Why Great Retail Customer Experience Needs Great IT

Great CX Is More Than Just Not Dropping The Ball, It’s Proactive & Constantly Improving On Itself In A Bid To Stay At The Top Of Pile.

Why Great Retail Customer Experience Needs Great IT
By Roy Castleman

It goes without saying that in our modern era, retail environments and call centers contain more automation — and more advanced digital solutions to deal with customers — than ever before. That’s great and it’s typically great for both company and customer, with a few bad exceptions. However, it also makes heightened demands on the tech involved in those systems. It’s also true to say that tech overall has improved, making such automation possible (and a possible improvement), but the downside is that when it fails, it can be extremely frustrating for customers and detrimental to a company’s reputation and, ultimately, profitability.

Don’t think so?

CX itself has always been engaged in a battle for legitimacy against a small but vocal camp who repudiate its value. An upshot of that has been constant attempts to demonstrate CX’s value to the bottom line. A spin-off from such analytics has been the obvious depiction of IT’s role in enabling it all. We might have eliminated much of the hardware failures and app crashes of the 1990s, but today’s customer-facing protocols and approaches remain firmly in the realm of IT, as much data collection, collation and integration as possible is an essential component of facilitating any CX agents’ role, be that incorporated into scripting agents or applied in real-time interactions. Ask an outfit like Computers In The City about the level of support needed in the CX arena, and you’ll soon realize it’s a large component of their current workload. Modern automation geared toward better treatment of customers demands a level of integration past decades could only fantasize about, but which modern IT support needs to manifest as part of the service.

CX is now unavoidably data-driven — enter AI

Much as great CX has ever been a determinant based (in part) on relatively ephemeral qualities — customer satisfaction and likely loyalty — so, too, has the IT architecture that enables CX been variable between companies. Because something as simple as making a customer happy can become a complex undertaking, many small businesses are looking to AI to paint a better picture, one that enables a more personalized and pleasing experience for each customer.

Why the strong focus on CX?

When current surveys find businesses that focus on CX enjoy significantly higher order values, retention rates, return on spend, and customer and staff satisfaction rates — not to mention greater brand awareness — CX’s value becomes better understood. It stands to reason that the supporting IT which automates (or otherwise propels) that experience needs to be seamless and effective, too. AI is finding its feet in the arena, and while some companies may misapply it — resulting in reduced customer satisfaction – when correctly employed, AI is being shown to increase an interaction’s likelihood of a successful outcome. When industry fundis are touting the fact CX is likely to replace price and even product considerations as the most important factors used in determining whether someone wants to do business with you or remain your client, it becomes clear that the margin for error is slim, the weight on IT’s shoulders great, and the need for seamless, positive solutions in CX paramount.

CX is the outcome of everything a company does to satisfy customer expectations, and getting it wrong has a dark downside. A great many — the majority of companies large and small, in fact — talk a big CX game, but especially with AI providing analytical data, better data, and ultimately better solutions, the fact that only around a third of them are truly customer-focused is worrying. AI is set to reshape the questions companies ask of themselves and their clients, while enhancing outcomes for those clients, and ultimately the bottom line of the company. This means a pending shift in consumer expectations – and here we return to that dark side mentioned above. A whopping three quarters of modern consumers will abandon a supplier in favor of a competitor after only a single bad experience. Those still paying lip service to great CX are those who are yet to incorporate AI into their processes, and they’re playing with their future existence, whether they know it or not.

CX demands nuanced management

AI is driving business dynamics in other ways, too, that are pertinent to CX. Customers don’t need to have a bad experience with you – more than half of modern consumers will disassociate and tag along with a competitor if their experience with that company is better. Great CX is more than just not dropping the ball — it’s proactive and constantly improving on itself in a bid to stay at the top of the pile. Many customers also share bad experiences — the equal but opposite flip side of the positive “word of mouth.” A key part of AI application in the CX realm is meant to eliminate the possibility of bad experiences that lead to negative social media and overall marketplace brand image perception. The digital customer experience of the modern consumer comes with already established expectations, including an anticipation of constant improvement. The internet has enabled customers, both in terms of choice and public broadcasting of their opinions, another reason for making CX the cornerstone around which business is built.

AI can mine social media activity and other venues using learning algorithms and Natural Language Processing, and this is allowing companies to not only determine what customers think, but why they feel the way they do about the products or brands they associate with. A large part of AI’s contribution to CX lies in AI’s speed of data assimilation and collation, as well as the accuracy it affords any personalized customer experience. Notwithstanding the detractors, CX remains the (statistically proven) most critical arena for modern companies to focus their attention on to improve bottom line performance. AI is still a relatively new entrant to the space, but fast becoming a mainstream component, as companies vie to produce the best possible CX they can.

This news was originally published at Retail Customer Experience