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5 Retail Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid in the Post-COVID Era

Common Customer Service Mistakes

Closed due to COVID-19In 2020, retailers grappled with unprecedented challenges, juggling evolving demands with operational disruptions. Situations didn’t always have clear answers, and what worked yesterday had the potential of becoming a revenue-busting problem by morning.

The one thing that absolutely did happen during the COVID-19 outbreak was that consumers shifted to digital channels in large numbers. According to the Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Research, many of those who increased the use of digital-enabled services will persist with them.

87% will continue to use contactless payment, 80% will shop again through social media platforms, 84% will keep ordering in-app, and 77% will reuse live chat, chatbots, and voice assistants.

As the post-COVID era slowly begins to roll out, department stores, franchises, warehouse retailers, and supermarket chains are continuing to evolve to meet customers’ changing needs. The Accenture research noted that gaining competitive advantage requires new strategies and hinges on avoiding several common mistakes that can negatively impact customer retention and revenue growth.

Mistake #1: Downplaying Digital

As retailers were forced to limit operating hours or shut down stores due to lockdowns, they quickly expanded digital channels to meet customer needs. Contactless shopping and service became a necessity for the safety of both shoppers and retail employees.

Along the way, consumers grew more comfortable with digital channels. Now, online shopping for products and services and even essentials, previously purchased in-store, has become normal. Growth in digital commerce in just the last few months has equaled the growth of the last 10 years, found Accenture. And per the McKinsey Digital Sentiment Survey, 75% of people who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.”

There is no question that the digital train has officially left the station. Digital business was a megatrend even prior to the pandemic and is now seeing exponential growth. Retailers that do not take digital commerce and service to the next level will face a cloudy future at best.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Channel Silos

Experts have been touting the benefits of omnichannel customer service for years. The ability to provide a seamless experience across channels is undoubtedly powerful. Yet, many retailers, already suffering from disconnected, siloed channels, created bigger problems for themselves as they scrambled to add new silos in the form of chatbots, messaging, or other digital channels to urgently meet shopper needs amid the pandemic. The result? Disconnected shopper experiences, lower CSAT, and lost revenue.

All channels, including self-service, phone, and brick-and-mortar stores, must be connected to provide the contextual, cohesive experience customers now expect. With a digital-first, omnichannel customer engagement hub, retailers can address this issue and enable customers to get the help they need on the channels they prefer—revealing new opportunities for building customer loyalty and boosting revenue.

Mistake #3: Underestimating Shopper Expectations

While the objective of customer experience hasn’t changed over the past year, the circumstances under which retailers must deliver experiences have. Face-to-face interactions shifted to virtual overnight. Customers became simultaneously impatient and hesitant, focused on economic, health, and family issues, as they made purchasing decisions. Even before the pandemic, none of the retailers, whether multichannel or digital-only, had made it to the “Excellent” category (score of 85% to 100%) in Forrester’s annual CX Index report.

With expectations running higher than ever before, retailers are pressed to move beyond simply connecting with customers to providing advice and solutions. But most struggle to rise to this level of service. Nearly 60% of consumers complained that they received different answers from chatbots and human agents—tarnishing their trust in the customer service capability of the business, according to findings in a recent Dimensional Research-eGain survey.

This is where a rich knowledge management solution, powered by AI and reasoning, can be extremely useful. Providing agents with conversational guidance and the right answers for customers in need is a powerful capability. When this level of service is delivered across all customer touchpoints, it can become a force multiplier that strengthens brand loyalty.

Mistake #4: Not Quantifying Business Impact

Retailers wouldn’t dream of opening up a new store without conducting the due diligence necessary to determine if the expansion will be lucrative. Yet, many are plowing investments into vendor solutions that fail to generate real-life value.

As an example, Gartner says that it’s now taking an average of four years for enterprises to get “big iron” AI solutions up and running, let along get ROI from them.

When evaluating digital solutions, retailers should look at the vendor’s approach to digital value creation, including the time to value, and proven use cases. By choosing vendors with rich, out-of-the-box capabilities in analytics and digital engagement, and best practices in digital customer service, you can minimize or eliminate the eternal wait to get measurable business value.

Mistake #5: Ignoring domain expertise

There are countless vendors claiming to offer solutions to improve the shopper experience. How many have the proven domain expertise that retailers need? Vendors must not just provide the technology, but also best practices for quick business value and deployment success.

Conclusion

It is evident that digital is here to stay as we return to normalcy. Retailers have a tremendous opportunity to boost their competitive advantage by ramping up their digital customer experience capabilities. And with the right solution provider by their side, they have the potential of becoming an Amazon in their own space!

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