Omnichannel Expectations Continue Past the Point of Purchase

How retailers will bridge the customer service gap

By Loreal Lynch, VP marketing, Shopatron

The rise of multichannel shopping has forced retailers to begin implementing strategic omni-channel initiatives across their organizations in an effort to satisfy increasing customer demands. These initiatives are ushering in even higher customer service expectations from shoppers who have no patience for disconnected experiences that fail to match the omni-channel marketing promise.

A recent Loudhouse survey revealed that of the 67% of online shoppers who made multi-channel purchases in the past six months, only 7% were extremely satisfied that the brand provided a seamless, integrated and consistent customer service experience across channels. Moreover, retailers are not even meeting their own expectations. According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research, 56% of retailers support a vision for a consistent cross-channel experience, yet only 23% believe that they have the ability to provide that experience.

The current customer-centric landscape presents an opportunity for retailers to increase customer lifetime value by ensuring that customer loyalty and satisfaction continues well beyond the point of purchase. What are these post-purchase omni-channel expectations, and how will they fuel a new age of customer care?

Consistent, Multi­-Touch Support
It’s been established that customers shop in a variety of channels and rely on a variety of devices, applications and tools in order to purchase products anytime, anywhere. Not surprisingly, the same expectations that customers have of their shopping experiences are beginning to carry over to their support experiences. Customers expect to be serviced anytime, anywhere, and via their channels of choice — whether phone, email, in-store, live chat or social media.

The challenge for retailers is providing customer service representatives with the information they need in order to maintain consistence within each of these support channels. While customer care may currently be performed in a variety of outlets, the platforms and data accessed by the customer service representatives are often siloed and disjointed. To solve for this, retailers need to create a unified repository of customer data that is easily accessible across the entire organization, from the store associates to the call center representatives. Cloud-based order management systems solve for this. In fact, according to Aberdeen Research, 65% of companies categorized as offering Best­in­Class customer experience management have a centralized repository of product information available to associates in customer­facing roles.

A Knowledgeable and Authoritative Frontline
The new, connected consumer increasingly pursues self­service support options such as instructional how­to guides or step­by­step videos. These consumers expect equally knowledgeable representatives, who not only have information readily available but also the power to manage it. In an Oracle report on customer satisfaction, 35% of respondents said they would spend more with a company that makes it easy to get questions answered and has easy access to information. Yet today, only 19% of consumers view the store associate as the best resource for information according to Forrester Research, Inc.

Today’s customers no longer tolerate lengthy holds, much less transfers to other business units who are better qualified to update an order or make amends with customer appeasement. In order to keep up with these needs, enterprise­level retailers whose communications typically stretch across multiple departments must align internal knowledge with their sales, marketing, customer service, and contact centers so that frontline personnel are not only armed with the power to intercept customers at any channel, but the power to advise them intelligently, and the jurisdiction to deliver and install solutions themselves.

Rapid Response & Resolution
Same-day delivery battles among retailers and marketplaces — such as eBay Now and Amazon’s futuristic anticipatory shipping — underscore the consumer’s need for speed. In fact, a study by Right Now found that 82% of consumers in the U.S. stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience—and of those, 55% said a company's failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner was what drove them away.

As busy consumers increasingly prioritize convenience, support centers will only be as good as the data that occupies them. Legacy customer support centers that increase time to resolution with disparate information and multi-step processes will be replaced with modern call center applications that optimize the delivery of its services. One way retailers will address this expectation is by empowering customer­facing representatives with a streamlined, easy-to-use connection to its order management systems. With this technology, customer-facing representatives have quick access to the right information and can effectively leverage the power of a retailer’s existing omni-channel initiatives, with new features like save-the-sale functionality to address consumers’ timely needs.

Personalization
The universal accessibility provided by the Internet has broadened the traditional customer bases of retailers, creating a more diverse group of buyers. In order to successfully convert these shoppers to buyers, retailers need to employ advanced targeting techniques. Segmented marketing is nothing new to retailers who aim to connect with particular groups of consumers in the purchase stage, but moving forward, retailers will need to push those targeted messages past the point of purchase, building them into the entire customer experience.

Personalized offers and rewards based on prior interaction history can build customer loyalty and increase lifetime value regardless of channel. By leveraging API libraries offered by modern cloud-based order management technologies, retailers can enable unfragmented information-sharing that could easily recognize previous shopper behavior across channels, making it easy to create meaningful connections with customers.

True omni-channel businesses not only leverage seamless offline and online channels in order to put products in the hands of online shoppers; they also place seamlessly integrated customer service experiences into the palms of their hands. With competitors only a click away, turning compelling service experiences into a competitive advantage will be a priority in the next wave of omni-channel installments, which is more customer-centric than ever.


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