What is your New Year’s resolution? If you’re like most retailers, “reduce overhead costs” is a frontrunner on your list. You may feel pressure to reduce labor costs while also improving service for new customers who want to interact on a multitude of digital platforms. These conflicting demands may have you wondering how to make ends meet this year without reducing the quality of your offerings. But by taking a closer look at your business expenses and evaluating the latest technological advancements, you’ll be able to identify cost reduction strategies that go beyond the obvious.
To reduce costs and improve service, take advantage of a new wave of cloud communication and collaboration tools. Here are three strategies to eliminate unnecessary labor costs by facilitating the communication process––whether that communication is between C-suite executives, warehouse operatives, product vendors, or frontline employees.
Consolidate Communications with Vendors to Reduce Friction Points
In the past, retailers used multiple vendors to handle internal communications. Businesses of yesteryear would use one solution provider for phone service, someone else for instant messaging, someone else for emails… and so on. Communication took place across multiple independent platforms. Debriefing a coworker on an existing project, for example, was a laborious affair involving emailing, physical meetings, phone tag, and a whole lot of wasted time. Today, this type of siloed organizational communication strategy is how mistakes happen. For many retailers today, communications and collaboration are handled in separate silos. According to a recent CITE study, the average employee loses 32 days a year volleying between various apps to get work done.
This is where a single cloud-based communications and collaboration solution comes in. The recent growth of cloud communications solutions follows the explosion of advancements in cloud technologies. Gartner reports that by 2022, up to 60% of organizations will use an outside service provider’s cloud-managed service (that’s double the number of organizations that used them in 2018). But there’s a new generation of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions that have begun to combine everything into one solution, available through an app, on desktop, and on mobile devices. These new-wave solutions enable you to hold video meetings, upload files, make phone calls, streamline your workflow, tag coworkers, and assign projects seamlessly, all from one app––so there’s less of a chance of your team getting their wires crossed and more of a chance of your projects going off without a hitch.
Intelligently Route Customer Queries Through Artificial Intelligence
Some UCaaS solutions now go beyond message, call, and meet functionality to include integrated contact center features. Did you know that 84 percent of customers will switch to a competitor after having just three poor customer experiences? And a whopping 17 percent will jump ship after just one subpar corporate interaction. To prevent this, many retailers have implemented chatbots to offer customer service in shorter time frames. But customers still expect to be able to speak to a human being when necessary, and, although many chatbots are built to be the final solution for customer queries, most are still built to work off of simple keyword recognition rather than actual machine learning or AI. Chatbots can provide a great customer experience, but more advanced issues call for the human touch.
Customer expectations for prompt service are on the rise, and a staggering 54 percent of online shoppers will abandon a purchase if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away. This makes trusting chatbots alone to handle your CX operation a risky proposition. Instead of trusting machines only optimized for keyword identification to manage your customers’ inquiries, leverage the power of AI to route each query to the employee who’s best informed to answer it. Intelligent call routing through AI can drastically reduce customer wait times without requiring you to staff more employees on deck, while giving customers the human touch they demand to inspire repeat purchasing.
Move to the Cloud to Keep Communications in One Place
Business owners are recognizing the benefits of single-host communication. But all cloud-based communication services aren’t created equally. Most solution providers simply don’t have the bandwidth to handle enterprise communications. If you operate a business with 25,000–30,000 employees, fewer UCaaS solution providers are built to handle a business of your scale––especially if you operate internationally.
A key element of some of the latest UCaaS offerings is their ability to serve as a hub with other enterprise systems retailers use. Look for a UCaaS provider that can provide simple integrations with a wide range of other systems. For example, off-the-shelf integrations with productivity suites like MS Office create an even more powerful hub that lets you access additional features through their UCaaS solution. Also look for a partner with strong APIs that allow you to create custom integrations with your existing systems.
Originally published Jan 09, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2021