It’s finally here: the end of the 2016 holiday season. For the most part, life has returned to normal on the front lines, in operations, and at brand headquarters. And the new year offers a fresh start.
There’s no better time to think about where you’d like to take the customer experience in 2017, and what it will take to get there.
If you’re serious about making meaningful changes that fuel growth, start by committing to these five new year’s resolutions.
1. Tear Down the Silos
Delivering a consistent customer experience is essential to brand image. It’s also more challenging than ever before.
Consider how complex the customer journey has become. If your channels aren’t aligned, the resulting friction can cost you sales and customer relationships. A seamless experience is what customers expect and deserve, no matter where or how they engage your brand.
Even if you don’t have omnichannel offerings in place (buy online, pickup in-store/buy online, return in-store), you still need to think holistically when it comes to measuring the quality of your service and operations across all brand channels.
2. Study the Customer Experience From Both Angles
To assess their performance, some brands rely exclusively on voice of the customer (VoC) data programs such as CSAT surveys and NPS. The benefits of these subjective data programs are clear: customers appreciate being heard, and their comments and suggestions can lead to big strategic breakthroughs.
Other brands prefer objective research (mystery shopping, brand audits). Their main concern is ensuring front-line teams are in compliance across channels and at all times. With clear, specific data in hand, they can troubleshoot challenges and weaknesses and strengthen employee training.
Both of these data collection approaches are important. But collecting only one form of data can actually work against you.
On the other hand, using both types of data increases the value of your customer experience research. If you have rising and falling satisfaction scores, mystery shopping results will explain the trends. You’ll also have the VoC insights you need to develop effective customer experience strategies (and to save you from making costly mistakes).
3. Motivate Your Front-Line Teams
Do those “employee of the month” awards and NPS scores light a fire under your front-line teams? Or could they use a little more inspiration? Think about the tools you could introduce to boost morale and drive engagement.
- Positive customer feedback for a job well done is the best morale boost there is. Many brands have adopted technology that gives customers a chance to deliver direct, immediate, personal ratings and comments to individual customer service agents.
- Internal recognition and rewards are great motivators as well. Consider using leaderboards around the office to showcase top-performing agents. Nothing like having some friendly competition to bring out the best in every employee.
- Share the data from your VoC and mystery shopping programs so employees understand what the results are and what they mean. Doing so not only increases employee engagement and brand pride, but also helps teams focus and prioritize.
4. Humanize and Personalize Even More
Each time a customer walks through the door, starts an online chat, sends an email, or picks up the phone, you should know whether that customer has history with your brand. A loyal customer who has shopped with you for years wants to be recognized, and a brand new customer expects to be nurtured. Each should be treated accordingly.
With the right technology, you can personalize and humanize the ecommerce experience to a great degree. You can identify customers on initial contact, make their purchase histories available to your customer service agents, and give your agents a face by including photos of them within your feedback requests.
In-store technologies, from clienteling apps to smart dressing rooms, offer big returns as well. They make the brick-and-mortar experience both personal and seamless by tying it to the customer’s online and digital activity. And they’re excellent at driving sales.
5. Make Service Drive Sales
It’s easy to focus on sales associates as the primary sales drivers. But customer service agents play an equally important role. For brands that recognize this, there’s a huge opportunity for market differentiation and revenue growth.
To ensure your employees are adequately trained and doing all they can to boost sales, focus on these questions during your mystery shops and brand audits.
- Suggestive selling in store—Suggestive selling, when done properly, is just another friendly way to serve customers. It’s all about helping them have a successful shopping experience. Are associates suggesting complementary items? Are they cross-selling and upselling, based on customers’ stated needs? Are associates attempting to save sales when customers try to return products?
- Customer service by phone, chat, or email—Your customer service agents should be poised and ready to turn inquiries into sales whenever possible. Are agents offering to complete transactions? Are they making product recommendations (for example: “This item runs small, so I’d suggest ordering a larger size”)? Are they offering expedited shipping?
Your objective data will tell you how often these actions are being performed, and any obstacles or weaknesses that might exist. These insights will enable you to optimize your service-to-sales strategy.
Before You Start, Know Where You Stand
To start the new year off right, consider benchmarking your performance against that of leading brands. This will put your performance in context and allow you to set concrete, meaningful goals. Monitoring industry trends over time, and how your brand compares, is a great way to gauge your progress.