Improve the cross channel experience by taking a unified approach to communications and payments
It’s fast becoming accepted that customers want to interact across most if not all of a retailer’s channels. Likewise, customers want to be recognised, understood and rewarded across all these channels. Cross Channel Retailing is about seamlessly linking all of a retailer’s sales channels so they present the same face to the customer and provide a consistent experience.
The introduction of Unified Communication and Unified Payment solutions are key to helping multi channel retailers transform their processes and customer experiences into a homogeneous cross channel experience.
A unified experience
Unified communications break down traditional communication barriers so that people using different communication types, different media and different devices can communicate to anyone, anywhere and at anytime.
The technology explosion has left many retailers operating disparate systems, which has resulted in many businesses failing to understand their customers’ wants and needs. Previously customers may have spoken to a retailer over the phone and then visited the store. Now customers engage with retailers via the internet, email, smart phones, through social networking channels as well as voice, but if these channels aren’t connected businesses can’t give customers the service they desire.
The ability to communicate with your customers is often taken for granted. However, how many retailers can answer the question: how many calls to the stores, in particular, and head office do they miss on a daily basis?
The answer is very few can, unless they have a call centre handling all of their incoming calls. Missing those customer calls is likely to damage your brand. It could result in missed sales, turning a complaint into a happy customer, offering customers a different product or just delighting a customer with a great service experience.
In the unified communications environment these important customer interactions, however and wherever they are initiated, are all handled whether it be by voice, voicemail, e-mail or web chat. Adopting a unified communications strategy means that businesses are able to meet all of the above scenarios and more. Furthermore, all calls are captured and answered, automatically distributed or recorded by the system.
In essence what a unified communication solution does for the multi channel retailer is turn the whole of the enterprise into a single call centre making it easier for the retailer and its customers to communicate with each other as well as ensuring much improved communications within the retail enterprise. That means better customer service and better staff productivity.
Making payments secure
Alongside offering customers a truly cross channel experience businesses are faced with the issue of managing their payments in this environment securely and efficiently. Store and online payments have proved difficult to cross reference and until now it has been common to have entirely different systems and separate payment service providers. Now PCI brings it own restrictions and challenges to cross referencing. It is also difficult, if not impossible, to purchase goods in one channel and redeem or refund in another. This can lead to customers getting frustrated and abandoning the shopping basket at that crucial point, which ultimately means lost sales.
However, there is an alternative; retailers can look to introduce a unified payment system into the business. This provides a single payment service for all channels and allows both online and in-store transactions to be cross referenced securely. Importantly, this will allow retailers to purchase in one channel and redeem/refund in another. All this, makes it easier for customers to make separate payment visits online and it provides a complete audit across channel and greater security. This way of “tokenising” the transaction is entirely in line with PCI compliance.
Unified Communications is essential to your ability to handle customers regardless of which channel they choose to shop with you via. Unified payments will give customers more flexibility and businesses more control on how payments are made, secured and audited across channels.
Together these will play an essential role in transforming a multi channel retail business into a true cross channel service for all customers.
Mike Bielinski is CEO at Vodat International
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