s Your Retail Brand Ready to Go CX Automation First?
For a brand to say that it’s customer-driven, customer-focused or customer-obsessed has almost become a cliche.
What can retailers do to truly connect with customers day in and day out and future-proof their brand against industry disruptions and shifting customer expectations?
In this article we will be covering the definitions of customer experience-(CX) automation, how your brand can capitalize on adopting a CX automation first strategy and guidelines to follow to create a CX pathway to achieve your customer experience goals.
What is CX?
CX represents the entirety of your customers’ engagements with exposure to your brand and how that affects their perception of you. It’s a holistic concept that ties together every shopper touch-point across the customer journey and how your customer ‘experiences’ your brand. Viewing and assessing these touch-points collectively as opposed to categorizing them as a series of discrete interactions that can be optimized individually is what the efforts around CX are all about.
Investing in creating exceptional CX increases customer loyalty and retention, builds greater customer lifetime value, and drives better word-of-mouth and referrals. You can’t grow your business without it.
What is CX Automation?
Customer Experience (CX) Automation is a broad term that encompasses all of the ways that e-Commerce-trained AI can be leveraged to provide high-quality customer assistance to your shoppers as they interact with your brand across the service moments and communication channels of their choice.
Often, we think of automation as a “set it and forget it” option like automated bill payments and investments, “smart” home thermostats, self-driving cars that allow us to put a process in place and then leave it largely untouched to hum along in the background. This set it and forget it mindset doesn’t work for CX automation.
Instead, CX automation requires a dynamic and strategic approach that can be continually optimized based on customer data, changing customer expectations, and the emergence or decline of particular channels.
Just as your automation technology platform gets smarter as it’s exposed to a greater volume of customer interactions, your automation-first CX strategy (and your entire organization) should get smarter as you scale and optimize to deliver the most intuitive, frictionless, and useful interactions possible.
Why Should Retailers Build a CX Automation First Strategy?
There comes a time in every industry’s life cycle when it can no longer avoid grappling with the influence and impact of technology on the core of its operations. While digital-first marketing has become the standard for most brands (there will always be few catalog holdouts!), CX Automation is not yet as ubiquitous.
Brands may dabble with on-site webchat or post-purchase order tracking, but stop short of committing to fully embracing automation as the foundation of their customer engagement. This can mean that they’re missing out on the myriad competitive benefits that come from building a forward-thinking automation-first strategy instead of settling for a piecemeal approach.
Here’s why CX Automation is the smarter choice:
When it comes to CX Automation, we’re talking about scale on two dimensions; the volume of customer interactions that automation supports, and the breadth of channels that it spans.
In the first case, automation offers a clear advantage over human agents and manual processes alone. After all, there are only so many calls, chats or emails a single customer care agent can handle in a given shift, no matter how efficient they are.
As well, there is a hard ceiling to how much a retailer can grow its human customer care workforce before the associated overhead costs become untenable. For most retail brands, CX Automation offers the ability to provide streamlined, customized experiences at a scale that human agents can’t match.
Assuming you work with a forward-thinking, innovative solution provider, CX Automation can also allow you to rapidly scale to new channels in tandem with ever-changing customer behavior, adding new functionality as needed, without the need to expand your CX tech stack with more narrow, single-channel solutions.
Alignment With Customer Expectations
Customer expectations around CX have been growing steadily and they show no signs of slowing down.
Customers expect responses to their inquiries in real time on the channel of their choice. They expect end-to-end order tracking and a fully automated return process. They expect brands to be responsive, intuitive, personalized and unobtrusive in their communications. CX automation, with its always-on ability to leverage customer data and past behavior to create seamless cross-channel interactions delivers on these expectations.
Increased Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
Customers, both happy and unhappy, talk. Research conducted by HubSpot last year indicates that 89% of customer care professionals believe that customers are more likely than ever before to share their positive and negative experiences with a brand.
In a climate like this, where millions of potential customers can be influenced by a single tweet or post, it becomes more crucial than ever to ensure that a customer leaves each interaction with your brand satisfied.
There’s no room for customer support emails that languish in a queue, precious minutes spent on hold, tracking numbers that don’t work and clunky multi-step return processes that leave shoppers regretting ever ordering in the first place.
An integrated automation-first CX strategy allows you to meet the growing expectations of customers seamlessly and in real-time, creating personalized, customer-led experiences that result in much greater satisfaction.
Lower Customer Support Costs and Drive Revenue
Customer support costs are top-of-mind for retailers, with over half of retailers reporting they’ve experienced an uptick in spending in this area in recent years. Controlling these costs is a constant battle, with every brand looking for ways to gain even the smallest of edges. An automation-first CX strategy provides the opportunity to do just that, while also boosting bottom-line revenue.
A robust cross-channel CX automation solution can handle up to 70% of routine customer inquiries, meaning that you deploy your limited customer support live agents more effectively to handle only the most complicated cases.
An integrated cross-functional approach to automation also promotes process streamlining and cuts down on costly redundancy among operating units.
The best case scenario for your brand, of course, is combining reduced costs with increased revenue, which automation is also able to provide. And better CX gets you there–almost 90% of customers are willing to pay a premium for outstanding customer experience.
By improving CX across channels, you also improve customer retention, driving additional customer lifetime value. Smart automation also allows you to leverage customers’ buying histories to identify valuable opportunities to cross-sell and upsell with personalized product recommendations, which also increases shoppers’ desire to spend, and to convert returns into exchanges with suggestions of comparable products or variations on the original purchase (another size or color) that may fit the shopper’s needs.
How To Scope A CX Automation First Strategy
One of the first steps in developing a winning automation-first CX strategy is to understand your customers behavior. This might sound daunting, but the process doesn’t have to be if you approach it with an intelligent and open mind.
To ensure that you’re setting your CX Automation strategy up for success, answering these questions will help you to gather the necessary insights into your customers behavior.
Know the Demographics of Your Customer
- Who are your target customer segments?
- How does each customer segment use technology in their daily lives?
- On what devices are they interacting with your content?
Conduct Keyword Product Research
- How are customers discovering your products?
- Which search terms are they using to find specific products?
Outline Your Current Customer Journey
- What does the current customer journey look like for your customer segments?
- How many interactions does the average customer have across their journey?
- What are the current physical and digital touchpoints you have in place across the journey?
Know Your Post-Purchase Use Cases
- What are the most common post-purchase questions you’re being asked?
- How are you currently soliciting feedback from customers?
- What are the most common pain points around shopping with you that they’re sharing?
Conduct a CX Automation Competitive Analysis
- What types of CX automation are your competitors leveraging?
- What about leaders in your industry?
Implementation and Evaluation
- Based on your needs, resources and desired implementation timeline, does it make more sense to build or to buy a CX automation solution?
- If you choose to buy, how will you evaluate vendors and their offerings?
- What KPIs will you measure and how will you evaluate the ROI of your strategy?
Start Your CX Automation Strategy With Expansion in Mind
While the temptation might be to try to go from zero to 60 right out of the gate, if you’re new to CX automation. It pays to start with a limited use case, master that and then expand your usage to cover the entirety of the customer journey as you gain experience and are able to leverage lessons learned.
You might start with implementing on-site webchat or automating your post-purchase order tracking process, depending on where you see the greatest opportunity within your customers’ journey.
Examine Customer Experience-CX Silos
Good CX can’t exist in a vacuum. Think of trying out a new restaurant. You could have the most amazing server in the world waiting on you, but if the food comes out under-cooked, the dining room is freezing or the music is so loud you can’t carry on a conversation, you won’t walk out at the end of the night with a positive impression.
Successful CX automation requires cross-functionality. Sales, marketing, inventory management and logistics need to be integrated and feeding each other information, so that the end user, your customer, is delivered an intelligent, holistic bespoke customer service interaction that leverages all of the individual pieces of data you have about them and their order history that reside in different corners of your organization.
A stand-alone automation solution can’t get this done, nor can a customer experience strategy that neglects the need for automation entirely.
CX Automation First Is A Mindset Retailers Cannot Afford to Ignore
Outstanding CX doesn’t happen by luck or accident or by simply proclaiming your customer obsession to the world. It requires an ongoing commitment to deeply understanding your customers and to thoughtfully and meticulously create an entire journey’s worth of interactions that are tailored to their individual needs.
An CX Automation first strategy takes that vision from daunting to doable by allowing you to leverage purpose-built conversational AI to deliver on your brand promise, meet shopper expectations and give your organization the vital ability to adapt to the changing competitive landscape.
Build Your CX Automation Strategy With Flexibility
Today’s technology may not be tomorrow’s. In fact, it more than likely won’t be. Build your CX automation first strategy with maximum flexibility in mind.
As consumer preferences for specific channels and devices change, you want to be able to adapt your automation approach to match their new behaviors.
To the degree that you can, you want to be channel-agnostic (or work with a vendor who is) to maximize your ability to be responsive to the needs and expectations of your customers with the shortest possible learning curve and lag time.