Guest Column | December 20, 2019

Retail 2020: A Look At Customer Experience Trends That Will Reshape The Industry

A conversation with Anand Janefalkar, UJET and Peter Kuykendall, Mercari

Customer Experience

As Founder and CEO of UJET, Anand Janefalkar is focused on leading UJET into its next stage of growth by providing the tools and technology businesses need to create an immersive, engaging, and one-of-a-kind customer experience. Prior to UJET, Anand held key roles at both Motorola and Jawbone, as well as serving as a technical advisor for various startups in the Bay Area. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics from Mumbai University and a Master of Science in Telecommunications from Southern Methodist University.

At Mercari, Peter Kuykendall is developing and implementing the CX strategy to build the internal operations, systems, and processes that enable hockey stick growth. With an MBA from MIT Sloan, Peter has broad experience across many industries building teams and the systems it takes to enable their success.

Q: How important is providing multichannel customer support and is multimedia on the rise in retail?

Janefalkar: Customers today not only want but expect to be able to reach support across multiple channels. Furthermore, the standard now is not only allowing customers to access support across numerous channels but providing them with a fluid omni-channel experience, where they can move between channels without a compromise in their experience.

Along with the use of multiple channels, customers today communicate both visually and contextually, sharing photos, videos, screenshots, and more, sometimes all within one single interaction. Retailers need to bring this same experience into their own support centers. This experience not only makes things easier and more natural for customers, but it also helps support agents gather more context and a better understanding of why customers are reaching out to support and how they can best resolve their issues in a fast and personalized manner.

Q: As the use of AI continues to expand, can it help both the employee experience as well as the customer experience?

Janefalkar: We’ve traditionally viewed AI as a customer-facing tool. However, AI can dramatically improve the employee experience and help improve support center operations by automatically and instantly surfacing relevant customer information and context to support agents to help them better understand the customer, the situation, and resolve issues in a timely and personalized way.

Through bots and automatically surfacing self-service options and FAQ’s, AI is dramatically improving the customer experience. This, combined with AI’s ability to impact the internal employee experience, will help to transform customer support into one of the more technology-advanced arms of any business.

Q: In light of support preferences and the presence of technologies like AI, bots and self-service options, how can retailers better prepare to service their customers?

Janefalkar: Leveraging customer support data-driven insights and analytics throughout an entire organization can provide a full 360-degree view of your customer across multiple teams, allowing other departments such as product, marketing, and sales to make more customer-driven strategic decisions.

Q: What role will sharing data between customer support and other teams such as marketing, sales and product development play in helping you service customers in 2020?

Kuykendall: Mercari is a strongly data driven company. Feedback at scale is an incredibly powerful spotlight on what we’re doing well and where we can focus improvement efforts.

Where our customers are finding homes for the items they’ve loved, they have strong emotional attachments to the success of the transactions. We want them to succeed and when they don’t, we’re appreciative that they let us know. We streamline the collection, categorization and communication of negative customer feedback as a driver for policy, process and product improvements across our organization.

Q: When consumers need help, what communications channels are most popular today, and is messaging on the rise?

Kuykendall: While customers contact us through email, help center tickets, phones, chat, social and app stores, the fastest growing and most effective is chat. With chat, customers reach agents faster, solve their issues faster and feel that they’re better cared for. Chat is so successful that we’re exploring that, for some classes of issues, channeling customers only into chat.

Q: What does Mercari see on the horizon as primary factors affecting how you'll service customers?

Kuykendall: The heart of our vision is to consistently resolve our customers problems as close to instantly as possible. All the initiatives on our horizon flows from that goal.