How is the in-store retail customer experience evolving?
American retailers appear to be facing a crisis. Brands like JC Penney, American Apparel, and Sears are all closing stores and customers there...
Following our recent exploration of the evolving role of the customer experience advisor; we spoke with Shop Direct’s James Mitton for his views on the part that advisors could now play to enhance the digital customer experience and to find out what other exciting changes may be just around the corner.
Q. Do you believe your customer facing, voice advisors can play a role in enhancing the digital experience of their customers?
A. Yes. Many voice advisors have been able to support our customers successfully through digital channels. As long as they have the aptitude for the relevant digital channels and the appetite to make the customer experience easy and personal, they can be very successful.
Q. As a pure-play retailer, are you able to deduce that your customers are broadly digital-first?
A. Our business is growing, which shows customers have an appetite to shop online. When it comes to service, our research shows that where our customers cannot use self-service, they prefer a digital channel to answer any queries they have.
Q. Will there always be people who just want to talk to pick up the phone? How will you allow for this in the long-term?
A. There are times where written communication is not the best means to solve a complex query. In these instances, customers prefer to pick up the phone. Companies are seeing video chat start to grow and this may at some point in the future replace phone. Right now, very few customers use it, so phone has an important role to play.
Q. What does an excellent customer experience feel like for your digital customers?
A. An excellent customer experience is one where the customer rarely has to contact us, and where we are excellent at spotting potential issues and either preventing them or proactively letting the customer know so they don’t need to go to the effort of contacting us. Our customers say that an excellent digital experience is one where we solve their issue easily whilst giving them a personal service. Primarily this is through webchat, although we can see that customers are increasingly starting to use messenger-style channels to communicate with companies.
Q. The concept of transforming advisors from service provider to digital coach will impact standard contact centre metrics such as AHT, what advice can you give other retailers perhaps considering a move like this?
A. Our primary aim is to help the customer stay online. In an ever complex online world this means helping the customer to navigate through the online store and self-service options so they feel well equipped to use it themselves. To short-cut this coaching will fuel future repeat contacts from customers who don’t want to contact you. A focus on AHT beyond using it as a forecasting tool drives teams to reduce the effectiveness of their coaching time with customers. It’s a false economy.
Q. What is really exciting you about the changes taking place in retail customer experience?
A. The growth of cloud-based technology, many new tech start-ups, and the advancement of automation through AI is giving retailers new tools to have an affordable single view of their customers. They are also giving customers the tailored service that will keep them coming back to shop again and again.
Q. Can you imagine what shopping and customer experience will look and feel like in 5 years time, what do you forecast will be the biggest changes?
A. Shopping and customer experience will be seen as one and the same thing as new technologies change the way customers shop and are served. Advancements in virtual reality, for example, could provide easy routes for customers to shop and be serviced without the need for physical stores.