Customer experience holds the key for Retail

23rd October 2013 | By Mouseworld Now Correspondent |

Knowlarity-CEO-Ambarish GuptaOnline retail sales is setting a scorching pace (Forrester predicts a 10% compounded growth rate) so where does that leave physical retail outfits in the scheme of things? Will they even have a reason to exist in a world that has gone online with a vengeance?  Experts say that physical retail outfits will have to seriously rethink their operations today to stay relevant in the markets tomorrow.

The most important thing to come out of this kerfuffle has to be the change in customer’s expectation from retail outfits. It is no longer just about driving to your neighborhood retailer, picking goods off the shelves, crossing purchases off the list, paying at the counter, and finally checking out of the store, but it is also about the overall experience, you had at the store, right from the moment you walked into the store to when you checked out. Suddenly, customer experience is the buzzwords in retail.

So what is customer experience doing in retail you say? When did it originate? To understand this new phenomenon well, we will have to go inside the mind of the millennials – those born in 80’s. All around the world, it is the millennials doing most of the entailing or online buying and it is they who are most demanding when it comes to customer experience. Their expectation of customer service can be traced back to their online retail buying experience where information is readily available on hand and transactions take place at lighting speeds. Since they are so used to closing online transactions in a snap they expect equally good service when they step into a retail outfit.

In this context the first five minutes become hypercritical retail outfits. Retailers failing to engage their customers within the first five minute of their walking into the store risk losing them to their competitors who are more proactive in their customer engagement efforts.

Outfits like AT& T and Apple Store have moved quickly to retail 2.0 built on the strong foundations of successful customer experience. Both have tried cutting down unnecessary customer waiting time and hooking customers with unforgettable customer experience. In AT&T reps are taught to receive the customer as soon as they step into the store. Even if it is an unusually busy day at the store, customers at retail outfit like At&T and Apple Store can expect a company rep to come up to them the moment they walk into the store and apologize for the delay in service if there is a delay and providing a time frame within which service would be provided. Research shows that customers provided with a time frame within which a rep would serve them cope with delay of service better than their counterparts who are not provided with any information.

In some stores, customers are welcomed warmly as they step into through the door by reps armed with notebook computers. These reps take down customer details and drop the information into cloud database for further processing. With their notebook aligned with robust cloud ERP platform running in the backend business reps are able to quickly check inventory level and provide the latest updated data on deals and offers provided by the company. Unlike earlier, the customer won’t have to wait in a queue to pay for their purchases. The agent enters the information in the computer and sends the billing information directly to the customer’s email address after processing the payment information with the help of hosted ERP solution. This bringing together of transactional and communicational aspects of the business into a single contact point helps in speeding up customer service drastically leading to better customer experience for the customer.

In a recent survey customers were asked what was most important to them to which a majority answered customer experience. Most of these customers also revealed that existing levels of customer experience left lot to be desired and there was ample scope for improvement. Retailers will do well to recognize these trends and take to technology in a big way to improve customer experience.

 

By-Ambarish Gupta, CEO and Founder, Knowlarity Communications

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