Supply chain chaos continues to be in the headlines. We’ve seemingly seen it all: logjammed ports, inventory pileups in warehouses, shortages of raw materials and consumer goods, shipping and delivery delays, and a disrupted labor market.
When the supply chain is stretched or it snaps, the force is felt at the end: namely the customers and the contact center agents they contact when deliveries are late, do not arrive at all, cancelled, or incomplete.
Although these concerns sit outside retailers’ circle of control, they aren’t without options. For even if the item supply chains are broken, the customer experience (CX) chains: of information of what happened, why, where, when, how, and alternatives for customers are, if made right, still there.
Here we explore five considerations for the retail CX and how they can have a positive impact in both the short term and the long term: even in the midst of the supply chain challenges that continue to plague the retail market.
1. Build in Greater Resiliency
Effective supply chain planning is already part of your everyday operation, but it’s time to think bigger about how to adapt to disruption and sustain your retail operations.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI)-powered contact center solutions come in. These technologies add a layer of automation and intelligence to your business.
We’ve typically focused on how this combination elevates the CX, but the truth is that it builds in resiliency to your operation in two key ways.
..simultaneously improving the customer and the agent experience builds in greater resiliency to your operation.
First, contact center AI means your brand can handle higher volumes with ease and without adding headcount—something that’s proven to be increasingly critical in today’s disrupted labor market.
Done right, AI in the contact center lets you create proactive self-service experiences that quickly get customers the answers they need, when they need them, thereby helping to reduce contact center call volumes.
At the same time, these technologies are designed to help contact center agents work more efficiently and effectively.
So, when it’s time for live agents to help customers, AI capabilities provide agents with all they need to optimally manage every interaction, which can lead to improved CSAT, reduced AHTs, and accelerated post-engagement wrap-ups.
There are, of course, opportunities for the AI to support agents with cross-selling and upselling, which can have a positive impact on revenue.
Taken together, simultaneously improving the customer and the agent experience builds in greater resiliency to your operation. But there’s a second element here, too, and it’s particularly relevant to the supply chain headlines.
Let’s say, for example, that you’ve brought a product to market, and it goes wild on social media. Now it’s sold out everywhere, and worse, hundreds of outstanding orders have fulfillment delays.
Brands that have deployed contact center AI solutions can solve this dual-edged challenge: by communicating the delays to customers while salvaging sales that might otherwise be lost.
With an AI-powered virtual assistant for the contact center, you can automate this customer support issue, and do so in ways that won’t overburden your contact center agents.
This AI tool can proactively and automatically notify consumers of the fulfillment delay, confirm updated timelines, offer choices on how to resolve the issue, and suggest alternative products.
2. Optimize Agent Effectiveness
There will always be customers who require more hands-on help, and a contact center virtual assistant can intelligently route these customers to live agents who are adept at serving these customers.
It’s not just about escalating customers’ matters to the agents, however; contact center AI does so in a way that provides agents with the full context of the interactions, necessary background information and resources, and even suggested dialogs to quickly resolve an issue or salvage a sale.
…beefing up your fraud prevention strategies has never been more important.
Even before the live agent conversation begins, the contact center AI can streamline and automate the customer authentication process too.
The AI solution shares authentication data from self-service engagements with live agents, smoothing out the call transfer process and making sure customers don’t have to repeat themselves.
Throughout the interactions, the AI can help ensure the agents are still engaged with the true customers and that fraudsters haven’t intercepted the engagements. When you consider that retailers lose about $24 billion every year to fraud just related to customer service chargebacks, beefing up your fraud prevention strategies has never been more important.
Your contact center’s success depends on the success of your agents, so it’s important that the contact center AI also provide insights and analytics to further optimize every customer engagement, streamline operations, and so on.
A contact center AI solution can do this by analyzing conversations and customer journeys and by learning from the best live agents to identify best practices and help you replicate them across your contact center.
In this way, you can easily uncover areas where feedback, coaching, and training would create a continuous improvement loop so that agents and virtual assistants alike can perform at their best. At the end of the day, optimizing agent effectiveness translates into higher satisfaction at work, which can then translate into lower turnover rates.
3. Create Personalized CXs
Another core aspect of the contact center AI is its ability to identify each customer to create more personalized experiences.
Instead of relying on an ANI database to identify callers, contact center AI builds out a profile for each customer, giving brands insights into your customers’ identities, order histories, browsing histories, and more.
With this information, you can do more than just personalize the CX: you can also predict what customers will need or want to do next.
For example, you can enable your contact center AI to intercept calls about order status in the IVR system, proactively asking the customer if they’re calling about their recent order.
If the answer is yes, the virtual assistant can deliver a real-time status update. The assistant can also ask the customer if there’s anything else they need help with and either answer those questions or escalate the call to a live agent.
Engaging customers in this way can significantly reduce contact center volumes, shifting some of the burden from your agents while creating more positive CXs. And as long as the labor market and supply chain remain disrupted, this shift is essential.
4. Tear Down Silos
Supply chain disruptions are difficult for everyone, but especially for the customers. In order to provide a positive CX, contact center agents need to be equipped with up-to-date, personalized customer information.
Contact center AI can provide agents with contextual, real-time recommendations to readily answer customer inquiries about order statuses or inventory updates, resulting in a frictionless interaction.
Additionally, contact center AI solutions can give a complete view of customer engagements across all channels to streamline processes, reduce customer effort, and uncover new operational efficiencies in the contact center.
When provided with a unified view of customer engagement, the entire CX improves – leading to easily identified areas of improvement and better detection of potential disruptions before they become real issues.
5. Prepare With a Cloud-First Strategy
Brands must prepare for the future, and according to Gartner, contact center technologies such as virtual assistants provide insights into performance and quality assurance: which can also mean a competitive advantage for your brand. All of this is essential as the future of our supply chain, labor market, and even consumer spending remain unknown.
A cloud-based, cloud-agnostic contact center solution can help overcome some of these challenges, particularly when you can leverage past investments in your IVR.
…investments in cloud-based call center technologies can offer immediate relief for today’s challenges while preparing your brand for future unknowns.
When you’ve spent time and resources optimizing your IVR and customer engagement apps, you don’t want to simply walk away from them. A cloud-first strategy can mean successfully and seamlessly leveraging these investments in ways that keep your current CX performing smoothly.
Cloud-based solutions streamline your ability to access current and emerging contact center software and AI, which can deliver more future-proof operations that you can adapt and/or expand as your needs change.
As you gear up for this year’s holiday shopping season and beyond, investments in cloud-based call center technologies can offer immediate relief for today’s challenges while preparing your brand for future unknowns.
In short, we have seen many disruptions that have impacted the retail market, the supply chain issue most prevalent today.
The key to addressing these challenges is around leveraging a robust set of AI capabilities to allow your most important resource – your agent, to be best prepared to meet customer demand.
But just as important are the technologies and solutions you implement throughout the product journeys: from the time an order is placed until it arrives in your customer’s hands.