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How to solve the retail customer communications conundrum


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Frustrated shoppers abound

Shopper discontent, it seems, never ends. Retail shoppers today are more frustrated than ever, mainly because of the difficulties they have simply trying to interact with the brands and stores they transact with. In fact, the frustration caused by fractured communications during the shopping journey has become so acute that they will no longer do business with companies that cannot effectively conduct a basic conversation.

It doesn’t have to be that way. What is a retailer to do?

New research suggests a solution

New research from RingCentral in the just-released Retail 2020 Shopper and Employee Communications Report—one survey of shopper sentiment and another on retail employee perception of communications—provides insights into where consumers and retail associates say there are large communications gaps between the store and the shopper and what retailers can do to keep customers as well as build and sustain long-term loyalty.

View the 2020 RingCentral Research Infographic

Notably, the survey revealed four key findings:

  1. Many shoppers will no longer do business with fractured communications 
  2. Communication disruptions are productivity drags for retail associates
  3. Automated interaction can save time and improve shopper experience
  4. Workers want fewer apps and more control of their communications

When communication frays, retailers pay

One of the most interesting findings in the RingCentral Research retail survey is that a large majority of shoppers (89%) feel that being able to interact with a retailer on the shopper’s preferred methods of communication influences where they make their purchase. It’s so important, in fact, that nearly three-quarters of shoppers (71%) say they would likely switch retailers if that retailer did not offer their preferred method of communication. It’s clear that for today’s consumers, when communications fray, retailers pay.

Surprisingly, the retail employee survey found frontline workers share similar frustrations. The employees surveyed said that the inability to use employees’ preferred communication channels is negatively impacting their productivity. For example, half (49%) of the frontline workers said it takes them longer to resolve customer issues, and 40% say it plays a factor in customer frustration. And nearly a third of them said it makes transactions more difficult. Retailers are losing customers by not addressing basic shopper needs—but they are also losing customers by neglecting to address employee needs as well.

Communication chaos reigns supreme

The retail workers RingCentral surveyed show an alarming degree of ineffective communication. In the course of doing their jobs, four out of five (82%) say they regularly face some type of issue with colleague communications. Over one-third (41%) complain of being interrupted, while 37% say they routinely miss messages, and 34% say they often have issues even reaching a colleague. When trying to communicate with coworkers, quite often the tools retail employees use (or don’t have access to using) are making it harder—if not impossible—for them to fulfill requests or get questions answered.

Automation relieves frustration

Another interesting finding in the surveys was the role automation can play in relieving employee communication angst and improving the customer experience. 73% of retail workers surveyed feel that having the option for automated customer interaction would be better for directing customers to the right person or department. 70% also say that the automation of frequently asked questions and tasks would provide them more time to handle more complex customer questions and transactions. In short, relieving employees from handling the most commonly asked customer questions gives them more meaningful time with customers.

Consolidation improves communication

Another key insight from the survey is what employees say can help them solve some of the issues they are having around missing, managing, and creating communications. It’s no surprise that employees are most comfortable using communication tools that mimic the technology they use in their everyday lives. A clear majority of retail employees say a single application would make both customer communication (68%) and employee communication (67%) easier and more effective. These numbers are even higher with Gen Z and Millennial employees.

Complete retail survey results

As retailers chart their course forward, it is clear that communications with shoppers and broader collaboration between employees should be prioritized as key components of a retailer’s overall customer experience strategy. To learn more about the complete survey results, download the full RingCentral Research Retail 2020 Connected Shopper and Employee Communications Report now.

Originally published Aug 06, 2020, updated Aug 27, 2020

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