It may sound counterintuitive, but rapidly advancing tech and ecommerce capabilities meant to streamline the customer journey have created enormous challenges for retailers. Free two-day delivery, once a miracle, is now considered table stakes by many customers in urban and even suburban areas, creating more pressure than ever on retailers to outdo themselves.
Amazon continues to push the envelope with one-day shipping subsidized by AWS profits – that is, when they’re actually able to pull it off these days – and other advanced retailers have been racing to keep up.
In essence, what was once a way to really stand out has become standard and the effort to add on new features and faster speeds is starting to look like a race to the bottom. The shift to ecommerce has meant delivery is undeniably important. At the same time, brands need to start redefining customer interactions and reimagining the impact on operations in order to really differentiate themselves.
Customer Service is Far More Than Free Returns
Thanks to social media and SMS, it’s easier than ever for brands to interact with customers. However, that accessibility doesn’t always translate to superior customer service. It’s far more challenging to gauge and measure customer concerns via a screen, rather than face to face. Many complaints are simply ignored, or retailers deploy generic customer service options such as an automated menu or bots, which only resolve a paltry 28% of issues, according to Microsoft.
This issue is fast becoming a major opportunity, with Instagram beginning to open its messenger API for brands, alongside other networks and forums already accessible to brands using third-party customer insight platforms.
Companies that are less tech literate may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of sources of customer feedback. With Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Amazon product listings effectively functioning as a 24/7 public message board, valuable information abounds for those who can sort through the noise. Retailers need a system to monitor, analyze and rank feedback to figure out what’s most pressing, and separate real complaints from fake ones. Having that understanding provides the agility to respond to messages in real time and plan for the future and iterate far more effectively.
Retailers that start connecting with customers on these platforms and learning about their complaints can provide a personalized experience more quickly and effectively than competitors. And the impact of that personalization is hard to overstate. Sixty-three percent of consumers expect businesses to know their unique needs and expectations, while 76% of B2B buyers expect the same, according to Salesforce.
With expectations at an all-time high, you need to invest in tools that make each customer feel like a VIP. Companies with technology that empowers them with an exact feel for the urgency and importance of a particular complaint gain a critical leg up on their competitors.
Reimagining CX Translates to Better Products
Most companies rely on product managers to determine potential new features, and what aspects of their products are not providing a decent return on investment. But while product managers are necessary for drawing up an overall product marketing and development game plan, there’s a critical source of information that many companies are overlooking: Customer feedback.
But utilizing the rich array of data available from existing customers goes far beyond sending out a quarterly survey. Take the time to perform a proper deep dive into all the places where customers are talking about your product. Think enthusiast forums, niche blogs and other corners of the internet where passionate fans of your product engage with others.
Going straight to the end user can help you quickly determine what best resonates with the public. Above prioritizing a quick sale, you need to focus on relationship building with customers that goes beyond a strictly transactional approach. You also should understand that your customers are a long-term relationship, not a short-term payoff.
Crowdsourcing customers has also proved to be advantageous. Brands including Lay’s and Ben & Jerry’s regularly reach out to their fans for input on new flavors, or even to float ideas for entirely new products. By placing the power to develop a product in customers’ hands, these companies are building lucrative brand loyalty, as well as establishing a built-in audience for new product debuts.
Introducing sexy new features or even more advanced bells and whistles like detailed, minute-by-minute delivery tracking is no longer a guarantee of success. While customers appreciate enhancements and updates, the thing they want most is simply to feel important. That means devoting time and resources to making them feel appreciated and heard.
Besides boosting customer satisfaction, taking customer feedback seriously also translates into insights for product development and future business plans. To truly stand out from the crowd, you must go beyond the “cherry on top” of tech, providing a stellar customer service experience.
Sharel Omer is CEO and Co-Founder of Affogata