|O+F Operations and Fulfillment|
The holiday season is nearly upon us, and consumers aren’t the only ones making wish lists. For retailers, a most-desired wish is to provide a superior customer experience – one that boosts customer satisfaction, drives solid financial performance and cements customer loyalty long into the New Year. Achieving this takes work, but it doesn’t have to be elusive.
However, unlike consumers who can sometimes squeeze by with last-minute holiday preparations, retailers need a well-planned, advance strategy – and one that prioritizes the customer experience across channels.
Here are five tips to keep in mind to improve the customer experience and your bottom line:
Measure customer satisfaction
It’s as simple as this: if you don’t measure customer satisfaction, you can’t reliably know what to improve. It’s important to have a baseline – and to measure customer satisfaction after implementing changes as well – so you can gauge the effectiveness of improvements.
Steer clear of basing decisions simply on “opt-in” feedback, which typically elicits responses only from those with extreme opinions. Random and representative surveys will provide the most accurate and actionable data.
Measure across channels
Your customers want – and are increasingly used to having – a multichannel experience, so it’s important to measure customer satisfaction in a multichannel way. How are your individual channels performing? How do they interact and overlap with each other? What’s the cumulative effect and performance as a whole? Most retailers find it valuable to measure customer satisfaction across in-store, Web and mobile channels, at the least. Benchmarking satisfaction across contact center and social channels can trigger valuable improvements as well.
A word to the wise: Don’t underestimate the degree to which channels can be interrelated. For example, one multichannel retailer we work with found that by improving customer satisfaction on its website, it was able to significantly decrease contact center inquiries. It’s also a mistake to take a siloed, channel-by-channel approach – as consumers look at your company and see a single a brand. They want to move fluidly between channels, and find the same products and prices. A different strategy in one channel can undermine other channels, yield confusion and frustration, and ultimately dilute brand loyalty.
Know what’s important
Customer satisfaction scores alone aren’t enough to base your holiday strategies and changes on. It’s important to have a barometer – and know what changes, exactly, will cause the biggest impact. You can unearth surprising and important results and dichotomies – sometimes finding that a top-cited request, in practice, may not actually be a big motivator in driving customer traffic and repeat purchases. For example, we often see that customers say price is important to them. However, in actuality, data shows that other factors like product content often far trump price reductions in driving purchases – and thus should be greater priorities.
With a comprehensive methodology – one that’s credible, reliable, accurate, precise, predictive and actionable – you can understand what truly drives customer satisfaction; identify and prioritize improvements; and see cause-and-effect relationships.
It’s a common misconception that, to improve customer satisfaction, you have to improve what you’re delivering. Instead, it’s often not a matter of adjusting what your customers get – but rather what they expect to get.
For example, a clothing retailer recently learned that the holiday ads it had been running in women’s magazines were having an unintended effect. Readers became enamored with the accessories pictured and took to the Web to search for them… with no luck. The director of ecommerce was able to adjust the expectations of site visitors – saving them from fruitless hunting and frustration, and consequently boosting website satisfaction – by simply posting a notice that the accessories were unavailable.
Have a merry mobile holiday
We’ve been hearing about the “year of mobile” for several years now. Still, given the dramatic increase in smartphone and tablet usage (with mobile devices even expected to outnumber the world’s population by year-end!), there’s no doubt that the mobile channel will play a formative role in overall customer experience this holiday season. Plus, the mobile Web is becoming more accessible and interactive – inviting even greater traffic. All this is resulting in a new breed of information-driven, multi-device and more-empowered-than-ever consumers. They have the ability to read reviews, price compare and do research all from their pockets.
As such, it’s important to measure satisfaction on your mobile channel, mobile site and apps. Making valuable improvements stems from knowing what consumers want from your mobile channel and how they’re using it. We see that mobile is usually a “companion channel” – often used by consumers to compare prices and check item availability while they’re in a store.
Larry Freed is president and CEO of customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.