Customer experience management: putting the customer in the driving seat

customer engagement managementSelf service is a wonderful thing. For most of us the appeal of internet shopping lies not just in the convenience of being able to order goods and services at any time of the day or night but also the sense of autonomy it gives us. Whatever we happen to be looking for, we can find it ourselves (and at the best possible price) with no need to ask for advice from sales assistants or call centre operatives.

To put it another way, we – as consumers – are firmly in the driving seat.      

But sometimes being in the driving seat doesn’t feel that great. Witness the automated checkouts that are now part and parcel of the supermarket experience. In theory, these have freed shoppers from the tedium of long queues at the conventional checkouts. Instead, those with modest baskets simply scan their goods through and pay by card or cash in a seamless process. No need to wait until a cashier comes free. It’s the bricks and mortar store’s answer to internet shopping.

But it doesn’t always run smoothly. Faced by vegetables that have to be looked up and weighed rather than scanned and messages declaring the presence of an “unexpected item in the bagging area,” newcomers to the world of automated checkouts often struggle to complete their purchases. Cue confused expressions as they look around for assistance. At this point they are no longer in the driving seat.    Continue reading

How mobile is revolutionising the way retail connects with customers

mcommerceWhen it comes to accessing the internet, the laptop no longer reigns supreme. At least that’s the case in the UK, according to communications regulator, Ofcom. In its latest 2015 Communications Market Report – a kind of annual state of the digital nation update – the regulator finds that some  33% of consumers see the smartphone as their most important internet device against 30% who favour the laptop. That compares with 40% (laptop) and 22% (smartphone) in 2014.

No surprises there, perhaps, but drill just a little deeper into the Ofcom report and it becomes apparent the less-than-humble smartphone has become not only a primary internet access device but also a key point of contact between consumers and retailers.   

Perhaps the most obvious point is that smartphone users are buying goods and services via their handsets, with 26% saying they had made purchases. But equally important, around about the same percentage use their handsets to finds nearby stores. It doesn’t end there, a small percentage of smartphone users are also using their handsets to pay while in stores, more evidence that the mobile is becoming an integral part of both the offline and online shopping experience. Continue reading

Personalised content – working hard to convert website visitors

online retailJust as inevitable as “death and taxes” is the annual rise in digital marketing budgets. Witness a survey published by eConsultancy in February 2015 which found 77% of marketers expecting to increase their online spend. This compared with 71% who intended to up their budgets in 2014, suggesting that that the rise in online marketing spend is accelerating.   

There are a number of reasons for this. Certainly marketers are shifting their focus from traditional campaigning and digital budgets are rising accordingly. Meanwhile, as social media platforms and digital devices proliferate, marketers are looking at an ever-expanding digital ecosystem and keeping up with new developments means spending more money. More fundamentally, marketers are in something of an arms race to ensure that the voice of their company gets heard in a crowded digital marketplace. Again, more spending.    Continue reading

Four ways to boost holiday bookings online

travel customer experienceThe holiday season is with us again and with the schools closed for the summer, millions of Europeans are taking to road, air and sea in search of a two week break from the pressures of the nine to five.

Collectively we invest a huge amount in our holidays. First and foremost, there’s the financial investment. Aside from buying houses and cars we probably spend more on holidays than on any other single item during the course of a year, especially if we’re talking about a family vacation involving four or more people. Then, of course, there’s the emotional investment. Having spent hundreds or thousands of pounds on a holiday, we rightly expect the best possible experience. The job of the airline, ferry operator, or holiday company is to deliver that experience.

But what does that mean in the omni-channel age?

Well the first thing that has to be said is that internet booking is now the primary channel not just for the intangibles of the travel industry – such as tickets and insurance – but also for complete packages involving flights, accommodation, transfers and possibly also hire cars and experiences. Indeed, according to to ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) 49% of UK packages are booked online.    Continue reading

Inbound call centre – 4 ways to boost performance

Inbound call centreIf you run an online business, contact centre agents are your front line fixers and ambassadors, not only resolving customer problems as they occur but also representing and embodying the brand. It’s vital, therefore, that they do their job effectively. A poor performance by your agents will not only hit sales or customer satisfaction rates in the short term, it will also undermine the brand over time.

So how do you ensure that your customer service agents are performing to the best of their ability? Indeed how do you make sure that today’s good performance is even better tomorrow and continues to improve?        

One way forward is to make it as easy as possible for sales and service agents to not only meet but exceed the expectations of the paying customer while also encouraging staff to continually raise their game. Continue reading

Online customer service – keeping the personal touch in high growth companies

customer experienceAs a rule of thumb, small businesses aspire to become larger. If successful they expand, take on more staff and sell to many more customers.

This is clearly a good thing. Rapidly growing businesses are job creators and they bring new ideas and creativity to the wider economy. But perhaps they also run the risk of losing something along the way, not least in terms of personal engagement with the customer.      

Think of it this way. A typical small business operates locally and whether selling to consumers or to other companies, the relationship with the customer is everything. Indeed, very often the founder will speak to customers on a day to day basis and he or she will oversee deliveries or handle problems personally.

That can’t last, of course. As the company scales up the founder’s role inevitably changes. Rather than dealing with customers directly, the emphasis will be on guiding the company strategically. Meanwhile, a new intake of employees and department managers take on the sales and customer service roles. And where once a customer might have called the company number and spoken to the same person – possibly the owner – every time, now  calls are diverted to newly-minted call centres. And it can all seem a bit impersonal. Continue reading

Customer sentiment – chatting is the best way to happiness!

live engagement

The stark bottom line is that live engagement via chat drives sales and pushes up average order values. It’s also a faster way to speak to customer service agents, without the hassle of picking up a phone, dialling a number and waiting in a queue until an operative becomes available.

49% of Customers Prefer To Chat

And as a survey published by software review site, Software Advice noted in January of this year, 49% of customers cite chat as the preferred channel for contacting sales or service agents when shopping online. Clearly then, chat is taking over from the telephone hotline as the primary channel for interaction with retail brands.     Continue reading

I’m on the train! The rise of the commuter shopper

mobile shoppingHow do you spend your daily commute? 

Well if you travel by car, the options are limited. Aside from a silent journey to work, you can listen to the radio, CD player or connected iPhone and that’s about it. If on the one hand you travel by bus or train, there’s a whole world of possibilities. You might read a book, leaf through a newspaper, study for an exam, post on social media, send text messages, or (risking disapproving glances from fellow passengers) talk to friends via voice calls.

Alternatively you might be one of the growing army of consumers who shop online on the journey between home and office. According to research by Zapp and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, around one fifth of all UK e-commerce sales are completed while customers are on their daily commute. In cash terms, that amounts to transactions in the region of £9.3bn.    

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Improving smartphone screen quality and increasing size has combined with the arrival of high speed (4G) connectivity to make the process of browsing and purchasing on the move almost as easy and satisfying as shopping on a tablet or PC. Indeed, for many consumers, the not-so-humble smartphone is the preferred route to online content and services. Continue reading

House of Fraser’s window into the future of omni-channel retailing

omnichannelRetail thrives on innovation, so it should perhaps be no surprise that department store group House of Fraser is planning to make the experience of “window shopping” just a little bit more high tech. 

Starting at Christmas this year, House of Fraser is hoping to create what it calls “shoppable windows.” In essence that means customers standing outside a store will be able to check out products in the various window displays and buy them online without going inside. The key is electronic beacons fitted to mannequins, which will connect customers to online catalogues. By setting up window displays in this way, the store chain says it will enable customers to make purchases after hours or on holidays when shops are closed. Equally important, the aim is also to encourage customers to buy online. At present about 70% don’t.

Initiatives such as these demonstrate the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel retailing.

Different Worlds

In the multi-channel world, customers are simply given a choice of purchase and browsing options. They can buy in-store, online, or perhaps over the phone, depending on what is most convenient. The retailer – or indeed any kind of merchant or service provider – simply offers the various channels without necessarily seeing them as part of a joined up strategy.    Continue reading

Ryanair and the profitability of good customer service online

customer service onllineAnyone seeking evidence of how a commitment to customer service can not only please customers but also boost the bottom line should look no further than Ryanair. Yes, that’s right, Ryanair.

Now even Ryanair’s most fervent supporters would have to concede that until recently the airline had something of an image problem on the customer service front. The company’s response was an ‘always getting better’ programme to improve service.

And the result?  Well the company’s latest full year statement showed a 66% rise in profits to €867m (£613m), attributed to the impact of the ‘always getting better’ plan (and falling fuel prices). The moral? Customers not only appreciate good service, they respond to it by buying more from the business in question and defecting to competitors less.

So what might a similar ‘always getting better’ programme look like for a web business, or indeed an omni-channel operation with a strong focus on digital?

Make it easier to reach out

Well the first thing a web customer will pick up on is the quality of the online experience. To a very great extent it’s defined by the design and usability of the site, along with the range of products on offer. For busy customers the overriding questions will be; does this site have what I want to buy and does it make it easy for me to find what I’m looking for and progress to the check out? Continue reading

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