Omni-channel communication key to better retailer-customer relationship
KT Prasad is country sales director at Zendesk India

A decade ago, retailers did not have a deeper insight into customers’ preferences. They also had limited options—such as telephone or email—to connect with customers. Today, with a plethora of communication channels, customers can be contacted at different points of a purchase cycle. This enhanced communication leads to the collection of an enormous amount of data on customers’ choices which can be used as an effective tool to build a strong retailer-customer relationship.

This is the era of ‘prosumers’. Today’s consumers not only consume but also produce content online, creating an ecosystem of conversations on various platforms ranging from social media to websites to chat forums. As a result, brands are open to criticism and should be prepared to handle negative feedback.

The emergence of channels such as chat and message has rewritten the definition of customer support. Customers can be supported effectively only through an omni-channel approach—one that integrates various modes of communication, including chat, social media, mail and phone. This allows customers to opt for their preferred mode of communication.

The information generated from multi-channel communication also provides a valuable insight into consumers’ preferences. This can in turn help improve customer service.

Technology is evolving and the most recent buzzwords are artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, etc. Emerging technologies help retailers assess accumulated customer data and take informed decisions. They also reduce work load for customer support teams.

These changes have brought the customer to the forefront and empowered them with the tools to take control. Against such a challenging backdrop, how does a retailer build loyalty among customers?

Today customers demand tailor-made services that take into account their likes and dislikes. Retailers should take advantage of technological tools to provide such solutions to suit each customer. This can be provided through various means ranging from time-oriented offers, to customised recommendations, personalised user experience and rewards, among others.

Effective customer-support solutions can be formulated by analysing existing trends and USP of the brand, among others, against customers’ behaviour and user preferences across platforms—online or through mobile or apps. Such tailor-made solutions will ensure hassle-free transactions with customers, creating a lasting brand or product image. This will create trust and strengthen the retailer-customer relationship.

Multi-channel support also means that the customer has to register and transact through various modes—social media, websites or through payment channels. This means that retailers are the custodian of customers’ personal and financial information once they sign up. Hence customers need to be convinced that their personal information is secure and will not be misused.

Therefore, retailers need to ask the following questions: Do they have the necessary security protocols in place to protect valuable customer data? Are firewalls secure to fend off phishing and other hacking challenges?

We are in a fast-changing and dynamic marketplace that demands retailers to keep abreast of the emerging customer needs. With multi-channel marketing preferences in vogue, retailers must be able to quickly adapt and communicate with customers through their preferred channel or platform.

While leveraging technology is crucial, a lasting retailer-customer relationship can be built only on the core values of trust, transparency, objectivity and quality.

(KT Prasad is country sales director at Zendesk India. Views are personal)

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