Retail analysts concur that personalisation is the way forward in retail. Forrester says: “Personalisation is no longer optional for delivering exceptional customer experiences.” BRP says: “Personalisation is not just a trend — it is a critical way for retailers to differentiate themselves from companies like Amazon and survive.” And McKinsey says personalisation can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5% to 15%, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10% to 30%.
Brands already known for their personalisation leadership continue to push the envelope. For example, Starbucks’ latest personalisation innovation automates the barista experience using voice-enabled chatbots to ask contextual suggestions and use history to suggest an order. In its 4Q 2018 earnings call, the company said it will expand access to its customer relationship management and knowledge management tools to associates across its services organisation and in contact centres to deepen relationship-based customer experiences.
To meet consumers’ expectation of a more relevant, personalised relationship, all of the applicable data needs to be available at every touch point. Click To Tweet
Starbucks recognises that personalisation must cross channels; consumers expect that bespoke experience to be available no matter where and how they engage. This applies not just to marketing and transactions, but customer engagement and communications as well. That means retailers must achieve a centralised, 360-degree view of the customer, integrated into the technology infrastructure that supports each channel.
Personalisation In The Contact Centre
Nowhere is customer expectation for a personalised experience more elevated than in the contact centre, where consumers engage one-on-one with an agent, often regarding an existing relationship: their account, a previous purchase, their loyalty status.
First, customers expect to be recognised. If they need to provide personal identifiers, either via an automated system or to an agent, they expect to be known for every follow-on agent or message. Then, they expect the details of their question, concern or transaction known in every subsequent contact, whether that’s a different agent, or via a different channel (in the store, for example) or means of communication (email, chat, phone, social media, and so on), and whether the contact is minutes, days or weeks later.
Consumers also expect each point of contact to know other information about them: what they’ve bought, how loyal they are, what preferences they have shared. BRP found 64% of customers are fine with retailers saving their preferences and history in order to have more personalised interactions.
Personalisation Through Unified Communications
To meet consumers’ expectation of a more relevant, personalised relationship, all of the applicable data — a customer’s purchase history, loyalty membership, previous communications, even browsing history — needs to be available at every touch point: store associates, marketing engines, return desks, and especially, contact centre personnel.
At each touch point, real-time customer data must be accessible: CRM, help desk systems, e-Commerce activity, and so on. Unfortunately, traditional, on-premise contact centre solutions make this difficult, because they operate as silos, without the required integrations.
Linking siloed solutions together is costly, requiring custom integrations that must be maintained and updated every time there is a change to one system.
Send In The Clouds
Cloud solutions with open application programming interfaces (APIs) are the key to unlocking access to the siloed data. When a contact centre solution is cloud-based, it’s easy and inexpensive to leverage APIs to enable seamless data exchange with key systems. Often, native integrations already are available for popular CRM applications such as Salesforce or Oracle and help desk systems like Zendesk.
Cloud-based, unified communication systems are a critical step to addressing the need to improve customer communications across the customer journey. Click To Tweet
Leveraging such ecosystems is a key part of omnichannel. Accenture found that more than six out of 10 retail executives agree that digital ecosystems are dramatically transforming the industry; 66% said that digital ecosystems are transforming or altering the way their organisation delivers value. Marks & Spencer, for example, is embarking on an aggressive digital-first campaign using cloud and AI in an effort to catch up with more fast-moving competitors.
A cloud-based, unified communications platform puts everything contact centre agents need at their fingertips to engage intelligently with the customer. For example, on initial contact with a customer, the first agent can record details and insights about the nature of the customer’s issue and pass them to the next agent or subject-matter expert who is better equipped to respond to the inquiry. According to Aberdeen, firms with a unified communications platform in place are much almost twice as likely (80% vs. 44%) to have this capability than those without unified communication.
The integration of the cloud-based unified communication platform with other key systems also allows agents to respond to inquiries with relevant customer data at hand — “Yes, Mr. Customer Name, that is the correct water filter for the fridge you purchased,” or “I’m sorry you are having the same issue with your printer, since it’s the third time let’s send you a replacement.”
Recent research by Retail TouchPoints for RingCentral confirmed that retailers are well aware of the need to improve customer communications across the customer journey. Cloud-based, unified communication systems are a critical step to addressing that need by equipping contact centre agents with the intelligence they need to create personalised, engaging encounters that drive customer satisfaction and keep them coming back.
Originally published Aug 21, 2018, updated Jan 16, 2023