Since the first checkouts appeared online more than 20 years ago, the best-in-class standards in customer experience have changed significantly, from improving access to product catalogs, to enhancing the communication around purchases, and today, into the multichannel, integrated efforts orchestrated between marketing, ecommerce and customer care teams.
As the battle for customer retention has become more fierce, and costs across acquisition and service have risen, winning a customer’s loyalty is getting more difficult. Brands today are looking to additional value-added services in order to differentiate the experience they provide to customers, and separate themselves from competitors.
Ecommerce 1.0 – The Dark Ages of Customer Experience
Ecommerce didn’t start with carefully crafted customer experiences, anticipatory notifications and UX-optimized websites. Just a decade ago, and more recently for some brands, it was commonplace to sell goods online, handle fulfillment either in-house or using a 3rd party, and then leave the logistics aspect to a carrier who would provide updates to a customer on the status of their package.
Over time, it became clear that even if the customer understood there was a carrier involved in delivery, they still held the brand they had purchased from as the primary accountable party if their package was delayed, or went missing. This was the first step towards the much-improved experiences we see today, where brands work as hard as they can to optimize shipping speed, though they rely on 3rd party carriers to complete an important leg of the fulfillment journey.
Post Purchase Optimization Today
Since 2010 when the first steps were taken to improve post-purchase touchpoints, and leverage them to bring the customer back to the brand’s own website, the industry has seen many brands move to a branded model of communication. Marketers recognized the opportunity to place marketing messaging into emails that see 50% open rates, and brand managers today would shudder at the idea of losing a customer to a carrier’s website.
As is common to many trends in ecommerce, software providers created tools that could be used to deploy branded touchpoints more easily than building in-house, taking the heavy lifting of carrier integrations and SMS development o the already-overloaded backlogs that ecommerce development teams manage.
Over the last 3 years, those who had not yet branded these post-purchase touchpoints capitalized on the opportunity to deploy them using software tools priced relative to the development effort a team would otherwise exercise to deploy branded tracking pages and emails.
Today, the most common tactics used are branded emails with content that does not update, branded landing pages and SMS notifications. In some cases, self-serve returns are offered to reduce the burden on customer service teams, though implementation success varies depending on existing infrastructure and business complexities. A small percentage of brands are testing other channels, with questionable results in terms of customer experience.
As consumers evolve, so do their expectations and behaviors
Major ecommerce brands and other consumer apps have made it possible for consumers to expect real-time service and immediate answers and resolution to inquiries. Customers now enjoy more self-serve options, have greater access to brands regardless of time or place, and resist channels that lead to waiting, including email and phone calls.
Specifically, there is greater expectation on timeliness of resolution, personalization of service, convenience of channels, availability and willingness of a brand to engage in a real-time 2-way conversation.
Notifications, no-reply email addresses and delayed email support don’t meet customer expectations of a brand’s readiness to help them if they have a question or want more information. Beyond information, many consumers want to be a part of their favorite brands, and feel heard, beyond sharing a comment on social media.
Automation – The Future of Customer Care
Customer Care Automation makes it easier for the customer. They can easily get what they are looking for in terms of convenience, immediacy and ease. Automation provides real-time solutions, and 24/7/365 availability, on channels that the customer prefers to use. This is typically not the experience a customer has today, and is a clear improvement. With this convenience, real-time resolution and availability, the customer has increased satisfaction, and is more likely to shop with the brand again.
For the brand, the benefits go beyond a happier customer who is likely to continue to purchase more products. Brands see direct cost benefits due to the reduction of inbound contacts to live agents, and the additional engagement that a brand has with customers. By using these moments to serve product recommendations, new paths to conversions are created to drive incremental revenue.
Linc customer, Lamps Plus, realized the need to automate their customer care solution and provide their customers with an engaging customer experience.
Delivering automated customer care using an AI-based assistant gives brands an advantage in the market. As brands today cannot afford to compete on product and price alone, many brands are investing into differentiating programs and services, to ensure they oer unique experiences and value that keep customers coming back. Customer Care Automation supports these efforts by making these services more accessible and convenient.
By using an automated assistant, brands can improve the return on their investment into existing programs such as loyalty, membership, subscription, product selection, product education, customer success content, appointment bookings, and many others that are offered today.
Linc, client, Carter’s Oshkosh understood how important it was to provide their customers with automated and real-time communications and by doing so have achieved breakthrough customer lifetime value.
While the improvement in service and experience is differentiating in itself, thanks to automation, delivering these programs to more customers also improves their results. Providing an automated assistant who is capable of providing a breadth of services positions a brand as superior in experience when compared to other brands who do not offer the same options, immediacy or convenience, including large marketplaces and dominant category-leaders.
You can learn more about automated customer engagement by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated customer engagement in their businesses today, in our resources page.