This article is provided by BRC Associate Member, IP Integration


Why tailored experiences are the key to unlocking long-term growth and business success

As the primary interface between brand and customer, Contact Centres are a critical component of any retailer’s long-term growth strategy. But business planning is increasingly fraught with difficulty – thanks to persistent macroeconomic uncertainty, weak consumer confidence and rising costs. Despite it all, the British retail sector has held up well, with sales growing 3.6 percent in 2023. But to thrive over the coming years, more is needed. 

Retail Contact Centres need to get digital transformation right, to deliver the personalised omnichannel experiences their customers increasingly crave. That means using AI, automation, and data-driven insight judiciously to enhance agent performance as well as customer experience (CX).

Why personalisation matters

Customer service can increasingly make or break a retailer’s reputation. Over three-quarters of consumers claim they would switch brands after just five or fewer negative experiences. And when it comes to specifics, it is personalisation they are looking for. Thanks to a surge in online shopping during the pandemic, more consumers than ever have been exposed to more tailored and relevant shopping experiences. Now they expect the same of all the retailers they interact with. According to McKinsey, 76 percent of consumers are frustrated when this does not happen. 

The business implications are obvious. That same research finds that companies which grow faster drive 40 percent more of their revenue from personalisation than their slower-growing rivals. The message should be coming through loud and clear for Contact Centres, given their outsized role in elevating and unifying CX.

Driving an omnichannel experience

Even following the pandemic, digital commerce continues to grow. In fact, the UK (United Kingdom) has the third-largest e-commerce market in the world after the US and China, with revenues projected to hit $286bn (£229bn) by 2025. But rumours of the high street’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. One study reveals that most (61 percent) Brits still prefer shopping in-store to online. 

The trick for retailers is therefore to offer the flexibility and consistency customers want when interacting with their brand – no matter what channel they choose to do so. Three-quarters of shoppers are likely to use both digital and physical touchpoints on the same journey, estimates RetailEconomics

The good news for the retail sector is that its Contact Centres have already done much to adopt and evolve their use of digital technology. A ContactBabel report claims its maturity in this regard is greater than that of many other comparable sectors. Email already accounts for up to 30 percent of inbound transactions, while web and social media interactions are “considerably above average”.

Making the most of data

So, what does success look like? Increasingly it is businesses able to optimise their use of data that will pull away from the crowd. By analysing customer data, retailers can piece together a complete profile of each shopper and use it to personalise their CX – from suggesting relevant “also bought” items, to routing their Contact Centre interactions via the most appropriate channel. 

The Contact Centre is at the heart of a new era of data-driven decision making in retail. It collects vast amounts of information – from basic customer contact details and purchase history to voice recordings of inbound calls for quality assurance or training. The challenge is that the information itself is often held in siloed data stores, making it difficult to extract any business value. It is a challenge that will continues to grow as data volumes do. 

Once they manage to overcome this challenge via joined-up data management systems, retailers will then need to work out how to unlock insight from huge volumes of customer data. With Contact Centre operatives in short supply, most retailers simply do not have the resources for their agents to sift through calls manually. But intelligent analytics offer one answer. 

Speech and text analytics automate the process, enabling retailers to troubleshoot the underlying cause of problems, improve agent productivity and performance, and deliver an enhanced, more personalised CX. Generative AI (GenAI) technologies already do an excellent job of summarising the content of calls, uncovering intent, and suggesting topic outcomes and next steps. And speech analytics alone could drive cost savings of up to 30 percent and customer satisfaction score improvements of over 10 percent, according to McKinsey.

Transforming the customer experience

Over half (52 percent) of Contact Centres now have an AI-centric strategy. But this does not just mean Gen AI. Intelligence and automation can help to accelerate technology handling, resolve queries, improve security, and simplify workflows across the business. Chatbots and voicebots, self-service, and identification & verification (ID&V) systems can all handle manual and repetitive tasks at scale, freeing up in-demand staff to focus on more complex assignments. 

Integrating AI-driven “agent assist” and knowledge management systems into the Contact Centre will help to deliver up-to-date information in real-time, so that agents can answer queries in a faster, more efficient manner. They can even help retailers to nurture a new team of “Super Agents” trained to deliver exceptional and personalised CX with speed and efficiency. And the best part of it is that this functionality can be added with little fuss thanks to modular Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. 

The road to digital maturity will look slightly different for each retailer. But the journey is already well underway – and it is one built around delivering more personalised omnichannel experiences. If Contact Centre owners are laser-focused on agent productivity and CX, without forgetting their security and compliance obligations, the future looks bright.