Payments: the defining factor in the customer experience

Perfecting the customer experience is a challenge that gives all retailers sleepless nights. After all, according to Barclays, 55% of consumers have abandoned a purchase due to poor service on the high street.

Revenues and in many cases, the futures of businesses, are dependent on strong levels of customer satisfaction. This is why the industry must change the way it thinks about a critical cog of the customer journey – the moment of payment.

Missing the point

Consider the amount of time and money retailers spend on getting every step of the customer journey right, online or in-store. Then think about how one problem at the checkout can put all that good work to waste. That’s how critical the payment process can be, yet it is being approached in the wrong way. Too often payments solutions providers are focusing all of their attention on merchants and have consequently left holes in the services they provide. In reality, there is one group that should be considered above all else when it comes to getting payments right – the consumer.

Given that it is the consumer who will ultimately keep retailers in business, failing to pay enough attention to their needs could be fatal. Those brands that concentrate on building lasting relationships with their customers will engender greater loyalty and ultimately, increased market share.

To ensure success, these retailers will need to understand that consumers just want the payments process to work. If it doesn’t, they will walk away and, more likely than not, they will pass on their negative experience to others. It will only be a matter of time before this reputational risk damages the bottom line which is exactly why so many businesses are now considering their omnichannel and payment solutions as a critical element of their wider strategy.

To be precise, 53% of companies that we have surveyed place such importance on their payments system with regards to the pivotal role they play in improving the customer experience – it is easy to see why. A retailer that offers flexibility for customers concerning when and where they buy, collect or return products will instantly see customer satisfaction levels rise.

Yet, if a payment system is operating in isolation, the full value to customers will never be realised. As with any other facet of the customer journey, payments simply has to be integrated into the wider business’s existing systems if it is to truly make a difference.

A smooth transition

If retailers are to turn this positive impact into a lasting relationship that generates repeat business, it is imperative that every single contact a customer has with your organisation is seamless. How the different elements of the consumer experience interact is therefore essential. Beyond providing a customer with a positive one-off experience, retail organisations can use payments as a gateway to making a long-term impression.

There is an obvious place that businesses should start – setting up the payments system to interact with the company’s CRM. Ensuring that a customer’s account is automatically updated once they have made a purchase means that payments can be processed more quickly and that the retailer in question will be in a position to provide tailored offers to that individual. Taking this approach, businesses give themselves the chance to provide added value beyond a single transaction. This will also be a step in the right direction in terms of securing customer data. It will mean that retailers can lower the risk of human error that goes hand in hand with manually entering data, as well as streamlining their own processes. On top of this, integrating payments with e-commerce and accounting platforms will be critical to business performance.

Without this it will be an uphill task for businesses to function effectively, given the need for transactions to be approved and fraudulent activity to be identified. Without this integration, countless departments within a business will be slowed down. If retailers can master their own back-end processes, those efficiencies will naturally be transferred to the customer facing side of the business – it’s a win-win situation.

Making the hard work pay

It is abundantly clear that, for retailers, the future lies largely in the hands of the consumer. With every day that passes, expectations will become increasingly demanding and businesses will have to take a proactive approach regarding the adoption of consumer-facing technologies. The manner in which they react however, will be critical. Every decision that retailers make should be with a view to making the customer’s life easier. Those that don’t follow this path will pay a high price.

Angus Burrell, General Manager, Omni-channel Solutions, Valitor                      

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