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Insight: the next hurdle for customer experience

Here Natalie Bruins, a non-executive director driving growth, gives her perspective on the new customer experience challenges facing retailers following her discussions at the Retail Bulletin… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Insight: the next hurdle for customer experience

Here Natalie Bruins, a non-executive director driving growth, gives her perspective on the new customer experience challenges facing retailers following her discussions at the Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference earlier this month.

The next hurdle for customer experience

Over the last decade, I have taken part in many discussions, reviews and projects with retailers looking to bring their brands closer to their customers through an enhanced experience.

Customer experience (CX) has drastically changed in this time with the growth of the digital era, use of technology and what some have called the new oil, data. The information age is a door which swings both ways – there’s more data available to customers, but this means there more available about them, too.

With the right intelligence and tools, retailers are reinventing themselves. Digital technologies like AI, biometrics, machine and deep learning and robotic automation is either transforming retail business models or high up on the agenda in retail boardrooms across the globe. So, what’s next?

Talking to a room full of forward-looking retailers at the recent Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference, the conversation is moving on. Retailers recognise the importance of connecting with customers and have embraced new technologies to enable them to provide seamless experiences, increase loyalty and better compete. What now seems to be the hurdle (and the challenge ahead) is stripping the silos within their own businesses and managing the change from not only the technology side, but a cultural perspective.

Removing the internal silos and working together during a period of change

For many retailers, they are now finding that externally the customer experience is joined up and the experience is (or just about) seamless but internally, they are grappling with how to work towards common KPIs. This is one of the reasons so many brands have appointed directors of customer experience to lead the charge and orchestrate a game plan that addresses this important aspect of modern business.

Crabtree & Evelyn brought in a customer experience director to be the ‘glue’ to unify all the internal processes relating to CX.

Harrods are well versed at supporting internally networking. Employees can move around the business on a regular basis to understand how each functional team impacts another. From customer service, to credit control to buyers, each department spend time in an unrelated area of the business to grow.

Marks & Spencer outlined at the conference: “In the current climate where change is happening so fast, we recognise that communication is everything in keeping our colleagues aligned to customer care initiatives and the wider customer-centric culture. We are looking closely at what the customer experience should be, and who ‘owns’ each part of the journey.”

Mention Me (the retail referral marketing platform) has implemented a no desk policy to ensure that everyday you are sat with or around other functional departments. This open approach has been successful in removing barriers between teams and a more joined up approach in delivery.

LookFabulousForever is an example of a brand that has internally gauged what CX means to its customers and used both technology and ‘old’ fashioned face to face personalisation to make a positive impact. Internally, staff work closely together to deliver the experience the customer wants, and it is paying off.

Preparing for a future of change – what does good look like and what are the best practices and learnings to be shared?

By 2020, CX is expected to overtake both price and product as a key brand differentiator. For CX to secure its position on the board agenda permanently, businesses must do two things: firstly, they must identify where the customer experience begins, and secondly, they must allocate an owner, modern technology will only take you so far.

The repeating question and conversation at this years’ conference to me was around how looking inwards and across function could maximise, boost and deliver the customer experience of the future.

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