The Need for Speed in Customer Communications in Retail

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Customer communications

The ability to access information and services instantly on smartphones has shifted expectations, and consumers are growing increasingly impatient. The need for speed is showing up in survey after survey:

  • “Taking care of my needs more quickly” is the top-ranked (40%) way consumers believe retailers can improve customer service, according to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.
  • Fifty-two percent of US and UK consumers call fast response to their needs the number one factor in an exceptional customer experience, according to the CMO Council.
  • The ability to quickly and accurately get checked out in stores is consumers’ top priority (65%) when interacting with an in-store sales associate, according to UPS’ Pulse of the Online Shopper 2017.

This is not just an idle wish. When consumers don’t see their service expectations realised, they are quick to walk away. American Express found that 33% would consider switching companies immediately after poor service, and 60% would consider switching after two to three instances of poor service. Younger consumers are particularly attentive to speed. In Prosper Insights & Analytics’ annual Customer Service Champions, they were most likely to mention “quick” as an attribute of what makes a retailer’s customer service great.

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This trend has implications for every retail touch point. While checkout used to be the one place retailers knew they needed to speed up service, now it’s pervasive—from in-store associate encounters to e-commerce delivery windows. Retailers are under pressure to respond by investing in technologies that put everything an agent or associate needs to provide exceptional customer service right at their fingertips, from mobile devices to personalised data to omnichannel tools that shift transactions and conversations seamlessly across channels.

Leaders continuing to lead

Even retailers with hard-won pedigrees for exceptional customer service are continuing to invest in technologies and services that provide both expediency and access to powerful, accurate tools to enrich every customer encounter.

  • John Lewis, which consistently ranks as a top UK retailer for customer service, recently enlisted the UK National Theatre’s training service to build up associates’ theatrical skills to make customer service at a new store more inspiring. The brand is also investing heavily in interactions between consumers and staff in its Waitrose supermarkets to increase its already impressive net promoter score according to a recent earnings call.
  • Nordstrom, which has forged a brand synonymous with great service, is investing in staff mobile devices in their full format stores to empower shoppers to skip the line and quickly check out via the associate who is helping with their purchase. Meanwhile, the retailer is unveiling smaller footprints such as Nordstrom Local and a new NYC men’s store, both highly focused on creating an experience via an array of customer services.
  • Amazon is another perennial list topper when it comes to outstanding customer service. One widely admired innovation is putting the customer in control of switching from self-service to immediate human assistance, with of choice of instant chat or email.
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What sets these retailers apart from the many others with pronounced customer experience is that their central goal is investing in the resources required to achieve customer experience excellence: careful hiring, high-quality training, and the technology to empower associates and agents to sense and respond to customer needs.

Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels over which to seek customer service. What they don’t have is more time. Click To Tweet

In the contact centre, meeting customers’ high expectations means providing staff with a centralised, 360-degree view of the customer, including their purchase history, loyalty status, and previous communications with customer service. It also means respecting their time by streamlining the customer service experience: staffing appropriately to meet demand and eliminating the need for customers to repeat their credentials and their story with every new agent or session by leveraging unified communication platforms.

Customer service experience
Contact centres must strive for a streamlined customer service experience

These capabilities are key differentiators: IBM says just 36% of contact centres are currently able to track a customer journey that spans multiple channels, and a mere 17% can locate problem hot spots that negatively impact the customer experience.

According to Forrester, “Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels over which to seek customer service. What they don’t have is more time.” To stand out in this environment, retailers need solutions that make the most of customers’ hard-earned time and attention by ensuring every customer service encounter is both fast and well supported with the tools associates and agents need to deliver a high-quality experience.

President/Founder at Retail TouchPoints

    Andrew is the President and Founder of Retail TouchPoints. With extensive expertise in retail, Andrew focuses on helping retail brands deliver exceptional customer experience.

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