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Digital Transformation of Clienteling and the Contact Center

Thomas Kurian is Head of Industry Solutions at Treasure Data.

The worldwide health crisis had thrown the industry for a loop, forcing retailers to reexamine every aspect of their operations. Connecting with and capturing shopper attention is more important than ever, and next-gen clienteling technology both in-store and out can help retailers stay connected even at a distance.  

Traditionally, the lion’s share of clienteling took place at the store level, with associates leveraging shopper data collected in "little black books" to provide a personalized and meaningful experience for consumers. But today, with in-store foot traffic greatly reduced, the spotlight is shining on the tech-fueled call center as an avenue to provide a meaningful customer experience for shoppers.

Savvy, forward-thinking retailers are equipping their call center staff with powerful clienteling solutions to ensure every customer is provided with tailored, memorable experiences. To explore how retailers can best put their clienteling software to work in the call center, Treasure Data’s head of industry solutions Thomas Kurian sat down with RIS for an exclusive Q&A on the topic.

RIS: What are the three biggest ways customer service and clienteling have changed due to the pandemic?

Kurian: In 2020, many “non-essential” retailers had their stores closed for extended periods of time while foot traffic at “essential” retailers reduced significantly due to safety and regulatory reasons. Meanwhile, e-commerce picked up exponentially as consumers migrated to shop online, discovered mobile apps, and tried out delivery options such as curbside pickup.

Consequently, ticket volumes at contact centers have increased drastically across all channels (voice, text, email, video)  all with contact center employees working from home.

This transformed clienteling in three ways:

  • As stores reopen, retailers promoted appointment-driven customer visits rather than walk-ins, thereby increasing the potential for clienteling.
  • With the popularity of curbside delivery, store associates had to learn new delivery skills and identify micro-moments in the customer journey to engage in clienteling.
  • Most importantly, a new role was created in the contact centers for “online retail associate” focused on digital or virtual clienteling.


RIS: How is the role of the contact center changing in an era of digital clienteling? What new skills does this require?

Kurian: For a typical contact center agent, they have no idea what will hit them with each inbound customer call. They are measured by first call resolution, average call handle time and other customer satisfaction metrics. With online retail associates, they are also measured by revenue generation. Enterprises have petabytes of customer data, and without technology it is challenging for associates and agents to make sense of that data and help the customer in minutes, if not seconds.

For both the agents and the online retail associates, it is imperative to have real-time access to unified customer data with complete buyer journey information. And that data needs to be accessible regardless of engagement channel  voice, email, text, chat, video, etc.

Ideally, AI-based, next-best action recommendations are available in the same interface to guide them toward fully leveraging these engagement opportunities. 

For online retail associates to succeed in the contact center, they need the ability to digest and use data to impact the micro-moments in the customer journey, and to operate and execute in all support channels based on real-time data insights.

RIS: What are the foundational tools retailers need to provide contact center associates now that their role also includes more selling and clienteling?

Kurian: There are three fundamental ingredients:

  • Cloud-based contact center application
  • Omnichannel clienteling tools including video integrated into retailer's task management solution
  • Customer data platform that handles real-time data with AI-enabled next-best action engine


RIS: Retailers must pivot their approach to clienteling quickly. What are some keys to doing so successfully?

Kurian: Retailers must capture omnichannel customer behavior data, connect online and offline data with clienteling initiatives, and empower their employees with data.

But beyond that, management must:

  • Provide employees with adequate and updated training to support sales, marketing and communication efforts with customers.
  • Give employees up-to-date information about each individual customer, along with personalized suggestions and next-best actions for associates to take if initial actions and suggestions don’t close the sale.
  • Deliver routine opportunities for employees to learn about privacy and data-driven culture.


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