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  • NETMEDIA International

The cross-channel customer experience targets excellence (VOL 1.)

1 - Anticipating customer expectations

Brands are increasingly merging physical and e-commerce channels, self care, social networks and conversational channels.

By choice or sometimes by necessity, consumers are diversifying the way they enter into a relationship with brands to look for information online before buying at the point of sale, to place an order on the brand's website or on a marketplace, to book an appointment in a shop, to engage in a conversation on an application, to complain on Twitter... Faced with this fundamental movement, which has accelerated even further in 2020, the cross-channel customer experience - and its corollary of opportunities to be transformed - has logically risen to the top of the agenda for companies. This raises a number of challenges, given the increasingly demanding nature of consumers, their varied expectations and unpredictable journeys. In some circumstances, the same customer will want to be autonomous and to go as fast as possible, while in other circumstances, he or she will request personalised interactions and relevant proposals...

With 66% of customers feeling that they are "just numbers", offering different options and continuity between channels remains a differentiating factor, says Salesforce Research in the 2021 edition of its focus on the connected customer. Even more so now that the health crisis has made everyone accustomed to combining experiences, blurring the boundaries between physical and digital more than ever. "E-commerce has become a convenience but customers need an emotional connection at the point of sale. Click & collect has changed the way we interact with the customer in a human-machine alliance. As sales on smartphones are based on instantaneousness, a mobile app should offer the same level of experience as in-store," observes Grégoire Pauty, principal strategist Business Innovation Design at Adobe EMEA.

Adapt and anticipate

Brands that want to offer "frictionless" - integrated and fluid - journeys are trying to anticipate all the possibilities of interaction. Even if it means entering into a frantic race for contact points: a physical network and/or an e-commerce site on the sales side, communication and marketing tools that are increasingly deployed on the web and social networks, chatbots and conversational applications available 24 hours a day in addition to the traditional tools (telephone, email, contact with an advisor) for customer relations...

"Whether we multiply the channels or offer alternatives to which we can refer, the only valid point of contact is the customer. If the AI detects his mood in the conversation, the brand can also work on empathy and adapt to an irritant that may come from elsewhere, which the frictionless person does not always realise," says Sylvain Harault, Senior Solutions Director Western Europe at Pegasystems. Be careful not to over-script the pathways to find points of interaction.

In 2020, the increase in the volume of interaction on all channels has shown the importance of rethinking the pathways. In three months, Oracle deployed its cloud solution on Carrefour's contact centre, which wanted to harmonise its traditional and digital channels. As a result, Carrefour was able to resolve 95% of customer requests and increase agent productivity by 20%. The improved experience has resulted in a 4% increase in customer satisfaction and a better brand image. The digital pathways launched in the summer of 2020, orchestrated with Pegasystems and based on the principle of one question per stage, also enabled BPCE to sign its 100,000th insurance e-contract in December.

Better compilation of customer data

Now that customer data has become vital, gathering all the useful signals in a single space - for example in a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that cleans, analyses and defragments customer data - is a priority for gaining a 360° view and improving the cross-channel experience. " Increasing the base with third-party data that the customer leaves on digital and in physical networks, including shops that do not belong to the brand, can then feed the ecosystem and give it intelligence to activate the best interaction on the right channel ", argues Emmanuel Obadia, vice president of marketing at Oracle Marketing Cloud Product. It's up to each brand to bounce off the signals it detects! "If a telecom operator changing its pricing sees that a customer is checking his bill in his customer area, he can engage in a discussion to ask if he needs explanations, for example in chatbot mode. Artificial intelligence associated with conversational tools can also provide many services: offering online advice or a recommendation, or even guiding the customer towards a choice of products when they are disappointed by an online purchase," he continues.

Historical systems benefit from being streamlined and shared across the enterprise, which is often far from the case. "Yet 54% of consumers expect different departments to communicate with each other for a better experience. When a salesperson calls a customer, the tools should indicate if the person is stuck on an existing problem or bring up an event that would justify changing the nature of a contract," reports Olivier Nguyen Van Tan, VP Marketing France at Salesforce.

Each development is an opportunity to identify the obstacles and to assess the capacity for change within the company. "Changing the processes gradually reassures and gets the teams on board. We can plan a list of paths to be standardised on different channels or gradually increase the power, as Transavia has done," Sylvain Harault reports. When the low-cost airline worked with Pegasystems on complaints management, the service was deployed to 40% of eligible customers. The initial feedback enabled the necessary adaptations to be made before deploying the service to 100% of the target group, and then getting down to selling additional services.

New value propositions

Faced with hybrid customer behaviour, retailers are finding ways to adapt. Adobe, for example, is developing mobile applications exclusively dedicated to the in-store experience and designed to be used in this universe. "It is important to enhance the physical experience through social, by offering dedicated spaces or a special relationship with the advisor. The brand benefits from establishing a more intimate relationship with its customers: their shopping basket increases and they spend less time in the shop doing showrooming", says Grégoire Pauty. Clienteling apps allow salespeople to put the customer's expectations into context and anticipate them. "They are particularly useful in distribution channels where the customer has less autonomy. In the hyper-luxury sector, these apps make it possible to avoid moving all the products to the shop. When it is made on demand, the customer will be able to own the product and preview how it looks without actually having to touch it," he adds.

The video proves useful in a target audience strategy. Even without significant resources, it can reveal the identity of the brand and be very effective in uniting communities," says Julia Cames, Senior Marketing Manager France at HubSpot. Internally, tutorials on how to use a product, as well as white papers and long formats, can feed sales teams on themes such as diversity or new ways of buying. They also allow us to rediscover an emotion that we don't have as much as we used to behind the screens."

The brand offers customers two hours to think about their order and modify it if they have any regrets. This time offered before the order is prepared avoids a negative experience for the customer and allows the brand to reduce the impact of return costs," says Olivier Nguyen Van Tan of Salesforce. In any quest for excellence in customer experience, the mechanics need to be tested.

"Some brands that had automated their loyalty programmes based on spending amounts may have downgraded the experience if they were not vigilant enough. Preferred customers were downgraded when they simply couldn't pay their dues to the brand in 2020," says Hélène Chaplain, partner at Deloitte. If customers are willing to commit and show loyalty to companies whose values and social commitment they share, beware of backlash, even in the case of simple clumsiness. Since customers have brought their expectations in line with the standards of cross-channel customer experience champions, they are no longer satisfied with promises. Above all, they expect proof of excellence!

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