We live in an era in which user experience (UX) is king, and at no time is that more important than Christmas. Time poor consumers are under huge pressure to get a massive amount of shopping done in a very short space of time and want their experience to be as seamless as possible. This should really mean that, in the retail sector, advancements in technology translate into consistent improvements in customer experience. So why is it that, in reality, the opposite appears to be case?
Technological advancements may well have changed the way that retailers engage with and communicate with their customers, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that such changes are inherently beneficial to the customer. Indeed, if anything, customer experience in retail is worsening, with one in five customers (22%) claiming that standards have declined in the retail industry over the last year pacing some in the sector firmly on Santa’s Naughty List.
This is clearly a major problem for retail, with some brands still misfiring badly when it comes to building trusted, positive relationships with current and new customers. It’s worth considering what is causing this perceived decline in retail customer service. And thinking about what retailers might do to counter this adverse trend.
The different types of retail experiences on offer are proliferating and changing swiftly, with online or m-commerce and in-store experiences all offering customers new brand engagement opportunities. Which is conceivably why, according our recent research, over half (52%) of customers think that retailers could be improving their customer service by demonstrably showing that they are taking feedback on board.
After all, the customer is always right. Whether they are giving feedback in store or via email or by using an online chat service. If the brand fails to give them the help, answers and feedback they need then they are highly likely to engage, make a purchase and build a good relationship with a brand.
The bottom line is this: if a retailer is failing to cater to the customer’s needs, wherever and whenever those needs arise, they are under-delivering on customer experience. And those brands falling short risk losing loyal customers, who are consistently being offered more attractive customer service elsewhere.
Avoid the pitfalls of ‘spray and pray’ marketing
Working with market research company, Morar Consulting, we surveyed more than 2,000 customers in three distinct verticals: retail, mobile network operators (MNOs) and financial services. And when it comes to what comprises a good customer experience at retail, it wasn’t surprising that factors such as friendliness, helpfulness and speed of solving queries topped the rankings.
What is more surprising is that the retail sector saw the biggest decline in the standard of customer service over the last year. Which could be down to poorly targeted ‘spray and pray’ traditional style marketing campaigns, generating a large amount of spam complaints from customers, causing them to become quickly disengaged with any retail brand. Consumers are inundated with offers and promotions at this time of year; from Black Friday onwards, there is so much noise in the market place as retailers jostle for the consumer’s attention, anything that’s perceived as unhelpful or a distraction will be met with short shrift.
But retailers really have to start looking at more intelligent ways of personalising direct marketing campaigns and maximising the use of real-time data they have to activate far more useful and engaging conversations with customers. Customers put such a high value on good, clear communication and actively welcome communications from brands that have a good range of products relevant to their needs and retail offers that they can genuinely use and benefit from.
Good communication is everything
Improving retail customer experiences comes down to one thing: good communication. The customers relationship with a retailer is a highly fragile one, with is increasingly demanding. Fickle consumers are liable to having their heads turned, and our research shows that they could be enticed to start shopping elsewhere if they are offered a better in-store experience (35%), improved delivery options (26%) or more targeted promotions (26%). All three of these factors are particularly important at Christmas time, when the shops are bedlam and the number of packages flying around the country at an all-time high. If your office is anything like ours at the minute, it will probably more closely resemble a post office!
This latest research is a wake-up call to any retailer not focusing on crafting more personalised and tailored customer experiences. In addition to those retailers who don’t have proper systems and processes in place to respond quickly, accurately and satisfactorily to customer queries or complaints. It doesn’t matter to a consumer what time of year it is, so the fact a retailer will be inundated with orders and queries at Christmas time cannot adversely impact the speed and accuracy with which they are responding.
To finish on a slightly brighter note, sixty-two percent of consumers noted that technology has had a positive effect on customer experience, with only 13% percent claiming an over-reliance on technology is making the customer experience worse. The key competitive differentiator for today’s retailers is using technology correctly to manage the entire customer experience: from personalised marketing communications, targeted offers and campaigns to offering the best ranges of delivery options or swift and satisfying customer service.
Download the full report here.