The new front door to welcoming customers

By Brian Atkinson, GM and VP for EMEA at Five9

The pandemic has hit retailers hard, with well-known brands already falling victim to the severe impact of lockdown. Coronavirus restrictions have forced retailers of all shapes and sizes to shift priority to digital channels, ensure customer services can operate remotely, and make necessary adjustments to protect shoppers in-store.

The ability to stay agile and adapt fast to changing circumstances has been crucial to business survival – especially since consumer expectations for great experiences remain high. At a time of so much uncertainty, offering seamless and swift customer service is more important than ever to keep consumers happy and coming back for more.   

This, however, means meeting the needs of consumers quickly and effectively, whatever the situation is and no matter the communication channel they use. Today, contact centres are crucial to this and through the cloud, they’re allowing retailers to serve customers with ease while keeping up with new digital practices. So much so that, with most stores shut for long periods over lockdown, contact centres have become the ‘new front door’ to welcoming customers. 

Customer expectations remain unchanged 

Year after year, customers continue to have high expectations for brands – from knowing who they are, their previous interactions and history with the brand when they contact customer service, to resolving issues and answering questions first time. It’s all about delivering seamless omnichannel experiences with a human connection. 

Despite the pandemic, these expectations from consumers have remained relatively unchanged – even amongst the most loyal customers. Recent research carried out during and after the coronavirus shutdowns found only 15% of retailers’ loyalty members felt their customer service issues were resolved on their first attempt. Meanwhile, only 50% of customers reported that they felt completely satisfied with the resolution of their problem.

With so much disruption caused by the pandemic, how agile, adaptive and responsive brands are to the changing situation, and to customers’ needs, is making all the difference between thriving and going out of business. It is also making the difference between inspiring customers’ loyalty and losing them to more agile competitors. 

Delivering on customer service

Over the Christmas period, retailers had been under more pressure than ever to process deliveries in time for the holidays – with an extra 200 million parcels being purchased online compared to previous years. Retailers unable to handle the high number of queries and too slow to respond to customer needs risk breaking their trust and jeopardising brand loyalty.

The same goes for aftercare following the festive season. Retailers must be prepared for countless queries from consumers and make the returns process as seamless as possible – particularly if we face another lockdown with stores shut once more.  

No doubt that retailers’ goals are to deliver a modern, seamless, omnichannel customer experience. To do this successfully, however, they need integrated solutions that help agents to deliver the right information at the right time to solve their issue. Too often, retailers struggle with using multiple systems in the contact centre that aren’t connected. Brands may have a great online, mobile, or in-store experience, but if that experience is different across the interaction channels and fails to deliver what the customer was expecting, they risk losing them for life. The key to delivering modern retail customer service is to move to the cloud to gain the flexibility, agility and scalability needed to serve customers.

The cloud is where it all connects

Omnichannel experiences are standard practice for modern businesses. But delivering on omnichannel is like aiming at a shifting target. New channels are always emerging, customers are continually adopting new digital practices, and their expectations never stop evolving.

Customer experience leaders that are at the top of their game know that offering faster, more connected experiences that delight their customers is critical for keeping them happy and building their loyalty.

The only way to do this is to use a cloud contact centre that is integrated with key operational systems such as your CRM solution. Retailers need to be connected to various applications for marketing, sales, finance, IT, and workforce optimisation. A connected cloud platform will enable businesses to be predictive and proactive, so agents are equipped to offer real-time resolution that regains and secures customer loyalty.

The new front door 

The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for a lot of businesses, especially for retailers. Shops shut and more customers than ever before have come to rely on digital channels and ecommerce sites. As the pandemic continues to cause disruption, agility to respond quickly and effectively to customer needs, whatever the situation, is critical to keep up with high customer expectations. The contact centre has become the new front door to welcome and serve customer needs. With this in place, brands are ready to build customer loyalty. 

Brian Atkinson is GM and VP for EMEA at Five9

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