The effect of the omnichannel consumer on customer service


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Richard McCrossan, Strategic Business Director of Digital Channels, EMEA, Genesys, takes a look at how retailers need to join their customers on their omnichannel journey and provide them with the right customer service at every stage of the cycle.

In today’s electronic marketplace, corporate goals tend to be focused around marketing to new customers – with the latest emphasis on offering a seamless browsing and buying experience on every channel. But the modern consumer is more interested in checking out the product, trying it on, finding the best price, asking a question or making a complaint – often via social media.

The ‘new’ customer journey

Consumers’ instant uptake of the newest devices – from the iPad Mini to the next 4G smartphone – means they are often one step ahead of businesses in terms of how they want to communicate, research, browse and buy. Retailers can catch up with expectations by reacting nimbly to consumer demand and fitting in with consumers’ day-t–day digital lives – this means meeting them at every point in the purchasing journey – be this online, on mobile, on social media or in-store.

The traditional off-line retail customer journey involves browsing in-store, touching the products, trying on garments, making a decision and going home with new purchase in hand. Now, the omnichannel consumer is browsing on mobile, comparing prices against competitors online, ordering online then possibly going to collect the item in-store whilst comparing prices and options on their mobile again as they walk down the high-street on their way home.

Research is showing that consumers look for omnichannel customer service. According to Econsultancy’s Multichannel Retail Survey, only 14% of people surveyed believe that retailers don’t need to operate across the various channels. The opinion of the remaining 86% speaks for itself.

Yet, corporate goals are often not in tune with this new type of customer – they are focused around marketing to new customers via social media, advertising via mobile and enhancing brand awareness to a wider community. The customer might indeed be interested in becoming a part of your brand’s community but, more often than not, the customer wants to ask a question, make a complaint or compare a price. It’s important for retailers to maintain a relationship with consumers throughout the online purchasing process, just as in the off-line scenario.

The first step? Listen to and understand your customers in actionable terms

Retailers need to listen to what customers are saying – both about them and to them – and to understand the sentiment and ‘actionability’ of the consumer’s message. When people are talking about you on social media is there anything you can do about their message?  ‘Your brand sucks’ is certainly a negative message, but ‘your brand sucks because you didn’t deliver a product on time’ is a highly actionable message.

Once you have understood the actionability of the message you can start to prioritise the handling of messages by factors such as the customer’s social influence. Then you can start passing messages on to suitable agents to handle them accordingly.

Then…engage in productive conversation

To engage a customer in a social conversation, you need three key things:

The Right Employee: If the customer is tweeting about a delivery problem then have a delivery employee who can deal with the problem respond via Twitter. Good workforce management information helps a retailer provide the right customer service agent to cope with the omnichannel customer experience.

The Right Response: Empower that employee to give the right response. Giving them a customer interaction history helps. Often a social comment has been sparked by something that happened on a traditional channel like delivery, and if you can leverage all the tools you already have within your customer department, the resolution will be much more efficient. Integrated customer information is key and the right customer service training vital in enabling a retailer to provide the right response, whatever channel.

The Right Channel: If a customer tweets you, you need to decide whether it is appropriate to continue the conversation on Twitter. Don’t say ‘please call us’ – if they wanted to call you they would have already done so, but equally it might be appropriate to move the conversation to a more private channel, such as a direct message via Twitter and perhaps onto email. If you can empower your employees to manage the conversation from its starting point on social media and continue it in other more suitable channels, customer satisfaction will remain high. The omnichannel experience is seamlessly maintained.

No longer an option

Customers don’t think in channels. They see every retailer as one entity, no matter how many channels they are operating on – hence,  omnichannel customer service is more important than ever. The customer’s journey along the omnichannel purchasing path needs to feel entirely seamless. By offering such service, retailers have the potential to be more engaged with their consumers and to offer increased personalisation and consistency in their service – creating more satisfied customers who are willing to return and make another purchase in the future.

Published On: 10th Apr 2013 - Last modified: 12th Dec 2018
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