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Trusting robots: 3 steps towards effective CRM

Once upon a time, people used to go to the local store to purchase goods. On a successful trip the buyer would depart the store, product in hand, hoping that the 12-month guarantee would never need be used.

In the 21st century though, the customer journey is very different. Whereas before the internet age, service was offered only after purchase (at the end of the value chain), retailers can now offer a much greater level of customer engagement – engagement that is key in an age of globalised competition.

iRobot Corp realised this. Founded in 1990 by three partners from MIT, the company initially designed robots for space exploration, but now builds them for domestic cleaning purposes, and in order to boost customer engagement has introduced the Trusted Shops trustmark to its online stores.

"The consumer is really central to us," Cyril Roger, ecommerce content manager for iRobot EMEA told ITProPortal. "The customer has to be central, because we have to make sure they're satisfied with our products and the whole experience they have interacting with us."

So what are three steps towards effective CRM?

1. Customer reviews

For iRobot, the customer review system provided by Trusted Shops presents an increased level of multichannel engagement. Potential customers can evaluate the desired product in advance of their (online or offline) purchase, with the help of honest feedback from other shoppers. For the retailer, good reviews can be displayed on the website and boost sales.

Customer interaction traverses various parts of the web. Trusted Shops' reviews system encompasses social media, search engines and the company website, the aim being to give the smoothest customer experience possible.

"There's nowhere to hide now," said Phillip Smith, UK country manager for Trusted Shops. "Basically we look at it like the customer interaction is a journey."

A reviews system can even incorporate an element of value co-creation. For one of Trusted Shops' clients, Showroom Privé, this was a must.

"They were quite concerned that online they weren't giving the right service initially. So they were actually collecting reviews and basically learning from those reviews before they published them."

"At the end of the day, if they're not giving [customers] what they want, then they're not going to grow, so a lot of online stores use the customer review system to benefit, not just to increase traffic or sales, but to prove their services behind the scenes, whether it be logistics, [or] whether it be their customer service team."

2. Trust

Key to securing sales online is trust. In order to qualify for the Trusted Shops' trustmark, retailers must meet legally compliant quality criteria concerning transparency, privacy, security and order handling.

This badge of confidence is an essential part of the "trust building journey", Smith told us. If a customer, for instance, links through from social media to the company website, the trustmark gives them confidence in the retailer's service.

"The trustmark has been around for a long time, since 1999, and we cover twelve countries across Europe, so it's the most recognised trustmark in Europe," said Smith.

It is easy to see why consumer confidence is of utmost importance for firms that wish to cement their online retail presence. The Internet – a huge, vastly unregulated and anonymous environment – is likely to provoke more buyer apprehension than a traditional store. A clear display of the trustmark can therefore have a positive effect on conversion rates (an average increase of 23 per cent according to a 2012 ECC survey).

"Having that third party validation, it allows us to strengthen that confidence with the consumer," said Roger.

3. Buyer protection

Imagine losing your money to a new online shop due to non-delivery or non-refund? Utterly rage-inducing.

iRobot's customers are safeguarded by Trusted Shops' buyer protection service, which guarantees purchases up to £2,500, at no cost to the consumer or the retailer.

"When [customers] reach the checkout," said Smith, "they want that extra reassurance as well, so that's why we put the buyer protection in place because basically, at the checkout it doesn't matter what's happened on the journey; if they've seen great reviews, when they arrive on the website it's a safe place to shop."

iRobot's adoption of the Trusted Shops trustmark rolled out across the UK on 21 March. A further rollout across the company's EMEA sites is now in progress.

Image: Karlis Dambrans, Flickr