in 2019, from 55 percent to 70 percent. AI not only enhances self-service capabilities, but also live agent channels as well. Through sentiment analysis and interaction analytics, AI empowers agents to create hyperpersonalized customer experiences.
Despite its ubiquity, AI implementation requires careful planning. In order to effectively infuse AI into existing customer service infrastructures, retailers must identify the greatest points of impact AI can have on specific areas of the organization, rather than a blanket investment. An assessment of AI readiness can help determine those areas.
Just as retailers have been undergoing a digital transformation for several years to a clicks-and-mortar combination of storefronts and e-commerce for the point of sale, 2020 is the year when every retailer must begin transforming to a digital-first customer service model. Otherwise, you risk being “unliked” for good by your best customers.
Chris Bauserman is vice president, segment and product marketing at NICE inContact, a cloud customer experience platform provider.
Related story: Vera Bradley Uses Text Messaging to Improve Customer Service