Tuesday, June 25, 2024

    Better customer contact channels the key to saving the cost-of-living Christmas

    Twilio, a leading Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) that drives real-time, personalised experiences for brands, has unveiled new research on the barriers between consumers and retailers this festive season.

    With the cost of living crisis, ongoing economic tailwinds and the impact of the World Cup,  typical Christmas holiday shopping patterns are being disrupted and retailers need to gather insights on their customers’ behaviours and reprioritise resources to keep engagement high.

    When complaints like product faults and delivery issues are among the most common reasons for people getting in touch, retail businesses are potentially risking sales if they do not put customer engagement first.

    Consumers already dread contacting retailers’ customer service – but when it is done correctly, customers are more willing to engage with brands, more likely to recommend, and more likely to repeat purchases.

    However, there is still time to rectify this: nearly a third of consumers (30%) are yet to start their Christmas shopping – rising to 38% in the over 65 bracket. Retailers have an opportunity to proactively build relationships with customers by using data insights to form a complete picture of the customer, how they best prefer to interact with businesses and what concerns they’re likely to have.

    Judicious digitisation key to capitalising

    In the wake of the pandemic many retailers future-proofed against further disruption by shifting more operations to ecommerce and updating existing digital offerings. With just 10% of consumers planning only to shop in-store this festive season, this set retailers in good stead.

    But in this extended period of uncertainty, digital investments should now be re-evaluated with functionality in mind, and efforts to streamline and personalise customer engagement with smart automation must come to the fore to lower customer acquisition costs, and increase customer lifetime value (LTV).

    Early signs suggest that effective digitisation can be beneficial for building customer relationships. Following the rapid digital acceleration over the course of the pandemic, 82% of those who contacted customer service in the festive period last year reported a positive experience. With over half saying that customer service could change their mind about a company, companies must not let standards drop in the face of increased fiscal pressure and should look for ways to drive business growth through customer engagement.

    However, they have their work cut out: 30% of those surveyed said they felt retail customer service could be more efficient. What’s more, many find customer service tedious and are reluctant to contact it at all. In the 18-24 age group, 27% said they would rather go through airport security, 26% would rather go to the dentist, and 24% would rather get trapped in a lift with someone they don’t like.

    Customer experience heavily impacts where customers choose to shop

    The customer is always right’ has long been retail’s guiding light. Yet while retailers are getting better at delivering great customer experiences, data reveals that over half of respondents (55%) still think their queries aren’t dealt with efficiently. Consumers during the cost of living crisis are strapped for cash, and if they do not believe they are getting value for money when it matters most, they will vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere.

    Retailers must remember that customer service is not an island. Customer support agents need access to information from across the customer journey in front of them to offer insights and propose solutions,” said Sam Richardson, customer engagement consultant at Twilio. “Centralising and analysing first-party customer data dramatically improves customer care, and it can also arm retailers with the information they need to improve more complex customer journeys like the returns process. It is essential to build thoughtful solutions that can help customers navigate any issues or queries, meet varying needs and expectations during turbulent times, and increase engagement and loyalty.”

    Value can be boosted with effective customer engagement strategies

    With customers more preoccupied than ever with value this shopping season, it is perhaps not surprising that they are also prioritising efficiency when it comes to retail purchases. While 64% of retail customers prefer to speak to a human agent overall, 47% are happy using automated messaging services if it means their issue is going to be resolved.

    This gives retail brands the directive they need to focus on deploying human customer service agents only where it matters most – and when it comes to digitising, focusing on making only the changes that make sense for the customer.

    “Using first-party data to understand any issues and then rectify them is the single most effective decision a retailer can make, even in these challenging times,” continued Richardson. “In the current climate, it’s a relationship economy: the winners are those who build strong connections with customers; who create experiences that engage people and make sure that they want to keep coming back.”

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