By Tom Goodmanson, CEO, Calabrio
To say the last several years have been tough for retailers would be an understatement. Though recent earning reports indicate slight growth over past quarters, no department store has raised its outlook this year indicating continued caution even amidst an uptick in revenue.
For many retailers, revenue growth is a result of online sales. In the first quarter of 2017, Target reported a 22 percent year-over-year increase in digital sales, further emphasizing the importance of digital strategies in the retail market. At the same time, Amazon continued to expand the online shopping experience through acquisitions of major chains like Whole Foods Market.
Inundated with fickle buyers and shoppers who will purchase across multiple channels to buy based on price alone, retailers want and need more from their customer relationships to stay alive. The answer lies at the intersection of customer experience and IT.
If retailers want more from customer relationships, they must hold up their end of the bargain — and that goes far beyond product and price. By following the retailer’s code, brands can squash comparison shopping and develop long-term, loyal relationships with customers. It all boils down to the right mix of customer data, employee data, and well-structured omni-channel strategies.
Know The Customer
Knowing the customer is the foundation of any successful business but, in today’s digital age, brands must go deeper than a customer’s purchase history. Every day, company representatives have phone conversations with customers. Thanks to technology such as speech analytics, companies can gain an intimate understanding of what customers want and need. Not only can speech analytics reveal critical insights such as buying habits and demographics, they can shine a light on customer engagement and sentiment at any particular point in time.
Data collected from customers over time can also prove to be even more valuable down the road. As customer preferences and patterns of behavior emerge, retailers can unpack the insights behind these conversations with customers to understand what brings them to the store, what they want in a retail shopping experience, and how to improve current and future strategies. When the right technology is put in place, companies can access a wealth of data to make the right decisions that drive long-lasting relationships with customers.
While understanding customers is crucial for the business to know how to market and execute its retail strategy, it’s even more important that employees have the right tools and resources to be effective every single day. Behind every customer interaction, there is an employee on the other end of the phone, email, web chat or text — these employees are paramount to customer experience success. If they aren’t motivated and engaged, retailers risk missing the opportunity to form meaningful customer relationships.
Employee engagement strategies start with understanding behavior, and behavior can be analyzed through those same speech analytics used to better understand customers. In addition, retailers can implement desktop analytics to learn which resources employees are using when answering questions or resolving issues. Employees receive immediate feedback that motivates, challenges, and rewards them for their work, and retailers can learn the behaviors of successful representatives to incorporate into training strategies. Not only do analytics shorten the feedback loop, they engage employees, which strengthens retention.
Create A Seamless Experience
With a comprehensive understanding of the customer and a motivated, engaged team of employees on the front lines of customer service, the final element of the retailer code is to create a seamless, omni-channel customer experience. When brands know which channels customers prefer along with their habits and needs, they can effectively support all touchpoints in the customer journey.
Many shoppers choose online platforms for the ease of the buying experience. To earn a customer’s repeat business, retailers must offer a consistent experience across all channels to ensure customer satisfaction, regardless of purchase point. When a customer moves from desktop to mobile browser, or even from in-store to online, the shopping experience must be simple, personalized, and consistent. Online chat, emails, and texts should act in conjunction with the contact center, allowing customers to seamlessly move from one channel to the next without having to repeat information. In addition, customer data should be shared across the organization to inform in-store and online sales and marketing strategies.
Retail is all about creating an experience. While the move to online shopping continues to rise in popularity, retailers can revive the shopping experience by following the retailer’s code: fully understanding the customer, empowering employees, and creating a seamless shopping experience. In a world of many options when it comes to where and how to shop, utilizing technology that produces data and analytics puts the power back in the hands of retailers to create a customer experience that will build lasting relationships and increase brand loyalty.
About The Author
Tom Goodmanson, president and CEO of Calabrio, has more than 20 years of experience leading software and technology companies. Since assuming the CEO position in 2009, Tom is credited with reinventing the company and its culture.