Total online U.S. retail sales are forecast to climb to over $656 billion this year, making 2020 a year of growth. As retail and e-commerce sales grow at a steady rate, now more than ever the customer experience (CX) is serving as a powerful differentiator for brands.
For retailers looking to build brand loyalty in the coming year and beyond, best-in-class customer service and CX must be the primary focus. To create a long-term competitive advantage, brands need to hire the right staff and deliver a high-quality experience.
Below are three areas retailers should focus on to differentiate their brands:
1. Building Staff Strategically
Retailers today need to keep up not only with a rapidly evolving technology landscape, but also with the consumer expectation to be able to contact their brands anytime, through any device. With a need for every phone call and every chat box to be answered, brands must hire enough customer service representatives to meet the demand of their business. The key is to staff up so your organization can efficiently manage volume while still maintaining your CX standards.
To help get new representatives up to speed efficiently and quickly, retailers can provide training in advance, so new hires can be ready when needed. Remember to train new employees on the topics they will be dealing with the most like your returns policy and product recommendations.
Retailers should also look to make your customer service representatives brand ambassadors, starting with recruiting the right people by looking for traits such as proper tone, composure and passion, and making sure they are trained thoroughly and not just reading from a script.
But the most important aspect is making sure they’re a customer too by immersing them in the brand and having them use the product or service in their everyday life to fuel their passion even further.
2. Make the Approach Personal
It is estimated that over 81% of consumers would pay more for better customer experience; as the business world becomes more competitive and commoditized, customer service is becoming a key way for brands to differentiate themselves.
How a company treats its customers and, more importantly, how it makes them feel, is now considered one of the most important factors. While customer service is being transformed by huge advances in technology, the human component will always be just as important.
On the front lines, customer service representatives are often the only interaction your customers will have with your company — they are ultimately the face of your brand. While companies are putting major investments in automation, turning your customer service representatives into brand ambassadors is going to be the ultimate contact center differentiator.
Perhaps you have personally experienced the feeling of getting off the phone from a successful customer service interaction; it’s critical to provide the right environment for customers to come away with that same feeling. One way to go about this is to create an alignment between your customer service and brand teams. Both teams share a common goal: to create a positive customer experience.
3. Provide Returns That Are User-Friendly
Returns are a crucial component of many customer service interactions. For all shoppers, ensure your returns policies are user-friendly and seamless to turn a potential customer pain point into a differentiator.
For example, allowing customers to order a new size online before even returning the other product through the mail or to a brick-and-mortar store is a great way to drive customer satisfaction.
When planning for this year’s returns, evaluate last year’s customer service volumes, types of inquiries and resolution times to anticipate how you need to staff to efficiently and effectively respond to customers. Make it easy for customers to get quick answers by providing clear information about your return policy on your website and leverage channels like live chat and messenger.
While dealing with customer service inquiries and issues can be a point of stress for consumers and retailers alike, the customer service experience is also an opportunity to create a long-term impression with customers. With the right staffing, personalized service and stress-free returns, brands can provide an exceptional customer experience that turns shoppers into repeat customers.
Fara Haron is the CEO North America, Ireland and Southeast Asia and executive vice president global clients at Majorel. She leads a rapidly growing team of customer service professionals helping companies with their global customer service strategy, providing top-notch customer engagement to some of the world’s largest and most respected brands.