Retail Customer Experience: Disruption vs Evolution.

Simon Brennan
Author: Simon Brennan
VP Sales

High Street headlines usually fall into one of two categories – an obituary or an announcement of ‘revolutionary’ innovation. In recent weeks, we’ve seen another wave of job losses and store closures, as Boots announced up to 200 branches could be shut across the UK. And we’ve also had Amazon Go’s check-out free pop-ups.

All this begs the question: for retailers looking to avoid an obituary, does survival have to be based on doing something revolutionary? After all, with profits under pressure, it’s not always easy to sell risky transformation to directors, boards and shareholders.

I firmly believe the answer to this question is ‘No.’ Because it’s not about revolution, it’s about evolution. And that’s why retail customer experience is becoming an increasingly important part of company strategies.

Start by understanding your customer journey

Understanding the actual customer journey is tricky because the data isn’t always easily accessible. The rise of multi-channel means companies are hampered by data siloes, with marketing systems not necessarily communicating with support, sales or logistics in a seamless way. As a result, lots of what retailers know about the customer journey comes from extrapolating an incomplete picture.

The best place to start when it comes to identifying areas for evolution is building an understanding of the customer journey based on fact, not assumption. And that means connecting your data siloes so you actually know when people are flitting from social to SMS to email to website to store – and what they’re doing at each touchpoint.

Then identify personalisation gaps

The ideal customer experience is having a knowledgeable account manager advising and guiding whenever needed. Like having a personal assistant on tap who can give you precisely the right product and service for the situation.

In other words – customer experience is closely linked to personalisation. And this means the first step is identifying where in the journey the experience isn’t quite personalised enough. Can call centre agents immediately address customers by name? Do people have to repeat their issue every time they ask for help, whether they’re on chat, email, Messenger or phone? Is order contents mentioned in the follow-up survey email? Do recommendations truly make sense based on purchase history, lifestyle and demographic?

Look at what can be automated 

You now have your personalisation wish list. The next challenge is delivering it across channels and at scale – which is where technology comes in. Look for solutions that:

1. Sit on top of your existing systems, so individual departments don’t need to radically overhaul processes or go through lots of additional training.

2. Aggregate data from your siloes (in a GDPR-compliant way), so you can take action and get analysis from across the customer journey and channels – in real time.

3. Automate activity across all channels, so, for example, text messages can be triggered by an event in the ordering system, draw personal data from the CRM and then link up with logistics to connect the dots.

4. Include artificial intelligence and Natural Language Processing – because our goal is personalisation at scale, which means the automated interactions need to have that realistic, human touch to test, learn and optimise the approach here; a proof of concept is often a highly effective way of validating the potential return on investment.  It can also help by removing integration requirements which may be subject to a lengthy development pipeline within your technical teams.

Consider what issues you can pre-empt

Now you’re starting to fill in the gaps in the customer journey, which is providing incremental improvements to the customer experience (all of which add up to foster a closer relationship). The final step is to look at ways you can anticipate customer needs, taking personalisation to the next level.

For example, if they’ve entered their password incorrectly 3 times from their phone, why not text them a link to reset it with one click. If the system registers a delivery delay, why not send a message to their preferred channel(s) giving a comprehensive update (and peace of mind) about the new time they’ve been allocated, so they don’t have to get in touch.

Are you ready to take the next step?

For practical insight on mapping your customer journeys and implementing automation, tune into our free webinar on 26th June. Our technology experts will be discussing easy and cost-effective ways to introduce new levels of personalisation into your customer experience. Hope to see you there!

Simon Brennan
About the author: Simon Brennan

Simon Brennan has more than 14 years’ experience in the customer engagement sector, working with a wide variety of companies from tech start-ups to FTSE100 organisations. He is an expert in improving corporate customer communication, using technology to supercharge internal processes and deliver increased sales. Simon has a strong track record of successfully delivering cross-channel communication solutions for Engage Hub's corporate customer base, across multiple divisions within an organisation.