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The phone is still the best way to really connect with your customers.
Distribution companies use a lot of energy and spend a lot of money promoting an image of service and proximity to consumers: advertising and media investment, direct marketing, events. Receptive to these messages, consumers will naturally have high expectations for their relationship with the brand.
Although the face-to-face, in-store experience is often successful, the other channels struggle to honour the promises that brands make. Unanswered calls and emails, and being passed from department to department will result in a real discrepancy with the image conveyed by the company. And when you get in touch using these channels, you are dealt with in a very sterile manner, once again not in keeping with the initial promise.
There is an imbalance between the image developed by a brand and the reality of customer relations experienced by consumers. Because it is spontaneous and conveys emotions, the telephone lends itself to this in particular.
Under these conditions, how can distribution companies improve their telephone relations and offer customers an exemplary multichannel experience?
In order to handle all interactions while identifying the traffic with added value, resources, tools and an effective organisation are required.
In retail, the physical and digital networks are closely linked. Consumers are always switching between the Internet and the shops:
– Before they buy, to compare products, offers and services
– When they buy, for payment, finance and withdrawal
– After they buy, to activate the service and for extensions and after-sales support
The customer journey is therefore omnichannel with the physical retail outlet holding a key position.
And yet, customer relationship management is still very segmented and shops often do their own thing when it comes to managing customer contact. The brand has little visibility of the quality of the customer interaction in the retail outlet, particularly through the voice channel.
Historically, the shop’s telephone line is delivered with the walls. It is not surprising that there are few indicators for measuring the quality of contact through this channel. The telephone is still a “black box” through which important customer contacts pass.
This absence of key indicators for service quality, answer rate and hold time poses risks for customer satisfaction. This also generates extra costs for the company: human costs for qualification of calls, telecoms costs associated with transferring calls, monopolisation of several contacts to provide the right response, etc.
And yet, the volume of calls received by a shop is very high, varying between 50 and 100 calls a day for a medium-sized, specialist store and increasing to 200 for a large store. These contacts are all qualitative opportunities to convey a brand image: a warm welcome, an acoustic environment, attentive service, and steps taken to meet their expectations.
With more and more services being offered by shops (gift cards, product hire, after-sales, distance selling, e-commerce site), there are an increasing number and variety of reasons for calls being made.
A shop can quickly find itself unable to deal with all of the calls it receives because of a lack of resources and tools.
For all that, not every call necessarily means a commercial opportunity for a shop. The company must therefore ensure that it solves a tricky equation: deal with as many calls as possible to limit customer dissatisfaction while identifying the calls that have most added value.
Lastly, in-store personnel do not necessarily have the right customer relations training for the telephone. At a time when the French are favouring the telephone to contact a brand, while demanding an even more personalised experience, companies have everything to gain by rethinking how they manage their telephone welcome.
Improving the telephone channel involves simplifying its access for customers, centralising calls and putting in place technical and human resources to handle contacts efficiently.
Indeed, in the retail sector, it is thought that 15% of telephone interactions could be dealt with automatically as they are requests for information about opening times, addresses or product availability. In this way, by sorting the calls at the beginning, a company can identify those that will need a more qualitative response and that relate to a commercial issue. Organisation of call handling is essential to successfully optimise customer relations and improve consumer satisfaction.
By prioritising calls, personal assistance can be provided if necessary, which will leave the customer with a feeling of satisfaction: he was recognised, dealt with quickly and got his answer. His affection for the shop and for the brand will be strengthened.
Moreover, the introduction of an overflow service that diverts to a call centre may significantly improve the answer rate, increasing it from 60% (answer rate generally achieved in the shop) to 85%.
Once opened, this black box of telephone customer relations provides highly qualitative information about the link between the consumer and the company. It becomes easy to listen and understand what is happening, to measure and to improve performance.
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