Retailers must merge channels to deliver seamless customer service

Retailers are being urged to stop viewing traditional and digital service strategies as separate plans and merge the two together in order to create raving fans of their brand.

A recent retail conference held in London by K3 CRM and Microsoft revealed that the growth of omnichannel is not killing off the high street, but instead, helping it to thrive with the rise of digital in-store technologies. And it is those retailers who deliver a seamless customer experience throughout these touchpoints who will build loyalty for their brand and significantly enhance the customer buying journey.

"Consumers are demanding more flexibility, improved experience, better service, and more channels to engage with retailers more frequently," explained Alison Brown, Marketing Manager, K3 CRM, at the event.

"Retailers need to start to better understand the requirements and needs of their customers in order to deliver a seamless customer experience, whether that be in store, online, over the phone, or even through social media. Using centralised systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications can empower retailers with vital insights into customer behaviours, requirements, sentiment, and enable them to respond instantly to customers."

The rallying cry comes at a time when consultancy Eptica's recent Retail Multichannel Study has found that the UK's Top 40 retailers are failing to answer 45% of all customer service questions directed to them by email, yet respond to Twitter requests within an average of four hours; more than twice as fast as they did a year ago. In order to retain customers for the long term, retail businesses need to pay the same attention and customer service levels that they present in store with customers, to digital channels, in order to engage with a customer on every step of their buying journey. In order for this to happen, retailers need to first understand what their customers are saying about their brand, and where they are saying it.

As part of the conference retailers in attendance were given an insight into the social listening capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics CRM by Jessica Love, Audience Marketing Manager at Microsoft. Social listening enables retailers to listen, analyse and drive customer engagement from social channels at any time through CRM, breaking this down by demographics to determine certain locations where customer service is strong, and others where more training is needed. This makes it possible for retail businesses to measure the experience levels provided by different high street stores whilst keeping engagement levels high with customers even after they have made a purchase, through every touchpoint available to them.

The importance of engaging with customers through social media was a key theme of the event, with specialist Social Media Trainer and Consultant Andrew Davis demonstrating to retailers how they can measure ROI on consumer relationships with digital marketing.

Andrew Davis advised retailers: "With every industry fighting for attention through uploading content online, it is important to understand that retailers have become a media platform, like a broadcaster and a publisher, by default. Knowing how to not just create content but looking at how to distribute, engage and eventually convert potential customers is a very important goal."

Once retailers understand what their customers are saying about them and what they require, the message from the event was that they can then start to build loyalty through rewards and promotions. Stephen Crisp, Technology Solutions Professional for Dynamics, showed retailers how CRM can help to build and encourage loyalty through its Loyalty Management functionality. The tool allows retailers to manage existing customer data and use it to develop broad programmes to make customers feel more connected and dedicated to their products through promotions and rewards for positive sentiment or useful feedback.

Stephen Crisp concluded: "The key to delivering a great customer experience and enhancing the customer journey through multiple platforms, is in first understanding the customer, how they feel about your brand and what they need, and then using this centralised information to offer incentives and rewards to encourage them to remain loyal. Through utilising the right CRM technologies and applications, retailers can ensure they continuously deliver a seamless customer experience at all times, rather than have different customer service strategies for different channels and scenarios."

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