The secret to offering a superb customer experience

The consumer is driving the future of retail, but how do you work out what matters to them most, in order to deliver greater profitability through outstanding customer experience? That’s the quandary that many of today’s omni-channel retailers are facing.

In a recent article, international analyst Forrester noted the growing trend of Customer Experience rooms – interactive spaces designed to give retail workers greater understanding of the services their customers receive by replicating their journey within the store, over the phone or when visiting their website. The reality of what shoppers experience can often be painful for retail personnel, but many companies see this as essential for creating consumer empathy, which in turn delivers greater standards of service.

While putting yourself in the shoes of the customer is an incredibly valuable exercise, retailers shouldn’t rush to set up a Customer Experience room without taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, though. Statistics released by Accenture this week revealed that 76% of businesses admit to wasting up to half their customer experience budget, investing in activities that fail to generate ROI.

What many retailers forget is that customer service doesn’t always mean wowing shoppers with impressive merchandising displays or sleek sales pitches; these ‘icings on the cake’ are irrelevant if consumers can’t access the products or information they require.

Unifying communications and processes behind the scenes is the most important thing retailers can do to ensure they deliver a seamless customer experience. Being able to monitor all contact with customers, and draw on that information during future encounters to tailor promotional messages or personalise conversations can make or break shopper relationships and loyalty.

Visible data and operational clarity are just as important as empathy. Running a seamless, focussed operation behind the scenes will give customer-facing staff the ability to deal with consumer enquiries without getting stuck for basic information or being failed by back-end systems. This confidence is what makes the difference between a poor, good and great customer experience.

What’s the real reason card payment usage in the UK continues to grow?

The UK Cards Association has this week announced that consumer card spending surpassed £0.5 trillion for the first time in 2013. According to the report, nearly 75% of all retail spending is now through credit and debit cards in the UK, a big increase in comparison to ten years ago, when it lingered below the 50% mark. This has left us questioning, why?

Electronic payment methods have been around long enough now, that people of all demographics have felt comfortable using them for some while – so this is a doubtful cause for the constant increase, although it may be a contributing factor.

Some may blame consumers’ growing reliance on credit cards, however there has actually been a 16% fall in outstanding borrowing on credit cards since its peak in 2005, as the economy finally seems to have made a turn in the right direction. If anything, this would impact negatively on card payment figures.

In-store payment innovations such as contactless and MPoS give consumers a more exciting format to use and they may be encouraged to pay this way than through traditional methods. The ease of both payment types offer customers more convenience and speed – two things that consumers are increasingly craving.

Hand-in-hand with an increase in card payments is the growth of e-commerce – if you want to shop online, you simply have to pay electronically or you can’t make an order. With the growing spectrum of delivery and collection options being made available, paying online is sometimes the best option for time-pressed consumers.

The world is becoming ever more electronic in all aspects of life and consumers want the convenience and ease of paying by card. For large establishments, this can sometimes pose a problems with updating systems and connectivity on a large scale, but ensuring all parts of a business are networked in together streamlines the process and will inevitably impact on a company’s bottom line.