Black Friday’s Over – But the Customer Experience Is Not.
Black Friday marked the official beginning of the busiest retail season of the year, as millions of shoppers across the U.S. descended on malls and visited online retailers in search of the latest Black Friday deals. Stuffed on turkey and mashed potatoes, consumers united to spend an estimated $23 billion on Black Friday alone. And that was just the start of the retail season.
For B2C brands, the holiday period is a critical time for increasing their bottom line, as they look to capitalize on the season of giving by attracting new customers to physical and online stores. This year, it is estimated that over 165 million people shopped over the holiday weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For smart brands though, engaging with customers during this season is about much more than just singular holiday transactions. When executed correctly, customer engagements at this time of year can turn those one-time customers into loyal ones for life. Key to this, however, is having a well-planned customer experience (CX) strategy in place.
Last month, Voxpro – powered by TELUS International, surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers, all of whom were planning to increase their shopping during the holiday season (October through December). The results revealed key insights about how consumers prefer to interact with brands, and what levels of trust they place in them. While technology has transformed the CX landscape – allowing companies to deliver seamless and often automated customer interactions – it is not the sole answer to delivering beautiful customer experiences.
The Human Touch
According to the Voxpro CX Index: At the Corner of Technology and Human Experience, consumers still want human interaction – which means businesses should consider deploying a balanced approach to CX this holiday season. In fact, the survey revealed that 68 percent of consumers still haven’t used chatbots to contact a brand. Additionally, 56 percent of consumers who haven’t used chat or automated features say it is specifically because they prefer experiences with real people. While technology has certainly helped deliver efficiencies for CX, the survey shows that it hasn’t yet advanced far enough to replace the human experience. Technology can, however, augment the human experience, by delivering the context and insights that humans need to improve interactions. The Voxpro survey results show that 49 percent of consumers said they would be willing to use automated or chat features initially for information gathering, to ultimately speak to an agent to resolve their issue.
The takeaway here is clear – technology can enable better customer experiences, but it must be combined with a personal, human interaction. By leveraging both humans and technology, businesses reap the benefits of speedier and more efficient transactions. Consumers also reap those benefits, but without losing the human touch.
Making It Personal
Customer experience is all about people – and that applies for both ends of the interaction. Humans are at the heart of creating beautiful customer experiences and consumers want their interactions with agents to be as convenient and personal as possible. Indeed, 45 percent of consumers want brands to have their information available to them beforehand in order to streamline interactions. Of those consumers, the number one reason for this preference comes down to convenience and the time it saves (65 percent). Another 25 percent say it is because it provides a more personalized experience.
It is within this area where technology is so critical to delivering excellent CX. If automated chat is used to gather background about a customer and their unique issue before the human interaction begins, it results in the agent being able to make it a more customized experience and resolve their issue faster. It’s a win-win scenario for customers and businesses – customers get a speedier resolution, and agents are more productive because they are spending less time on the mundane, information-gathering part of the interaction. Given that the holidays are the busiest period of the year for both consumers and businesses, leveraging both AI and humans can help brands save valuable time.
Consumers will be spending a lot this season, and customer experience will prove to be a critical differentiator when determining which brands they choose to invest in. Product and service quality is an important part of any retail strategy, but too often, CX is overlooked during the holiday season. As new options enter the market, such as online ordering and in-store pickup, creating a blended CX approach through a seamless online experience and friendly in-store interactions will be crucial this season. The truth is, many customers are willing to ditch their favourite brands after one or more bad customer experiences. How you interact with consumers this holiday season could be the difference between gaining more customers and sending them running to your competitors.
As the Voxpro survey reveals, consumers are looking for a balanced blend of automated and human interactions when connecting with brands. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer or online merchant, businesses that keep these preferences in mind will reign supreme and not only drive successful sales during the holidays, but also gain customers for life.
Stay tuned for part two of this blog series on the Voxpro survey, where we dive into more findings and share our 2019 predictions. For more information on the Voxpro CX Index and to download a summary of the results, please visit here: Voxpro CX Index: At the Corner of Technology and Human Experience.