As competition grows increasingly fierce, more and more high-street retailers are realising the necessity of having a comprehensive and sophisticated online offering. This is largely fuelled by increasing consumer demand for advanced levels of customer experience. Digital transformation is set to be the key to achieving this - the adoption of automation and other online technologies are vital to providing a more personalised, individual customer-centric approach.
However, retailers are struggling to keep up. In fact, keeping up with technological innovation is currently one of the greatest challenges faced by retailers, with issues around customer experience cited as the greatest obstacles for as much as a quarter (25 per cent) of organisations, according to recent research from Retail Business Technology Expo.
By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator between brands, and the businesses that thrive will be those that implement strategies to ensure that their engagement is centred around the customer, and ultimately delivers a more personal, ‘human’ experience. In today’s competitive landscape, consumers expect to be dealt with as individuals, with specific needs. For complex or big-ticket purchases, customers will often have questions that they want answered before they’re prepared to reach for their credit card. They want to know that they’re being listened to, that companies are treating their questions personally, and as a priority.
Technology that is entirely un-synched from a human connection between a customer and vendor will only do half the job. And doing things by halves – delivering mediocre experiences where algorithms allow you to get it ‘almost right’ – will be the thing that renders many brands irrelevant and, ultimately, unsuccessful.
The opportunity businesses now have is to make customer experience delivery instinctive, intuitive, flexible and personal. But how can they go about doing this?
‘Good’ is no longer good enough
According to Salesforce Research's report ‘State of the Connected Customer’, 84 per cent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business, and that 69 per cent of business buyers expect Amazon-like buying experiences.
Retailers are continually competing to provide the highest levels of customer service possible, across both online and offline channels, but the algorithm-driven customer experience that brands often opt for is only good, rather than great. Consumers won’t stand for good when they’ve experienced great elsewhere.
Successful businesses must truly connect with their customers – and context will be key. Brands should match their customer’s curiosity, commitment and concern for finding the best deal. In short, the best customer experience in 2018 – and moving forwards – will need to have a personal ‘human’ touch.
Customer is king
As the industry looks to adopt better customer experience, there is plenty of talk about ‘customer-centricity’. Being customer-centric means building your entire business around what is best for each client; therefore, your website and other communication platforms must also be centred around the customer, to create a personalised customer journey that satisfies each buyer’s needs.
Most companies instead build their business processes around delivering their product as cost-effectively as possible, whilst driving shareholder returns. Similarly, their customer experience is moulded within a framework that their teams and departments find convenient to deliver.
Successful companies will be those that listen to their customer and look at what they perceive as great customer service. Those that fail to do this will see their customer base steadily decline, as consumers realise that they can receive better service elsewhere.
Not listening to customers effectively can lead to massive client and revenue losses. Research has shown that 98 per cent of online customers leave a website without doing anything. Each one of those browsers represents a lost sales opportunity.
As a business, it’s important to consider: why customers are leaving? Why did they come to the website in the first place? What did they want to see, and why didn’t they stop long enough to engage or purchase?
Businesses may not be making it easy enough for shoppers to ask a particular question via the website. And that question may have opened up a meaningful conversation which then converted the visitor into a customer. Few things are more powerful in helping chart the future of a business, than hearing a customer’s question and being able to answer it effectively.
Tech powered talk
‘Digital transformation’ has become a buzz word in the marketing industry over recent years. Despite this, there is still a concerning proportion of companies who are yet to establish how digital technology can be used to transform and improve their customer service. Many are yet to define exactly what makes good customer service and how they can deliver this to their customers.
In order to remain competitive, businesses must embrace new technological innovations to allow them to conduct great conversations with their customers, or else risk falling behind the competition. Customer needs are constantly evolving which means whatever experience you’re delivering today probably won’t be acceptable tomorrow. Companies must adapt and always be one step ahead of growing customer expectations.
Those companies who are unclear as to where they should start with digital transformation should go back to basics and simplify the process by starting with the customer. Better customer conversations are pivotal to success – the companies who truly listen to their customers and respond efficiently will be those who thrive.
Anne de Kerckhove, CEO, Freespee
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