Bridging the Gap for Seamless Customer Service On and Offline
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During the rise of the digital landscape, there’s been a lot of discussion about the potential for consumers to abandon brick-and-mortar businesses in favor of online shopping. Yet, it has become clear that the reality is more nuanced. There’s a place for both approaches in many consumers’ lives.
This means that businesses — particularly retailers — need to make relevant adjustments to their operations to meet consumer needs. It’s not enough to simply offer great brick-and-mortar customer service and excellent online experiences independently of each other. Rather, a truly great customer experience in the present commercial climate requires companies to find ways to bridge the gap between the two.
Utilizing Direct Consumer Feedback
While multi and omnichannel customer service is proving generally more popular in recent years, there are still nuances to consider. There will be specific needs related to your specific consumer demographic, your industry, and even your brand values that can impact on and offline customer service. In order to bridge the gap effectively, it’s vital to reach out to your customers directly to seek insights.
Customer relationship management (CRM) surveys can be a valuable tool in this regard. By sending questions via your CRM software, you have the ability to gain better-quality data. This is not just because you have accurate contact details to reach them with, but also because you’re able to segment the consumers you send surveys to by their relevance for the goals of your assessments. In this instance, you could target those who have already demonstrated a willingness or interest in interacting with your company both in-person and online.
Another way to gain survey feedback from consumers is through conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Chatbots on your website and even on in-store tablet devices can have discussions with consumers about their online and offline experiences. Rather than relying on targeted survey questions, conversational AI can analyze both the surface and background context of the chats to provide data insights into the likely omnichannel needs, difficulties, and priorities of consumers.
It’s important to leverage real-life interactions in your pursuit to make improvements. After all, while surveys are helpful, they can also be quite generalized and influenced by unconscious biases. By taking the time to observe consumers as they take action, you can both test fresh approaches to service and identify areas for change you may not have otherwise captured.
This can start simply enough with insights from your customer service staff. Talk to them about how consumers are utilizing your online and offline services. Discuss the complaints that have been received about online and offline interactions. After all, your staff has more nuanced day-to-day experiences of the practical hurdles consumers face related to omnichannel interactions. You should also give them space to test new approaches and report on their findings.
Another often underexplored way to leverage interactions is through events. These may be company celebrations, opening days of sales, or even trade shows your customers visit. You can gather a wide range of consumer data at events, including demographic information, event feedback, and engagement actions, among others. Capturing the details of interactions effectively depends upon utilizing a variety of methods. Simple registration forms and face-to-face discussions can garner some good initial demographic information. However, you may also find that tracking activity via wearable sensors on wristbands can also provide you with fine details about how consumers interact with in-store elements, technology, and staff.
Wherever possible, ensure these interactions at events examine online and offline elements. Provide in-person consumers with access to technology and devices that enable them to visit your website and use services at the event. You may even consider hosting simultaneous in-person and online events to measure the differences in engagement and how you can improve interactions in both areas.
Blurring the Lines for Better Experience
Often, the focus of multi and omnichannel customer service is on noting where the issues lie and adopting effective tools or processes to address these. While this may be an effective approach for some companies, it is increasingly apparent that there are opportunities to provide a more holistically beneficial customer experience. You can achieve this by blurring the lines between online and offline, rather than treating them as different animals.
Indeed, the future of retail is expected to feature enterprise intelligence as part of a more meaningful and multifaceted customer experience. Enterprise intelligence is, in essence, an ecosystem of innovative technologies and tools that boost efficiency, maintain connections with consumers, and improve the operations of a business. It’s vital to understand that consumers today shop online for convenience, while also still valuing in-person interactions. Focusing your enterprise intelligence tech on elements that reduce the divide between the two channels can enhance experiences that bolster customer loyalty and boost your reputation.
So, what types of technology are effective for blurring the on-and-offline customer experience? This can involve adopting chatbots on mobile applications that both guide consumers through online shopping sessions while also answering questions and offering advice while navigating their brick-and-mortar trips. AI-driven smart shelves can register information on the types of products customers handle and subsequently email them with informative content or discount codes for online shopping.
As customers demonstrate a preference for both online and offline shopping journeys, it’s vital for businesses to find ways to bridge the gaps between the two. This starts with gaining direct feedback from consumers about where they feel the hurdles are in service during both types of shopping. Similarly, observing customer interactions can give you insights into where key areas of improvement focus should be. Adopting a solid system of enterprise intelligence tech can be the key to blurring the lines between in-person and online experiences.
Additionally, you must maintain an awareness of how the marketplace continues to change. Tools such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and the metaverse could further alter how consumers interact with businesses in the future. Wherever possible, take the time to gain a good understanding of these changes so you can more effectively integrate them into your operations, improving the continued efficacy of your customer experience.