Retailers are responding to new expectations for customer experiences and growing demand for ecommerce, but how are they keeping pace with evolving consumer expectations? As shoppers return to storefronts, they now incorporate a wider blend of online and offline shopping experiences. Recent research by McKinsey reveals telling statistics about the evolution of digital CX over the last few years:
- In the first quarter of 2020 as the pandemic started, U.S. ecommerce grew at a rate that would have taken 10 years before COVID.
- 75% of U.S. consumers tried different stores, websites or brands during the COVID crisis.
- 60% of these consumers expect to integrate the new brands and stores in their post-COVID lives.
A recent Five9 consumer survey found that 43% of consumers globally now do most of their shopping online (up from 22% pre-pandemic). Even as in-store traffic resumes, 74% of consumers do online research before visiting a physical store, according to a 2021 study by Google Think. And omnichannel customers purchase up to 70% more often than their offline-only peers.
CX Stakes Are Higher
Delighting customers not only drives sales — it can also lead to brand advocacy. More than half (51%) of the consumers Five9 surveyed about ecommerce said they are likely to share positive online shopping experiences on social media.
But get the user experience wrong, and you risk losing customers for good. Five9 research also found that the percentage of U.S. respondents who say that they are very unlikely to do business with an organization after a bad experience increased from 31% to 35%. Expectations are up. Patience is down.
The Need for Advanced CX Technology
Three things are driving new demands to modernize the customer experience:
- Blended omnichannel shopping experiences that require broader expertise
- A labor shortage
- The trend toward automated, streamlined workflows
Today’s leading cloud contact center platforms offer innovative ways to deliver positive CX while using automation to assist agents and improve productivity. The benefit: Retailers can deliver personalized experiences while streamlining the experience for both agents and customers.
Here are some of the latest advances:
Digital Enhancements and CRM
Great customer experiences happen across many channels. Innovative technology and integrations between CRM and contact center software incorporates new functionality with features like click-to-SMS within the CRM UI and population of SMS-related interaction data, enabling screen-pop functionality for SMS interactions. This helps agents provide the best customer experience regardless of channel.
Messaging channels like webchat, SMS/text and social messaging have steadily risen as part of customer communication, resulting in more channels for agents to handle. Eliminating application switching and extra training with a single, unified interface for all messaging sources simplifies deployment, maintenance and rollout of new channels.
Evolving Agent Desktop Environments
The agent desktop should be the central hub for efficient delivery of exceptional customer experiences. The more agents can focus on customer interactions rather than navigating siloed systems, the better. AI that integrates directly into CRM environments — such as Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, ServiceNow, or Zendesk — is a game-changer for streamlined agent workflows. Agents can use a single UI to manage call controls; view transcripts, summaries, and real-time call guidance; and access CRM data. Agents can spend less time looking for information across systems, boost productivity, reduce average handle time and improve customer experience.
The Newest AI-led Automation Technologies
Customers who initiate an engagement on a digital channel may eventually need a live agent — and they expect that agent to have the context of the digital interaction to provide a seamless and efficient experience without putting them on hold to hunt for information.
Agent assistance tools leveraging AI, natural language processing and machine learning guide interactions. When a call comes in, the system routes the interaction history to an agent and analyzes the current interaction in real time to provide “next best action” recommendations. The latest agent assist tools can serve as a checklist that triggers tasks based on content or customer intent. The checklist can track verbal actions, recognize keywords and automatically check items from the list, helping agents improve their quality scores.
Intelligent virtual agents or IVAs are the next generation of self-service. Offloading repetitive activities like password resets to digital agents means live agents can focus on more complex interactions. And if a customer needs to switch from self-service to a live agent, the IVA provides the full context of the interaction.
Retailers can easily automate workflows using a low-code approach and a library of pre-built connections to popular business systems. Workflows standardize process execution, delivering consistent outcomes and making exceptional customer experiences routine.
Modern contact center solutions include workflows that initiate automatically in response to events or system data, such as a case created in a CRM system or a metric exceeding a threshold. The flexibility to automate simple to very complex workflows can streamline repetitive processes and ultimately allow agents to spend more time focusing on the customer.
Utilizing a combined unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) solution equips retailers to increase first-contact resolution and reduce customer effort. Agents can instantly see experts’ availability and connect people in real time — without searching, waiting or losing the customer. With real-time access, agents can quickly loop experts into calls. Customers spend less time making second or third calls because issues are resolved in real time — leading to greater customer satisfaction.
Better Metrics for a Modern CX
Deploying modern technology is one side of the coin; the other side is metrics. Evolving KPIs is a critical part of optimizing the digital user experience. It’s important to track metrics that deliver valuable, actionable insights that can lead to direct improvements in CX.
However, research firm Metrigy recently found that 88% of organizations use the same KPIs regardless of channel. For many retailers, it’s time to rethink metrics and identify where it makes sense to measure differently, including:
- Channels in use: Retailers can help CX leaders expand or reduce staffing on specific channels or suggest investment in self-service and conversational AI.
- Self-service containment: This metric is important because it reduces costs and increases customer ratings — so long as self-service leads to resolution. If containment is lower than the goals, leaders can investigate why.
It’s Time to Implement What’s Next
As retailers move into a new era of omnichannel shopping, implementing the latest AI-driven, cloud contact center platforms will ensure that they have the technology to deliver fresh, innovative CX.
Improving AI-enabled self-service is one of the top areas of growth this year, according to Metrigy’s research. By 2025, CX leaders estimate that 56% of customer interactions will start with self-service. Organizations need to start measuring containment to document success and growth.
Meanwhile, retailers can address a tight labor market by leveraging AI and automation technologies, empowering existing staff to do more with less effort, and enabling self-service options that keep customers happy and coming back.
Now is the time to move to the cloud or upgrade to the latest generation of cloud-based software.
Scott Kolman is an SVP of Marketing at Five9 with responsibility for the overall positioning, messaging and promotion of the Five9 intelligent cloud contact center offering. In this role, Kolman oversees corporate marketing functions including media relations, analyst and influencer relations, brand and creative, content strategy, and social and customer marketing. Kolman has an extensive background in enterprise software marketing and is a recognized professional with expertise in customer experience, customer service and the cloud contact center. Prior to Five9, he held leadership positions at Genesys, Synchronoss Technologies, SpeechCycle, Amdocs, Lucent Technologies and Octel Communications.