Customers aren’t responding to retail today – they’re driving it. Essentially customer demands and the devices they use are shaping the way that retail businesses develop.
If customers are setting the agenda, the challenge for retailers is creating outstanding customer experiences when they sometimes feel they’re on the back foot.
At this week’s Retail Business Technology Expo, John Roberts, CEO and founder of Ao.com, gave an interesting presentation on what a great customer experience strategy should look like in 2015.
His secret? Empower your workforce.
The rise of multi-channel retail has complicated customer service.
Shoppers can now interact with businesses online, offline, or a combination of the two, at any point in their journey to purchase. This naturally increases the risk of something going wrong.
To address this new climate, Roberts made the dramatic decision to localise decision making, in order to get customer queries sorted as quickly as possible. It’s a similar strategy to online grocery chain Ocado, which trusts its drivers to refund items on the doorstep if they become damaged during transit.
While this approach is increasing customer happiness for Ao.com, it’s important to note that creating satisfied shoppers involves more than just the ability to handle complaints. Retail associates at every level need the tools to do the best job possible – and that means equipping them with the right technology.
For example, mobile POS releases customer-facing staff from fixed service points onto the shop floor, where they can interact with customers on their own terms. Not only that, but the integrated capabilities of mPOS technology means personnel can link to catalogues displaying different colour and size options, check stock availability, and even process payment transactions without shoppers having to move a step.
This isn’t the only area in which technology can revolutionise the customer experience. One of the most noticeable ways that stores lag behind online shopping is couponing; the majority of bricks and mortar retailers still rely on paper vouchers, printed post-purchase. Updating schemes using digital loyalty cards allows customers to track and redeem points with greater ease, to increase their sense of value to a brand. Retailers can closely monitor shopper value, and personalise promotions for high worth visitors to improve retention and spend.
What’s crucial with these and other emerging customer service technologies, however, is that workforces are thoroughly trained to use new tools to full effect. Where many retailers fall down in their digital strategies is forgetting that people still power most customer-facing processes, and therefore the ability to enable change, rests in their hands.
Today’s shoppers are unlikely to stand still, and therefore the definition of a great customer experience will continue to evolve. With the right technology in place, retailers can build flexibility and responsiveness into their customer service strategies. The challenge is to empower personnel to move with the same agility, something which can only be achieved through training and transparency.