Mastering the art of digital and physical: How retailers can champion customer experience from start to finish

Anyone who has worked in retail knows the business is far different today than it was a few years ago – and more change is on the horizon.

According to a recent survey, 69 percent of retail executives planned to increase investment in digital transformation strategies within the next year, bringing new tools and technology to the industry. Successful retailers are using these tools to stay relevant in a digital world. One example is Nordstrom which opened its inventory-free Nordstrom Local where customers can pick up online orders, return items, have alterations done or even view collections curated just for them by a team of stylists. And it’s working: due to the project’s success, they’re poised to expand.

In today’s climate, flourishing retailers are mastering the art of blending the digital and physical worlds. Like Nordstrom, they’re giving customers access to digital self-service options while creating a physical retail location that is centered squarely on the experience. Thanks to these options, retailers can meet customers wherever they are — online or in-person. But it isn’t that simple. This approach requires end-to-end omnichannel strategies that guide customers on a personalized path to purchase. Without these strategies in place, the customer experience suffers.

Unfortunately, many retailers are missing the mark. A report from Calabrio, The Danger of Digital: Why digital self-service without true omnichannel strategies risks the entire customer experience, revealed that while 93 percent of marketers and customer experience leaders believe that delivering a seamless, quality experience is important, only 45 percent think that they’re very effective at doing so. Why? Because digital self-service without an underlying omnichannel framework creates a disjointed customer experience – and puts customer relationships at risk.

Here are three ways that retailers can uplevel their omnichannel strategies to capture customer loyalty.

Create an end-to-end strategy
For many retailers, adding a self-service option is simple. In fact, 58 percent have a set process to follow and consider it easy. And that’s where the problem lies. The process is too easy, and many retailers fall into the trap of adding channels without first developing an underlying strategy. If retailers don’t understand how those channels affect the overarching customer journey, self-service can become a roadblock to building relationships that drive conversions and brand loyalty.

The customer journey is complex and has multiple touch points, and it’s up to retailers to map that journey and determine which routes customers want to take. For example, a customer may start a transaction by saving items to an online shopping cart, ask a product-related question via chat, and then ultimately complete the purchase in-store after trying the item on. When retailers understand and optimize the entire journey from beginning to end, they can create an omnichannel strategy that gives customers access to the right channels – and people – when they need them most.

Train and empower people
On the other end of every interaction are agents in the contact center who offer the consistency and service that can make or break the customer experience. With the addition of digital self-service and chatbots handling simple inquiries, agents’ jobs have become much more complex. They must be able to quickly respond to questions coming into the contact center on multiple channels. However, only 55 percent of companies have changed the way they hire and train, and 59 percent have specialized or skills-based customer service agents for specific channels. Without a change in hiring and training practices, it’s impossible for retailers to ensure that customers are getting consistent, reliable and personalized service.

Just like any other job, agents in the contact center all have unique skills. Some may have a high success rate over the phone, while others may better grasp communicating using emojis via text. By hiring and training agents based on channel-specific skillsets, not only does it mean that customers are getting the best person for the job, it also sets agents up for success and enables the contact center to more accurately create a schedule forecast. With accurate forecasting, the right agents will be available and won’t get stressed by an influx of inquiries, giving customers access to better, faster service.

Even in a digital world, customers still want to be heard – and it’s a retailer’s job to listen. However, only 56 percent are using data from across channels to understand customer behavior. And the result is a guessing game: 44 percent of organizations say they offer four or more ways to communicate with customers, but 58 percent think that customers are only using two or three. If retailers don’t understand which options customers are using or their preferences, they’re flying blind.

To tap into the voice of the customer, retailers must deploy the right tools to listen. Contact centers traditionally apply quality assurance metrics to the phone, such as volume, abandon rates, first call resolution and hold times. With the help of analytics, contact center leaders can derive insights from these interactions to make changes that matter to customers – and the bottom line. When QA benchmarks and analytics technology are applied across all self-service options, retailers can finally listen to the very customers they’re trying to serve.

In an ever-changing market, retailers can empower customers with digital self-service options. When those channels are backed by strong omnichannel strategies, customers get personalized service that paves the path to purchase while retailers build customer loyalty that will keep the doors open for years to come.


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