Retail Focus: Digital Telecomms and Customer Service Boost

How quickly today’s store becomes the store of the past largely depends on how fast retailers achieve Digital Operational Excellence, which powers the triad of continuous customer experience improvement, data-driven customer intelligence and cost-effective operations. Time to review how a flexible communications infrastructure can help you adapt faster to changing consumer behaviour and operational requirements.

You don’t need to look much further than your local high street to see that bricks and mortar retail continues to take serious hits. Whilst independent shops across the country have long been falling victim to high business rates on the high street, more recently, established chains such as Jones Bootmaker, Staples and BHS have come to feel the full force of UK consumers’ preference for easy and personalised shopping experiences online.

Retail research confirms the behavioural shift we’ve long been able to observe in our own lives: some 87% of UK consumers are digital shoppers, with women driving the success of mobile commerce. The variety of digital devices and channels, as well as their convenience, make online shopping the key driver behind sales growth in an otherwise stagnant market.

What’s the Message for Retailers?

With shoppers turning to digital solutions to purchase anything from fashion, food and homeware to holidays and event tickets, retail businesses are forced to reinvent their operating models faster in order to meet customers in digital channels – and to convert that traffic into sales with appropriate customer experiences.

This is not to suggest that the British public is ready (yet) to move to an exclusively online shopping experience. After all, 88% of all UK shopping still took place in physical shops, the ONS reported less than a year ago. These developments signal that a well-blended experience that transcends a retailer’s physical and digital environments is worth the investment. Give consumers the best of both worlds.

In parallel, since customer expectations change over time, retailers need to develop the ability to flexibly adopt technology and continuously adapt operations in a way that allows them to transform internal business services and external customer service in step with evolving expectations. So, here we have it: If your company doesn’t want to be the next Jaeger, it’s time to redesign operations to evolve alongside customer expectations.

Digital Operational Excellence and Digital Customer Experience

Digital Operational Excellence is the foundation of successful retailers today, and the prerequisite for the more visible building block, Digital Customer Experience. Both are quite achievable once the Boardroom leaves behind the idea that ‘Digital Transformation’ means simply bolting on the latest digital, mobile or social apps.

A good (and often overlooked) place to start reinventing operations is a retailer’s communications platform because its rethink has the potential to significantly improve back office operations as well as the front-end experience. 

Here are a few key considerations that are essential to address when examining your communications environment.

1. Agile Infrastructure

First of all, you will want to host voice communications infrastructure in the cloud to attain full scalability and disaster recovery. As digital and web communications and big data grow at an increasing force, it will give you better resilience and more flexibility to roll out applications as and when required.

Secondly, your communications system needs to be integrated with front and back office systems such as EpoS and CRM to easily share information across the business and to embed comms applications into everyday processes for faster cross-departmental collaboration. 

2. Cost-Effective Communication with Cloud

A hosted and managed cloud infrastructure helps to push costs down on calls and management by centralising communications and reducing call costs through either IP communications or SIP. It provides access to the latest technology without having to spend on the hardware or technology, and saving on recruiting for IT skills that you don’t have.

3. Customer Ease at the Heart of Good CX

Thanks to technology, consumers are armed with information and always in the know about competitive offerings but what really tips the scales is how easy it is to purchase from you.

Ideally, your main competitive advantage stems from the seamless and convenient experience you create for your customers – a whopping 78% are focused on the ease of their experience (UKCSI 2017).  Fashioning a unique experience and continuously improving upon a personalised and easy customer journey is, in fact, the secret sauce whose recipe leading brands like Amazon, Etsy and Asos have learnt to master.

4. Omni-Channel Communications

The goal should be to blend the technologies your customers use, creating a flexible omnichannel communications ecosystem that makes it easy for you to pick up and service customers in digital channels, no matter whether the individual’s preference is for phone, email, text, social media, video or web chat. Using a mix of channels and escalating seamlessly between them based on enquiry and context will not only help to personalise service interactions but also generate new types of customer data.

5. Shared Customer and Business Intelligence

Increasing customer intelligence across the business requires a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, operational information needs to be fed into the contact centre to give agents advanced intelligence about stock levels, marketing and logistics. On when agents have a better view of operational data can they expedite the resolution of customer enquiries in the contact centre.  

On the other hand, valuable customer information taken in the service process needs to flow back into a business-wide CRM that bundles customer data for meaningful analysis.

Senior managers need to ensure that data is collected in a single repository, silos are knocked down and processes are connected to enable departments to work together more closely. Collaboration and transparency go a long way in creating and delivering smarter customer experiences more efficiently.

Own Your Story

The bottom line is that lots can be done to differentiate your business from the next retailer and secure its survival if you seize the opportunity to create a digital backbone. It’s not a mean feat but if you get it right, your customers will share your story and help keep those doors open!

Throughout 2018 you will find us sharing our best ideas with communications technology at seminars and industry events. Check out our Event Preview and grab a seat for one of our sessions for yourself or a colleague!  

This article was last updated on 19th December 2017.