Retail communication and customer service go hand-in-hand. People want their experiences to be positive and unique – anything less could sway customer sentiment and loyalty to the brand. So what makes a good communications strategy? Knowing and responding to consumer trends.
Technology has been changing for years, evolving, and adapting to people’s needs.
Retailers should consider the same – especially with the abundance of communication options available. Retailers must keep up with product trends and demands; keeping up with trends around their communication is the next frontier in the customer experience space.
Shopping Trends: (Digital) Retail Therapy
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Where people used to be more out and about, now people are staying home, ordering groceries and other goods online, and even hosting virtual get-togethers, all to stay connected with themselves and others.
We’re truly transitioning into a digital-first world (if we aren’t already there).
In the last year alone, there were around 230.5 million digital shoppers nationwide. With the click of a button, your orders are delivered straight to your door. No walking or interacting necessary! This may be the only time consumers push away the warmth of human connection. As a result, retailers have to reconsider their approach to customer service.
It seems as if there are unlimited resources for communicating with people. Texts, calls, email, mobile apps, etc., … the options are seemingly infinite. With retail communications improving, people are finding their needs met with a simple phone call, wherever they are and however the urgency may be.
Retail Communication Trends: Calling All Customers
Consumer preferences for retail communication trend strongly in one direction. For both non-urgent and urgent customer service issues, people prefer a phone call over email, mobile app message, or text/SMS. In the digital retail age, there’s also been a trend for companies to turn to chatbots.
As the pandemic surged, the usage of chatbots grew by 426%. Despite the growing use of bots, consumers aren’t impressed. Often referred to as “virtual assistants,” chatbots are programmed – into websites or apps – to help people with their customer service needs.
Why don’t people like them? Nearly one-third (32%) say they rarely or never feel understood by a chatbot. It’s no wonder, then, that people are turning to a human connection.
Why People Prefer a Phone Call
Here are some reasons people said they prefer a phone call over other options:
- Phone calls are more efficient. Taking the time to type out a message can take forever. With the time it takes you to detail your troubles and hopes for a quick resolution, you could have just called the customer service rep and talked it out together.
- Explanations are easier over the phone. Sure, typing out short and sweet messages is easy, but most people opt for a phone call when it comes to asking tough questions. In fact, 75% of people prefer a phone call when having long conversations or asking complicated questions.
- It’s easier to ask and answer questions on a call. Over half of people surveyed deemed phone calls their go-to for anything urgent. The warmth of a living, breathing person on the other line gives comfort to those who are easily frustrated by a cold digital response.
- Messaging rarely works for me. Replying to a complaint can be easy, but the urgency isn’t always translated properly. A phone call, however, offers a clear and concise solution.
Holding a conversation with a person? No problem! Holding one with a chatbot? Almost impossible. The exchanges with these AI programs seem to lack the empathy consumers desire in their customer service experience.
Missed Call, Missed Opportunity
Vendors face a similar story when reaching out to consumers. Tackling a follow-up with customers over their requests, issues, or needs can be difficult. Without the help of branded communication services, retailers often face activities that waste time (and essentially money), such as repeated follow-up calls.
Three out of five respondents said they left a call from a store or retailer unanswered because it was an unknown number. The store will attempt to contact a customer multiple times, to connect and solve their issues. No response means no resolution. It’s a lose-lose situation, with lost time, money, and no answers for either side.
The cycle of missed calls and repeated follow-ups could also affect brand reputation.
Customer Experience and Brand Loyalty
Believe it or not, brand loyalty can take a hit from unknown numbers. When people don’t know who’s calling, it’s likely they won’t answer. They may also take their business elsewhere – which is especially bad news in a hyper-competitive market. Nearly 2/3 of people said they are willing to switch to a different brand for one that can properly identify itself on a phone call.
When consumers get frustrated by the flood of unknown calls, who’s to say they won’t jump to a vendor offering an easier option? Nearly two-thirds of people said they would switch to a brand that effectively identified their calls.
After the Sale Ends – The Need for Branded Communication in the Retail Industry
Retailers are essentially starting from scratch, working from the ground up to appeal to customers – many of whom may never step foot inside their location. In the retail industry, communication is key. The more detailed information you can provide directly, the better off the vendor is. As retailers look to improve the customer experience and build brand loyalty, adopting branded communications can provide a step forward.
See what else there is after the sale in our Retail Industry Survey Report.
First Orion creates branded communication solutions that improve the future of phone calls. Request a demo today.