Anyone who has suffered the pain of being without their treasured devices for just a few days understands the concept of the “always-on” world; these days it seems as if access to Wi-Fi is almost one of the fundamentals of being human.
As a result, it may feel like somewhat of a golden age for online retailers: all you have to do is provide a website and shopping basket and sit back while the customers make all the research and purchasing decisions themselves, right? Wrong.
The Role of the Contact Center
Consumers these days are still interested in speaking with a real person before making a purchase: according to research from ResponseTap, 70% (UK) and 74% (US) respondents said that speaking to an operator on the phone gives them peace of mind and confidence that they are getting exactly what they want, with 30% (UK) and 34% (US) saying it makes them more likely to make a purchase.
These figures support the notion that the human voice is still a vital activation to purchase, which means companies need to offer customers the choice of speaking to a real person, rather than simply the dreaded “press 1 for…”, “press 2 for…” etc. It is the call centre staff member’s attentiveness on the phone which really helps to develop a bond of loyalty between a business and the consumer, generating repeat customers and advocates.
As retail continues its progression into a hybrid “bricks and clicks” industry, competitive advantage is likely to come from these engaging customer experiences, with the best and most profitable contact center being able to replicate the experience of the in-store sales assistant over the phone. How can an online retailer ensure their sales staff are just as knowledgeable, witty, and tuned-in to a customer’s needs as those working in physical stores?
The Value of Data
The most successful brick-and-mortar sales assistants present a high level of expertise and rapport based on their ability to profile customers as soon as they walk in the door. With a contact centre this obviously isn’t possible, and we instead have to rely on sophisticated technology and data to give our agents information about a website user before they pick up the phone.
One of the most effective ways to impress customers is by integrating call tracking software with Google analytics. By analyzing a website user’s digital footprint (e.g. search queries, web pages visited) and offering a unique click-to-call button, you can drive the phone call from the customer to an agent who is knowledgeable about their search history. This enables them to respond more effectively to the customer’s needs – perhaps even clinching a sale.
Enhancing the traditional call center with tracking and analytics software means operators will be able to offer levels of service that are all but equal to their counterparts in the physical store. This means having strong links between a call centre and the marketing division.
The Omnichannel Experience
In order for online retailers to succeed, they need to think long and hard about the kind of experience they want to provide to their clients. This means thinking in a customer-centric way (i.e. ‘How does the customer want to interact with me?’) rather than projecting our own marketing objectives (i.e. ‘How do I want you to interact with me?’).
The main thing 21st century shoppers want, is choice. Currently consumers can engage with a company at a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalogue, or via social media; people also own multiple devices, and regularly switch between them as they research products and services. The task for digital marketers is to provide a seamless brand experience for the consumer, regardless of channel or device: this is omnichannel marketing.
As we have seen, the contact center is a vital part of the purchasing journey and so needs to be integrated into your omnichannel marketing strategy. According to an Aberdeen report, companies with omnichannel customer service capabilities achieve on average a 7.5% decrease in average cost per customer contact, an 8.5% year-over-year improvement in first contact resolution, and a 9.5% increase in revenue.
Imagine this scenario: someone has been researching a holiday in Greece and wants some advice from a staff member on which hotel to choose. With call tracking their call can be routed immediately to the agent who deals with Greece. The agent is then already clued in about the specific needs of the customer, making them much more likely to make a sale. As a consequence of the sales agent’s easy charm and unique knowledge of their specific needs, the customer purchases whilst on the line, with confidence.
This is the holy grail of marketing automation, and with the sophisticated online marketing and analytics tools available, it’s currently available for all.