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The Year eCommerce Changed Forever

eCommerce

In a very controversial year, from politics to how COVID was handled, one thing we can all agree on and that is that 2020 changed eCommerce forever. Everyone depended on Amazon, Walmart and even Chewy for their day to day, week to week, and even month to month needs. Beginning in March of 2020, these companies had their challenges, but rose to the occasion.

In face, the chart below shows the percentage of online shoppers making at least one online purchase every two months since the outbreak.

They were made for such a challenge. They had their ducks in a row a long time ago. I can remember back 10 years ago when many retailers were still less than optimistic of creating an eCommerce site for their business. “People like to have the in store shopping experience”, many would say. Many retailers felt that eCommerce was a nice to have, but not necessarily a must have.

Late to the Game in eCommerce

Prior to COVID many retailers did try to develop an online presence. Retail stores like Pier1 come to mind. They are a good case study because when they launched online, they semi-launched. I am certain this had to do with many supply chain issues and operation logistics that were out of their control. However, I have to wonder if they jumped on the bandwagon at the very beginning and worked through it over the years, would they have been in a better place in 2020?

Back in 2015, The Wall Street Journal said this about Pier1:

The downward trend coincided with the launch of Pier 1’s e-commerce initiative in July 2012. The company’s heavy investment in that area showed results with 16% of sales coming from e-commerce in the third quarter, up from 12% a year ago. What Pier 1 failed to anticipate was that growth in e-commerce business wouldn’t simply be additive to its overall sales. It also meant less traffic to its bricks-and-mortar stores where costs are fixed. That left Pier 1 with too much inventory. It plans to close 20 to 25 stores this fiscal year.

“Years ago, Pier 1 was a great place to get these unique products, and they would source all this cool stuff, but once Amazon and Etsy came on the scene, you didn’t need them anymore,” said digital marketing consultant Judge Graham, who said he has previously done consulting work for Pier 1. “Target really broke out and reinvented itself years ago, and Walmart did that by becoming more niche.”

What the Consumer Experienced

As a consumer, one always views things retailers do from a different angle. That is why market research so important. You can never learn enough from your customers.

When a consumer would visit the Pier1 website, it was everything you thought it would be. It was colorful, inviting, full of great products and it loaded quickly. All great, until you focused on an item of interest. When attempting to place the items in your cart, you would first have to provide a zip code. At this point, it was hit or miss if the item would be available to ship to your address. To make things even worse, it might not have been available at your nearest retail store either. How many times will a customer return to browse a site knowing ahead of time they may not be able to get their item?

Let’s say that the item was available in your zip code and you purchase it. The next part of the process is important as well. How long did it take? What condition was it in when it arrived?

If you think the above image is an exaggeration, it is not. It is a good representation of several boxes I personally received during the holiday season.

2021 Prediction

I predict the winners in retail down the road, post COVID, will be the ones who are serious about eCommerce. They will be the ones who are listening to their customers in every touchpoint possible. Data will become even more important than it ever was. It will be needed to not only evaluate the customer experience, but to do some predictive analysis on what consumers are looking for in a provider of goods and services.

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Improving NPS for a Better Customer Experience

Net Promoter Score

Quality Assurance in the contact center is being used to improve NPS (Net Promoter Score) and overall customer experience

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? Could you please rate your recommendation on a scale of 0-10?”

These are two questions that can induce anxiety into any business. But the questions are real and have been so since 2003 when Frederick Reicheld of Bain & Company wrote about what he coined the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

Reicheld’s premise is simple. Answers to the “likely to recommend” question are rated on a scale of 0-10 and the responses are divided into three groups as follows:

• Promoters (rating of 9-10)• Passives (7-8)• Detractors (0-6)
The Net Promoter Score is determined by subtracting the percentage of detractor responses from the percentage of promoters. The goal is to get as high a Net Promoter Score as possible as an indicator of customer perception of a company’s service and support.

So How Do You Boost Your Net Promoter Score?

1) Truly Listen to the Customer


Perform a deep analysis of your call records. Consider how many calls are subsequently transferred into other departments.  How many result in escalations or complaints?  Do some listening and consider what the main drivers are for these transfers and escalations. A big negative for NPS is when customers feel that they have to deal with many people or departments to get a query resolved. On many occasions, a customer’s issue will have several threads to it, all of which need to be resolved or actioned in some way.
Empower your frontline to handle queries outside their own department’s main scope and provide them with access to whatever systems they need. This greatly enhances their chances of providing the customer with a ‘one-and-done’ resolution to their call.

2) Perfect Your Greetings and Closings


While it might sound obvious, how consistent is your team with their hellos and goodbyes? The greeting is your customer’s first experience with your company, so make sure the call starts out on the right foot – keep it informal, ask them how their day is going, be interested in them as a person and show how you value their business.

Enabling an advisor to see a customer’s history makes for smoother handling of a call without the customer having to repeat themselves. Your employees also need to know what to do when a call is going wrong and how to get it back on track. Having dealt with the call or query, make sure your advisors finish each call on a positive – remember that’s the impression that your customer will leave with.

3) Review Your Scripts


Sometimes an advisor’s strict adherence to a script can bypass common sense and cause more problems than solutions. Giving employees the freedom to act with common sense and not stick rigidly to a script, regardless of the circumstances, can deliver better NPS scores. If a customer has not had their problem resolved and you ask: ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today’, it is likely to be met with a negative response. This lack of common sense is likely to increase dissatisfaction as the customer hasn’t been helped yet.
Frank Sherlock at CallMiner

4) Follow Up Fast


Prompt follow-up with customers can help contact centers drive increases in NPS. This closing works for several reasons:

• demonstrates your commitment to the customer experience
• resolves individual problems
• gives you greater insight into the issues that drag down your customer loyalty


How fast you respond, who follows up and even the means of contacting the customer can depend on the type of feedback received, as well as characteristics of the customer or account. Often, simply hearing that feedback was received improves a customer’s perception of your company. Use follow-up calls to learn more about customer issues. This can help you pinpoint the root causes of recurring problems so you can fix them at the source.
Richard Burns at NICE

5) Boost Morale in the Workplace


Without an emotional investment in their work, most employees are going to have a difficult time maintaining exemplary service, which can cause your NPS to slip. Allow the team to review themselves alongside their superiors. This demonstrates that the individual’s opinion is valued and their development matters, as well as allowing senior employees to build a rapport with their teams. Utilize reward programs like ‘employee of the month’ or competitions that encourage excellent NPS. Pride in good performance is always an incentive to raise or maintain standards of work. These schemes provide continued encouragement for advisors to provide the best service they can, which in turn goes towards raising your NPS.
Enda Kenneally at West Unified Communications

6) Make Exceeding Customer Expectations the Primary Goal


Rather than focus on the NPS itself, make exceeding customer expectations part of your call center’s goal. To do this, you need to look at the NPS as something that measures the difference between the expectations a customer has and the experience they receive.
Prompt advisors to deliver positive surprises and go the extra mile, rather than concentrating on compliance or reducing the call duration. This will exceed customers’ expectations and help you achieve better NPS scores.

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Evaluating the B2B Customer Experience Effectively: Program Design is Key to Success

B2B Mystery Shopping

B2B companies have a unique challenge in evaluating customer experience. Many times the sales and business cycle is long and consists of several steps to complete the entire experience. This may be in the form of initial order placement/purchase, delivery or products and services, and final billing. Depending on the industry, there may be steps in between that don’t necessarily apply to all customers – perhaps a company that offers rentals and some customers may require service calls – so how is it possible to fully evaluate the customer experience with so many moving parts?

A well formulated and thought out feedback process will serve to be an effective tool. Thinking outside of a traditional “how did we do?” type format is the best way to approach this.

Why?

Since the B2B processes are much longer than a typical retail experience, for example, it’s best to get feedback while the experience is fresh in the minds of customers. So the logical thought may be surveying customers at each step of the process. However, that could lead to response burnout as customers may be inclined the respond to one or two requests for feedback, but will soon tire of completing feedback surveys each time they have an experience with a company.

So what’s the answer? There are three guidelines to consider to create an efficient program:

Take time to lay the foundation

Initial planning will help with this. The first thing to think about is the customer experience, from start to finish. What basic steps are involved for a customer to do business with you? If you sell products or services, that may be initial purchase order, receipt of products/services, billing processes, and resolution of any issues if they arise.

If the company rents products, that journey may look a bit different. It may start with the initial order, then to delivery of items, any service or maintenance calls if they are necessary, return of the products, final billing, and overall experience.

Survey design

Once you determine the steps of the journey, it’s easy to create separate feedback surveys to capture journey specific information. This will be effective in reviewing customer satisfaction at each step of the process – you may find that when people are dissatisfied with an overall experience, it could be due to one specific part of the journey. If you don’t know what step that is until the experience is over, it’s too late to work to improve it. However, if feedback is captured along each step of the way, it’s easier to pinpoint the weaker areas of the process and fix them quickly.

Keep the surveys as short as possible. Multiple surveys allows for fewer questions and journey specific questions to be asked. Carefully consider what information is needed to get the appropriate feedback – nothing more, nothing less – and build a short survey for each step of the journey.

Develop contact rules

What about response exhaustion? A well designed system can alleviate response rate reduction that comes with surveying the same customers at each step of the journey.

Consider setting up some initial guidelines for the feedback process. One example may look like this:

  1. Create call list segmentation for each step of the process. A list of customers who recently placed orders is compiled and used to request feedback on this step of the process. A second list is created for those who received a delivery of products/services within the last 3 weeks, and so forth.

Each contact list will reflect a different list of customers. However, depending on the business model, some companies may find themselves on one or more contact lists at one time. To alleviate this, additional parameters are needed.

  • From each list, cross reference to remove companies that fall on one or more list. From there, determine which companies have been contacted in the last six to 12 months. This takes away the chance to contact a customer too often.
  • Create a feedback cadence to request feedback at key times – not too soon after an experience but not too far out either. Some of this will depend on the size of the customer base, the length of the customer cycle, and other key factors. Ideally, customers should be contacted within one to two weeks of experience an interaction with a company.
  • Decide on a request format. Will telephone or email (or a mix of both) get the best results? Initially, test email and telephone based survey requests. Many customers are busy and do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers, but this is not always the case. Some companies find that telephone requests have a better response rate over email requests. Furthermore, they find that customers who are contacted via telephone tend to share more narrative detail regarding their experience. This unstructured commentary can yield information that would never be uncovered with a more traditional survey set up.

With so many moving pieces to the customer cycle, it can seem like an overwhelming process at first. However, once it is set up and a cadence is determined, the process can run smoothly and provide deeper insight about the entire customer experience, quickly finding strengths and areas for improvement.

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