In The Race To Retail Dominance, Customer Service Changes The Game

Retail customer service

@FreedomTumZ via Twenty20

Remember when big box retailers crushed the “mom and pop” shops that once formed the backbone of retail? The same thing is threatening to happen online, accelerated by the unprecedented challenges, uncertainty, and consumer expectations fueled by the COVID pandemic. Today’s retailers are expected to do more with less resources, while keeping up with the retail prowess that the Amazons and Walmarts of the world are offering their customers.

These and other online retail giants have instilled a tremendous amount of confidence among their customer base that they can deliver desired products quickly and at competitive prices. Customers trust that if they have transactional questions about their order, they will receive a timely and accurate response. The difference now is that emerging retailers know that shoppers are looking for exceptional service at every point along the customer journey, not just during or after product purchase. These retailers are using full funnel sales support, inclusive of consultative support and personalized relationship-building, to differentiate themselves from the major players in e-commerce.

Through this high level of service, retailers have a prime opportunity to forge strong connections with their customers and create a level of brand loyalty that can stave off threats from online behemoths. As the pandemic continues to threaten retail prosperity, companies will need to lean on their customer service departments even more to deliver the bespoke experience customers demand. By taking advantage of innovations in CX, DTC brands can create the same trusted environment that bigger players have already achieved. Here’s how: 

Understand and meet the needs of the whole customer.

To become the “go-to” or “must have” brand that customers desire, businesses must serve their customers’ needs better than anyone else in the market. Businesses must find a way to communicate better with their customers in the face of new and more popular ways of connecting, especially considering 79% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred medium or platform. This involves a number of critical success factors, including association with the right influencers, being where the customer is, and knowing more about the product and the customer than the customer themselves.

Offer assistance at every point of the buying cycle.

According to Kustomer research, the most frequent inquiries that CX teams received during the 2020 holiday season truly spanned the customer journey, with most coming pre-transaction, when consumers had questions about products they were considering. 

DTC wedding dress company, Anomalie, faces the challenge of replicating a high-touch experience of a retail boutique, with the transparency, customization and value that DTC companies provide. Anomalie spends months with their brides, from the initial outreach to the day they walk down the aisle making it critical that all information is in one place and customer service representatives can work with their customers on any channel. 

Use social commerce to create bespoke customer experiences.

Customers are seeking highly personalized experiences, advice and assistance tailored to their individual wants and needs. According to recent Kustomer research, personalization is the most highly valued customer service attribute. More and more, brands are relying on social commerce to deliver this level of customization. With social commerce, customers can research, review and purchase directly within the social media platform of their choice while seeking advice and asking questions of brands and influencers without having to switch channels. With insights into customers’ likes and preferences, their shopping history at a glance, and the ability to orchestrate their experiences across all channels, brands can better deliver the bespoke experience modern customers demand. 

Brazilian DTC fashion brand Amaro is another interesting example of social commerce in action. By integrating their customer service CRM with Instagram Messenger, Amaro’s customer service team was able to leverage the impact of direct messages to replicate the personal experiences their shoppers would have received in-store.

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The CX “frankenstack” has created a breaking point for customer service. Old, outdated tools cobbled together to address a completely new set of needs is unsustainable. And with Forrester predicting that digital customer service interactions will increase by 40% in 2021, brands must ensure that they are equipped with technology that allows for an omnichannel customer service experience. Customer service departments must be able to facilitate seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next, whether that be chat, social, email or phone. Technology that can collect and harness data gained at every touchpoint to create this omnichannel experience can drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships, increase revenue streams, and improve operational performance.

As the race to retail dominance continues, the stakes are getting higher and higher for DTC brands to compete. Brands must not underestimate the critical role that customer service can play in providing proactive, full funnel support throughout the customer journey. By meeting customers where they already are, brands can deliver more bespoke experiences while tapping the power of CX to impact the bottom line and stand out from the competition.