In the face of a struggling UK high street, retailers need to do whatever they can to boost sales and draw in customers. Many have already turned to emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help grow online purchases in the face of plummeting in-store sales, and this is a trend that is likely to continue as retailers look for ways to survive.
One of the most crucial aspects of retail is its customer service. Whether in store, online or over the phone – sales assistants, chatbots and contact centre agents are the first port-of-call for customers with a query. First impressions are extremely important here in order to retain customers and win new ones through building a stellar reputation.
Contact centres play an essential role in building brand reputation and generating customer loyalty. But working in contact centres isn’t easy, and it can be difficult for agents to deliver that all-important world-class customer service 24-7 without a little help.
Despite some hesitation towards adding automation and new technology into the contact centre – loss of jobs being the primary fear – it’s not surprising that it is a rising trend that retailers need and must keep pace with if they are to survive in these difficult times. AI, bots and voice technology are quickly becoming more prevalent across all sectors, and retail is no exception.
Whilst human agents still play a key part in retail customer service – a PSFK survey found that 83% of consumers want to speak to a real person at the end of the day – retailers still need to consider the advantages of introducing digital counterparts to their contact centres.
The future of the retail contact centre is undeniably digital, but human and digital agents need to be able to work in tandem and roles ‘redesigned’ to keep pace with the growth in technology if retailers are to survive.
The benefits of automation
Retailers need to embrace new technology, such as automation, if they are to improve their customer experience to maintain customer loyalty and keep standing.
Research shows that customers don’t like to be kept waiting on the phone, and poor customer service stops some customers from shopping with a retailer altogether. Whilst the blame often falls on the human agent, it is rarely them who is at fault. Not only are they often dealing with clunky technology, as well as multiple systems, but having to handle a frustrated customer with one part of their retail journey isn’t easy and can be extremely stressful.
So, how can automation technology help improve the situation? Technology such as chatbots, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and speech analytics is able to take some of the burden off the human agents by completing the more mundane tasks normally assigned to them. Simple and repetitive tasks like change of address or updating credit card details, are all actions that can be tasked to an automated technology bot.
Not only does introducing this technology cut down the overall wait/call time for the customer on the phone – agents don’t have to move between multiple systems as this is now the bot’s job – but it also leaves more time for the agent to spend talking to the customer on more complex matters. Sometimes, the customer might not even have to pick up the phone if they are just wanting to change a small detail on their account – they can instead use an online automated chatbot.
The benefits are two-fold, with the customer completing their request efficiently, and the human agent not having to waste time on a simple task, leaving them with more time to spend on a customer with a more complex query.
Automation improves the customer experience
Allowing the human agent more time to interact with the customer on complex matters, will also encourage them to provide a better, more personalised customer experience. The benefits of this are two-fold. By providing better service, organisations can see a better return on their investment in agent training.
In addition, agents are actually doing the job that they were trained to do – solving problems, rather than completing mundane and repetitive tasks. Not only will this provide agents with a sense of satisfaction in a job well done, but customers will also reap the benefits of a more well-rounded solution to their query and feel that they are being heard. This in turn encourages customer loyalty and a good brand reputation, two very valuable assets in today’s retail climate.
Improved customer service on intricate matters, combined with a shorter wait time thanks to the bots, ensures that customers will go away happy, building a good reputation for the retailer and encouraging customer loyalty, even in uncertain times.
By Josh Ayres, head of emerging technology at IP Integration