Christmas 2018 is all set and underway. Smart retailers are already thinking about Christmas 2019 when current market trends will have further evolved. One of the most significant areas of transformation is in the retail contact centre, where consumers’ rapidly evolving preferences and habits play out in how they reach out and what they expect when they do.
Retailers need to act now get ahead of these trends and ensure that when holiday 2019 ramps up, they are prepared to engage on the customer’s terms.
1. Customer-centricity will have clear winners and losers.
Retail analysts collectively have been strongly advising retailers to transform their operations to be zealously customer-centric. Reports from industry analysts like BRP document the gap between what consumers want and what retailers actually are delivering. By Christmas 2019, those inevitable end-of-year roundups of retail bankruptcies and success stories will document the payoff earned companies able to respond quickly and nimbly to fast-changing customer expectations. Getting customer communications right is a vital part of the retail digital transformation.
2. Customer retention will be a bigger part of the contact centre’s role.
As self-service preferences rise, customers turn to live agent contact with more difficult challenges and negative impressions, so the service experience must be great. The contact centre’s mandate will increasingly focus on saving the sale and retaining the customer, rather than answering simple questions and processing routine transactions. Deloitte found 56% of companies predict the complexity of interactions with contact centres will increase, making unified/cross-channel capabilities even more essential.
Complex interactions may mean quickly identifying a subject matter expert within the company and seamlessly handing off the customer and all of their details to the right person. It may mean repeated interactions stretching over time via several different communications touch points. It could require accessing real-time data such as product information, inventory location or transactions completed in another channel.
A unified communications platform is essential to empower agents to leverage these capabilities. Aberdeen found companies integrating unified communications with contact centre activities posted 2.4 times more revenue and twice the customer lifetime value than others.
3. Consumers’ preferred methods of communication will have evolved.
Consumers spend a growing portion of their day communicating via text, social media, chat and even bot and expect brands to do the same. However, retailers often lag in embracing these capabilities. IBM’s Customer Experience Index, for example, found that while 73% of brands are active in four or more social media channels, 18% either don’t respond to customer inquiries posed via social media or take more than 48 hours to do so.
Deloitte found companies expect live voice interactions with an agent will fall from 64% to 47% of contact centre contacts by 2019, while chat and messaging will grow from 6% to 16% of interactions, and video will account for 8%.
Companies integrating unified communications with contact centre activities posted 2.4 times more revenue and twice the customer lifetime value than others. Click To Tweet
Retailers need to understand how their customers prefer to communicate with them and put the platforms in place to make those experiences a reality. A unified communications approach is key, so conversations can flow seamlessly from one channel to another.
4. Capturing customer feedback will play a greater role in contact centre activity.
Deloitte found that 80% of companies claim customer feedback will be “core to their DNA and shared widely” or “a core input to business decisions” by 2019. Contact centres play a key role in collecting customer feedback, with survey respondents citing customer surveys, as well as contact monitoring and observation, are the most common ways contact centres will collect that critical data.
Retailers should plan to use this feedback in two ways: 1) By using it to enrich and personalise the experience of the customer providing the feedback; and 2) By gathering data in aggregate to seek trends and insights. Achieving both of these goals requires integration with CRM applications storing customer history and preferences. Data also must be integrated with analytics engines and the results shared widely across the enterprise.
With customer experience, the central organising principle of retail transformation, easy, fast, seamless customer communication and service is an essential part of the mix. Preparing for next year’s busiest season means ensuring robust unified communication capabilities are in place and at the ready to transform unhappy customers into satisfied, loyal shoppers.
Originally published Dec 06, 2018, updated Jan 17, 2023