Putting Customers at the Center of Call Care

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Putting Customers at the Center of Call Care

By Kathleen Schroeder - 06/09/2016
Every year, retailers worldwide look for ways to ramp up their customer service efforts in preparation for the biggest shopping season of the year. During the months of November and December, sales spike dramatically - driving 30 percent more ecommerce revenue than during non-holiday months, not to mention increased in-store purchasing. But with all the focus on meeting sales goals, retailers still need to keep a close eye on customer care. How you handle questions, issues and requests can not only simplify this busy time, but it can also drive loyalty and repeat purchases. With all the hustle and bustle the holidays bring, retailers need to deploy their best tactics to simplify and streamline the customer experience.
 
Consumers are driven by time pressures and appreciate a quick, easy shopping experience. Time that consumers gain is valuable, especially during the holidays. A recent survey by Kurt Salmon Associates found that consumers spent less than 1 percent of their total time shopping, while 52 percent intended to shop even less to increase time for other uses. The consulting firm concludes that unless retailers rise to the challenge, consumers will continue to stay home and use their limited time for something more enjoyable than shopping.
 
Today’s busy consumer will look for ways to streamline, consolidate, and simplify their shopping experiences. As a result, successful retailers seek ways to make customers’ shopping experiences easier, faster, cheaper, and more fun. One of the best ways to achieve this is by evaluating customer care techniques.
 
Wanted: Better Experiences
 
During the stressful holiday season, when consumers walk into a store to make a purchase, they receive more personalized service. But do they receive the same kind of tailored, proactive service when they try to communicate with a retailer over their channel of choice about an exchange, return or refund for their purchase? Probably not. The experience across channels is generally inconsistent and doesn’t accurately reflect the brand.
 
These consumers are not alone. A study conducted by the Center for Research on the Information Society found that 69 percent of consumers said that Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems make it difficult for them to describe their problem. They begin their customer service journeys with the aim to circumvent these systems and speak to a live agent. In fact, more than 83 percent of respondents reported communicating directly with a live agent at some point during recent customer service experiences. From a business perspective, this disconnect can mean that in an effort to avoid the use of IVRs, consumers are utilizing multiple channels throughout their service journey. In the long-run, this costs retailers more in overall operational costs and lowers customer satisfaction ratings.
 
Consumers are seeking the most efficient and pleasant way to accomplish a task, and while IVRs can help, they are largely seen as an obstacle for educated consumers when they are forced to listen to long menus and information they already know. In order to provide more positive customer experiences, retailers need to look at innovative ways to interact with their customers.
 
Enter Conversational Virtual Assistants
 
Virtual assistants are not a new concept, but one of growing relevance. Instead of getting held up in an endless series of menus and prompts, conversational virtual assistants use simple, natural language to gather more accurate and timely information. Consumers can have a natural dialogue to describe what they need. Because the consumer can speak in his or her own words, as if speaking with another person, more is accomplished in a shorter period of time.

Retailers benefit by being able to efficiently service their customers.  Customers, on the other hand, are more engaged and feel like their experience is faster and easier whether they are inquiring about their order status, initiating a refund request or trying to buy the hottest new gadget. Virtual assistants are changing the way consumers view your brand because they are able to use natural conversation to engage and find the information they need. Retailers who have implemented conversational virtual assistants have an unprecedented opportunity to create a customer service moment that will keep them coming back again and again.
 


Kathleen Schroeder, Senior Marketing Manager of Verticals at Interactions, is a seasoned retail professional with an MBA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin. Throughout her extensive career, she has worked tenaciously to represent the voice of the customer through numerous social outlets, speaking engagements and customer encounters. By educating retailers on the value of putting consumers first, she is committed to improving customer care.