As companies emerge from the biggest retail shake-up in living memory, everyone is dealing with the big questions around recovery. Businesses have tough decisions to make as to how they reboot their offer for customers, when the future is still so unpredictable and the circumstances so exceptional.
For customer facing brands and businesses, alongside the survival plans and pivots, the most urgent task is understanding and engaging with customers to meet their new expectations and priorities.
Retail’s COVID Response
It has been inspiring to see how retail companies have tackled this over the past few months, in the face of such adversity. With little time to draft plans and strategise at HQ, retail’s COVID response was rapid. Driven by the needs of local customers and delivered by proactive, engaged and compassionate frontline staff. This is what facilitated such dynamic action and change. Whether that was store formats, scaled-up home deliveries or community-focused customer service.
With the post-lockdown period remaining volatile, this relentless customer focus needs to continue. During the pandemic, consumers have become more promiscuous. 24% have started shopping with a retailer they haven’t used before (RetailX Coronavirus Consumer Confidence Tracker April 2020). Furthermore, many will be willing to stick with a new brand discovered during COVID-19. This will hurt some and helps others. But whether companies are increasing loyalty with lapsed shoppers or cementing new relationships, it’s the customer experience (CX), as much as product or price, that will drive satisfaction scores and revenue.
Technology has a critical role to play in delivering an experience that meets new customer needs and expectations. For businesses with hundreds of regional branches, how else can fast, agile, locally-relevant CX action be delivered? Here are the six most relevant questions businesses should be asking about their CX technology today.
Can it be used by everyone in the business?
Customer insights are useful for long range planning at HQ. But if staff on the shop floor are out of the loop, they won’t be able to meet the needs of customers to the best of their ability. Use technology to make sure precious customer data doesn’t get stuck in silos where it’s of no value. It should be creating insight and action across the whole company. Most importantly, this must include the people who deliver for customers on a daily basis at the point of CX. Also make sure new technology can be easily integrated with existing business systems. A lot of expensive retail technology risks going unused and delivering nothing in return, simply because it’s too time-consuming or difficult for staff to use.
Does it facilitate an agile, local CX response?
As stores re-open, customers will demand scrupulous cleanliness, contactless shopping options, social distancing and increased channel availability. But the impact of COVID-19 varies across cities, towns and communities around the UK. Regional fluctuations look set to continue. CX technology must allow local business teams to take the real-time pulse of changing consumer needs and pain points in their own area. This will ensure they can swiftly identify new expectations and take action to resolve issues.
Is it relevant to post-COVID customer preferences?
People are taking a more regimented approach to store visits. They want instant answers about opening times, queues and stock availability before they leave the house. Locally embedded technology used by local store managers is the best way to drive this level of customer engagement. It helps brands develop a personal connection with shoppers. Social distancing and a nervousness about physical interaction in store have also shifted more customer conversations online. Technology must connect this online dialogue with the offline experience so that local teams can seamlessly engage with and serve their customers.
Will it help to motivate staff?
Front-line retail staff have faced huge disruption in their working lives during the virus. Meeting the changing needs of customers continues to be difficult. For retailers to take on the big challenges that lie ahead, they need engaged, motivated teams. Make sure technology can deliver customer insights for internal – as well as external – communications to instil a sense of pride, purpose and commitment amongst local staff. Seeing the direct impact of their actions and hearing positive customer comments about their service is a powerful driver of staff performance and satisfaction.
Is it updated with the most relevant customer channels?
The channels consumers use to interact with brands are always evolving. That’s why CX technology needs to be up to date and integrated with the latest and most relevant options. A good example is Google’s Business Messages. This new channel means that people can contact and hold rich conversations with their local business in real-time, simply and directly from Google Search and maps. It has huge potential to enhance the way brands positively interact with customers. But only if it’s visible to staff and integrated with CX systems.
Does it build customer loyalty?
As people try new brands and drop others, the pressure mounts for retailers to secure the loyalty of their customers – old and new. To achieve this, retailers must start to engage with their customers on a more personalised and compassionate level. Deploy technology to build rich, real-time customer communications. Focus on local relevance, conversation and convenience to build strong emotional ties for the long term.
To find out more download our free e-book: Human Centricity is key for physical retail in the new COVID-19 world.
Critizr is Europe’s leading Customer Feedback platform. Founded in France in 2012, the Critizr platform is today used in 25 countries by over 80 of Europe’s biggest companies across 20 different sectors including retail, banking, travel, entertainment and hospitality. It is transforming the way these businesses listen to and understand their customers, empowering their staff to take action and deliver a great customer experience every day.
Critizr’s unique design reflects co-founder Nicolas Hammer’s vision that true customer-centricity can’t happen from the top down; it has to be adopted company wide, by every team and member of staff. This ability to empower local teams – the frontline staff who can deliver a brilliant customer experience – is the key to Critizr’s success. It transforms all employees into powerful customer champions in their own outlet.
To date, household brands such as Carrefour, Total, Mr Bricolage, Nocibé, Flunch, Crédit Mutuel Monoprix and Havas Voyages have all demonstrated the benefits of working with Critizr. This includes an optimised customer experience, stronger customer relationships, higher rates of customer satisfaction and loyalty, an improved e-reputation and NPS score – and ultimately, increased revenues and profit.