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Getting the retail customer journey back on track

  • Seven essential steps retailers should take to really put Big Data to work by bringing their Customer Service and Marketing activities much closer together

Despite clear evidence of the risks of remaining cautious, many UK retailers are still failing to unlock the power of Big Data and seize the opportunities that result from offering a truly joined-up service approach to their customers.

mplsystems.paul.white.image.2014“Our retail sector is hyper-competitive, and you only have to think back to what happened to legacy businesses such as Blockbuster or Woolworths to understand that the penalty for misjudging consumer trends can be severe,” said Paul White, CEO of multi-channel customer contact technology specialist, mplsystems.

Retailers haven’t been slow to respond to this challenge, however too much of the focus and too much of the technology spend has been on disjointed, channel-specific initiatives – rather than the kind of integrated approach that can support retail staff in delivering a more unified and personalised shopping experience for customers.

“Having a fantastic digital brand campaign or launching a campaign-led mobile app of course attracts attention, but what really cuts through for today’s consumers is when retailers recognise them, remember their previous interactions and reward them for their loyalty – and that’s always much harder to get right. Central to achieving this is the ability to offer a seamless brand experience – regardless of the channels involved.”

Getting to this stage requires a clear focus. To enable this, mplsystems has detailed what it believes are the Seven Key Requirements that retailers need to address if they are to deliver a better deal for their customers:

  1. Combining their Contact Centre with other channels to create a Customer Engagement Centre – customer service staff in contact centres should be a critical part of the end-to-end customer experience. Instead of seeing the contact centre as just a place for problems, retailers need to treat the contact centre as the optimum escalation channel for more complex customer issues.
  2. Putting all their Big Data to practical use – Retailers have untold volumes of customer information, the challenge comes in making it accessible and useful across different customer touch points. Make more sense of your data by making it available to agents in the contact centre, to in-store staff via tablet devices, as well as supporting customer self-service interactions
  3. Recognise that Multi-Channel Digital is becoming more and more important – customers increasingly want to hop from one channel to the next, browsing at home, comparing prices on their mobile in-store, or switching to web chat to have their questions answered. Retailers need to be able to track these customer journeys across multiple channels so they’re always well placed to take the customer forward
  4. Take advantage of Self-Service and Automation – customers are increasingly intolerant of poor service quality. That’s why it’s essential for retailers to make the most of self-service and automated processes to handle simpler interactions, leaving their valuable in-store staff and Customer Engagement Centre specialists free to deal with more complex queries
  5. Make your mobile strategy really work – mobile apps need to be about more than just marketing and sales promotions. Instead offer mobile customer service apps with true Visual IVR functionality, linking to core business processes such as offers, local store details, account updates, delivery status – as well as bypassing traditional IVR with direct links to customer service agents via web chat or a callback service
  6. Don’t forget about supporting your staff – you also need to make sure your employees have access to the same technologies as customers. This could involve equipping in-store personnel with tablets so they can address customer enquiries immediately, or providing delivery staff and service teams with similar capabilities – enabling cross-sell and up-sell at the point of interaction, and also providing them with all the data they need to serve as effective company ambassadors
  7. Don’t be afraid of customer feedback – retailers need to open their doors and really embrace customer feedback. Provide a ‘Say Something’ function within apps to actively invite customer input. Deploy intelligent text analytics so you can respond quickly to customer instant messages or social media posts, potentially handling six out of ten of these interactions automatically

mpl.carshop.store.image.2014One retailer that is successfully applying such a Big Data led approach to its end-to-end customer journey is CarShop, the UK’s leading car supermarket group.

According to their Marketing Director, Leo Nelson: “we view the changing automotive retail landscape as a new opportunity for the future of our business. Digital technology is a key part of our strategy, but we also recognise that our people are still the key ingredient. Executed correctly, digital technology is able to stitch together our virtual and physical environment to deliver a great experience for our customers when completing such an important purchase. We knew we needed a more joined up approach that would provide both better support for customers, as well as a more comprehensive CRM solution to deliver an improved customer experience and maximise retention rates. Working with mplsystems enables CarShop to blend the digital and physical, creating a much more joined up process to strengthen the relationship between our customers and the brand.”

Working closely to develop customer engagement solutions for major European retail firms including Ford Retail, Studio Moderna, Global Blue, CarShop, Tesco Cards and two of the UK’s top ten supermarket chains, mplsystems understands the importance of bringing multi-channel retailing and existing Big Data sources together to achieve this goal. By integrating multiple data streams – such as loyalty programme details, promotions, customer care issues or purchase history – customer service staff (whether they’re in-store, in the support team or in the contact centre) have access to all the information they need to provide a high quality, personalised service.

mplsystems provides organisations with a solution to manage the entire retail journey, helping retailers to make the transition from individual, channel-specific customer service to a more unified and personalised experience. mplsystems’ retail solutions combine key technologies including an integrated multi-channel contact centre, a mashup approach for Big Data, CRM and back-office integration, and a customisable unified agent desktop.

For additional information see mplsystems’ Company Profile

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