Today’s consumers expect seamless shopping and service engaging with retail brands across devices, channels, and touchpoints. Orchestrating unified omnichannel customer service presents immense challenges for retailers. However, the rewards can be sizeable when done correctly. Research has found that companies who have a strong omnichannel strategy realize a 89% customer retention rate, compared to a lowly 33% for companies with a weak omnichannel strategy.
This article will explore several proven strategies and best practices retail executives should leverage to optimize omnichannel customer service experiences across stores, ecommerce, mobile apps, and new emerging channels. If you have questions about optimizing or improving your retail omnichannel customer service strategy, feel free to leave a comment, or you can email Mack directly for private feedback.
Conduct In-Depth Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping is the process of visualizing the steps that a potential customer goes through in order to complete a purchase. Here’s some of the ways that customer journey mapping can be helpful:
- Identifying friction points from the user perspective. By visualizing the purchase process, you can see the flow that the customer goes through on the way to a purchase. And it SHOULD be a flow, if not, the customer could get ‘stuck’ in one stage, and that could easily lead to frustration and abandoning the purchase.
- Conducting shadowing research and customer interviews to uncover unmet needs and grievances. This allows you to hear directly from the retail customer and learn how the purchase process worked for them.
- Auditing support metrics across channels; such as wait times, resolution speed/quality, CSAT, NPS, and sentiment. This will further help identify areas for improvement in the process.
- Analyzing contact topics and types to identify knowledge gaps to address. This helps suggests information that can be provided to the customer to help them self-diagnosis and possibly even resolve issues themselves.
These insights help inform an omnichannel optimization roadmap tailored to your customers’ needs.
Architect Seamless Cross-Channel Experiences
Today, customers expect unified service across in-store, web, mobile, kiosks, chat, social and more. A consistent experience across all touchpoints is expected. You can deliver this by:
- Defining optimal channel roles based on their strengths to simplify choice. This helps direct the customer to the channels that are best suited to provide the experience the customer needs at that stage of their purchase journey.
- Enabling tight integrations between channels, such as store finders, click and collect etc. Also pay attention to how customers will use channels differently. For instance, when on your app, customers are often away from home, and looking to complete or pick up a purchase. When at home, they are more likely to be on a laptop and doing research before deciding on a purchase. Factor customer intent into the integration of your retail omnichannel customer service experience.
- Allowing pick-up purchases and returns across any channel. This should be a priority for mobile devices and apps in particular.
- Transferring customer context and histories between channels/agents. There should always be a way to track the history of a support issue so that a handoff improves the experience, instead of resetting it.
Contextual, personalized omnichannel experiences satisfy customers and improve efficiency and increase customer loyalty among retail customers.
Equip Employees with Mobile Technology
Allowing retail employees to have mobile devices while interacting with customers allows them to give a higher level of service and support. Here’s some examples:
- Retail employees can access customer purchase history and loyalty profiles anywhere to personalize interactions. This allows employees to immediately get up to speed on the customer’s purchase and support history.
- Assist customers with inventory lookups, pricing, recommendations on the salesfloor. This allows the employee to stay present and engaged with the customer, while also speeding up the support process.
- Check in customers remotely via mobile POS to reduce lines. This gives the customer more control over initiating the support process and it creates more speed and efficiency.
- Resolve issues, answer questions, and schedule appointments on the go. By letting employees have mobile access to customers, they can interact with customers in a way that’s convenient for both parties, which speeds up the overall process and increases satisfaction for the customer, and productivity for the retail employee.
Giving retail employees the right technology to deliver mobile support ensures a higher level of customer satisfaction.
Expand and Enhance Self-Service Options
Let’s be honest: Many customers would rather handle a support issue themselves, if they can. So it pays to give customers the resources to self-diagnose problems and potentially solve on their own. In addition, it take stress off your CS team, and also creates a cost-savings. Invest in channels like:
- Intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants on website, apps and messaging. Chatbots in particular are having a revival of interest due to the rise of easy-to-use AI tools. Look for use to expand over the coming years.
- Interactive kiosks in stores for product research. These should be placed as close to the actual product as possible. Give customers a way to do last-minute research as a way to make the final determination on which product to purchase.
- Enhanced help centers with improved search, content, and community forums. These are more frequently used by customers who are still in the consideration phase of the customer journey, so feel free to give them access to more in depth product information.
- Allow access to customer ratings and reviews. This ties in with the previous point, as customers are doing research, they are narrowing down the list of products they are interested in. Once they have narrowed their consideration pool down to an acceptable number of products, they will want to check customer reviews for each product. This will help them narrow their list down even further, or it could convince the customer which product they should purchase.
You can also drive utilization through promotions, associate referrals and in-journey prompts.
Continuously Improve Through Testing and Innovation
Omnichannel retail customer service must continually adapt and improve. Recommended approaches include:
- A/B test new features and channel integrations to optimize performance. Test internally, and also offer testing to select customers. This can be offered as a perk to loyalty program or community forum members.
- Monitor service innovations from leading competitors and brands. Always keep up to date on the latest news and case studies to identify opportunities to improve your own retail customer service.
- Survey customers directly on desired improvements. Ask customers what is working for them, and where the problems are. Over time, you can identify trends and isolate areas for improvement.
- Pilot enhancements, measure impact, and iterate. Leverage customer feedback to roll out new features, and make sure customers know they helped contribute to the improvement. This will encourage customers to become even more engaged in the feedback process.
There are always opportunities to optimize and evolve your omnichannel customer service experience.
Achieving Omnichannel Customer Service Excellence
Orchestrating seamless retail customer service across expanding digital and offline touchpoints is challenging yet invaluable. Brands that have achieved successful omnichannel customer engagement have realized a 9.5% growth in annual revenue. Additionally, a solid retail omnichannel customer service experience can result in a 7.5% decrease in cost per contact.
With the right strategy and planning, the payoff of a focus on retail omnichannel customer service can be immense.