By Russ Haswell, Medallia
With a few months of the new year under our belts, it feels safe to say that customer expectations in 2019 are higher than ever. In the last year, we saw a lot of change in the retail industry. Some legacy brick-and-mortars closed up shop, while other stores flourished and expanded their offerings. Following a strong and profitable holiday season, retailers look to set the tone for the year ahead, and in the current “age of the customer,” customer experience (CX) is more important now than ever before.
In an effort to deliver a retail experience that wows customers both online and in-store, companies will kick their customer offerings into high gear in 2019: shifting focuses to a new wave of experience management, including a two-way starring system, CX by way of predictive analytics and finding that ‘experience symbiosis’ sweet spot. Here are five predictions for retailers as they build upon the experiences they deliver to their customers, in 2019 and beyond:
- A starring system for retail representatives. The need for real-time customer engagement has skyrocketed in recent years. Companies need to know how their stores, websites, employees, and offerings resonate after each encounter with a customer. In 2019, retailers will look to receive customer experience feedback in a new way, similar to ridesharing apps that allows a rider to rate their driver and vice versa. More retailers will implement feedback systems that allow both customers and associates to share feedback directly after an interaction, allowing for more real-time and specific feedback.
- The era of instant gratification will only get more demanding: With the projected progression of offerings like Amazon Prime and same-day delivery, companies will continue to battle ongoing consumer demands for quicker response times and more immediate solutions to their complaints and questions. In order to meet these demands and keep up with their all-digital competitors, physical retailers will continue to offer a wider variety of fulfillment options in 2019, catering to not just the broader customer base, but its local communities as well.
- Finding experience symbiosis (CX = EX): While the age of the customer is still in full swing, this year—and for many years to come—companies will begin to value and reward their employees as much as their customers. This year, companies will start to understand that in order to provide customers with an exceptional experience they must first ensure their employees are engaged and fulfilled within their roles. Retailers will recognize the importance of empowering their employees for every responsibility of the job by listening and acting on employee feedback and soliciting ideas from frontline employees to deliver better customer experiences. This shift can and will have a lasting impact on companies’ overall brand perceptions from both employees and customers.
- Predictive CX and the Intelligent Customer Experience: By applying artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, in particular machine learning, to a variety of customer experience data—from direct customer feedback, digital engagement data, psychographic characteristics, individual preferences, to shopping behavior—early adopters will begin to anticipate and, in real-time, act on customer needs in both the physical and digital world, combining experience data with operational data. This will begin to set a new precedent for customer recovery.
- Experience-focused training for frontline employees: As the front line of a business, in-store employees represent the overall brand of a store and are the strongest drivers of consumers’ store experience. In the coming year, delivering memorable in-store experiences will become even more critical than before. Successful retailers already understand this and will double-down on their commitment to their customers, enabling associates to provide assistance, services and events. A stronger connection between training programs and consumer feedback will be created to ensure the investment is beneficial for the associate while also delivering value to the consumer.
About The Author
Russ Haswell has been in leadership positions at Medallia for 12 years and currently heads the company’s retail practice, working alongside some of the most revered brands in the world. In his role, Russ focuses on the retail sector, helping redefine the role of customer experience across a variety of retailers seeking to elevate the connection between the customer, the employee, and the brand. Prior to Medallia, Russ held leadership positions at CustomerSat (now Confirmit), Frost & Sullivan and Apple.