Personalised customer service is here to stay

Personalised customer service is here to stay

Retailers are under pressure, not least because consumer expectations are rising all the time. This is stimulated by the growth of online shopping, click collect and the world of social media, all of which have transformed the buying experience. As the customer journey becomes increasingly fragmented, retailers need to find a way of bringing all the information together in order to provide consumers with a superior experience. Thanks to advancements in automation and artificial intelligence, truly personalised customer service is now within reach across multiple channels.

Customer service continues to be critical for a brand’s success. Various studies have revealed that companies with poor customer service push customers away, resulting in them taking their business elsewhere. In a 2017 report titled ‘Transform the Contact Center for Customer Service Excellence’, for instance, Forrester stated that 63% of US customers have stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. Meanwhile, based on its survey on customer expectations, PwC predicted that by 2020 customer experience would overtake price and product quality as the most important factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

It is fair to say that customer service is at a tipping point. The growth of online shopping, click & collect and the world of social media have all transformed the buying experience, increasing customer expectations even further and putting retailers under ever-more pressure. Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence their purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels with which to interact with brands – telephone, email, chat, social, web self-service, bots, messaging, virtual assistants and more. Speeding up the process is the most important thing any company can do to provide customers with good service, according to Forrester’s survey, since time is the most important asset in people’s busy lives today. Furthermore, customers often start their journey in one channel and complete it in an entirely different channel, yet they expect a consistent brand experience from pre-purchase to post-purchase. And with digital assistants and, more specifically, voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Home or Siri becoming more common in consumer households nowadays, today’s consumers expect similarly natural, conversational interactions when they engage with businesses. This too is a game changer for retailers.

Information trapped in silos A recent study by Manhattan Associates revealed that 65% of retailers would like to provide the same quality of customer service, irrespective of the channel in which they are interacting with the customer – including in stores. But as more channels and touchpoints emerge, customer service organisations can’t react by simply adding more staff. Because the customer journey is no longer linear, each consumer leaves fragments of information in each channel. When there is a lack of integration between these channels – which is currently the case within most retail organisations – information such as transactional data and customer history remains trapped in silos. The key is to find a way of bringing all that information together so that their contact centre agents can have an integrated experience complimented by automation and artificial intelligence (AI). This way retailers can understand the customer journey in order to offer a more personalised service.

Changing role of customer service representatives Because the customer has evolved, the customer service representative (CSR) has to evolve as well. Today’s contact centres are aspiring to become high-touch centres that handle critical customer interactions. These organisations will focus on the quality of interactions as measured by customer retention and lifetime value. Today’s consumers expect retailers and service providers to be able to know who they are, pull up all their information, know that they’ve already called about a problem as well as know what was in the email they sent last month. They then expect retailers to get to the root of the problem and solve it for them without wasting too much of their time. Today’s CSRs are dealing with a myriad of applications including CRM but they don’t get a blended CRM+OMS experience without which they are at a serious disadvantage. And customers are increasingly demanding – in the event of a problem, offering them a meagre discount on their next purchase or waiving delivery charges is no longer enough to keep them happy. In other words, the CSR needs to have at their fingertips the overall customer profile like lifetime value, return rate, social influence including past purchases, returns and interactions to engage with the right tone. They must be able to follow up on a customer interaction with the proper context along with actionable insights to save time for the customer. This requires the ability to connect interactions across multiple channels and to proactively identify and resolve issues to avoid escalations. Therefore, a growing number of retailers are transforming their ‘contact centres’ into ‘customer engagement centres’ – supported by AI tools and automated solutions that provide CSRs with actionable insights into the ‘what, why, and how’ of omnichannel shopping – in order to optimise the entire customer journey.

Making a difference with customer engagement One such solution is Manhattan Customer Engagement, the industry’s only CRM tool purpose-built for the omnichannel business. It combines unstructured data from customer conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (‘social listening’), phone, email and chat with structured real-time order information. Including a customer dashboard with a real-time view of customer transactions and customer interactions, the solution automatically creates cases for order exceptions and links customer transactions to cases. It even issues alerts, enabling CSRs to take proactive action before potential problems escalate. This is a key part of customer engagement and finessing the customer experience. The resulting unified view of customers is helping retailers to truly understand the customer journey. Personalised customer service has arrived at last – and it is here to stay.

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