Solving Communications Problems in Retail with Hosted Call Centers

The ever-evolving retail environment requires an agile approach to business communications. On the one hand, retailers have multiple channels to broadcast information, which can significantly reduce the need for live phone support. Retailers, however, need to strike a balance between technology and in-person service. The best solution combines these two approaches, arming employees with information to fuel great customer experiences and solving communications problems in retail.

These problems aren't only solely related to customer experience. Many retailers experience inefficiencies in their internal operations that are caused by legacy phone systems and disconnected approaches to the flow of information between employees. While this often results in operational inefficiencies, it also impacts customer experience as well. Here's a closer look at communications problems in retail and some of the technologies that reduce or eliminate their effects:

Customer-facing Communications Struggles

Access to information has changed how retailers must approach customer relations. Before, customer service was the universal approach, with a focus on individual transactions. Communications tools, such as legacy phone systems have limited abilities, so following a customer through their full lifecycle isn't possible. If they haven't already made a digital transformation, retailers should migrate to unified communications solutions that enable rich customer experiences.

Additional customer communication challenges include managing the evolving dynamic between customer and sales associate. While customers' needs once only required a sales clerk that would ring up a purchase, now more than ever, shoppers look for retail employees to function as brand ambassadors. Today's retail workers need to be product experts — and attaining this status is easier with facilitated communications.

Beyond improving customer experience through the customer-employee relationship, some retailers face a major challenge with online competition. "Showrooming" is a customer tactic for obtaining the lowest price by testing out a product in a brick and mortar retail store, only to pass on purchasing then and there in favor of a future online sale from a competitor. Recent reports revealed that 84 percent of shoppers use their smartphones in store, which is unsurprising as these devices have long become integral parts of our daily lives.

What can retailers do to minimize the effect of this practice? By embracing mobile technologies, speeding up product delivery, and creating those brand ambassador employees, retailers can essentially eliminate this threat. In the past, retailers would use the sales tactic of pushing a sense of urgency in the customer. Instead, modern retailers can provide increased product availability and options for purchasing through websites and mobile apps.

While apps can increase sales and further develop positive customer experiences, retailers must also recognize that customers have valid data security concerns about their use. Also, technology doesn't always provide optimal results in all cases. A hybrid approach, with face-to-face options along with technology, can help capture more sales opportunities.

Internal Communications Concerns

Retail workers are often a mixed bag of professionals and part-time employees. In large retailers, communication flows from the top down, and messages sometimes do not efficiently permeate down to the lower levels of the organization. Consider information flow in a non-retail setting — emails are likely the primary communications method. In many organizations, employees from the corner offices to the mailrooms have access to company email. This is less the case in a store environment, where workers are on the floor, often in a part-time or seasonal capacity, and not at a desk.

Developing systems that fully inform retail employees, especially the sales staff who work on the front lines with customers, is key to the customer experience. A highly-motivated purchaser can easily be deflated if a member of the sales staff doesn't know the answer to their question.

Avoid these lost opportunities through unified communications systems that think beyond phone calls and emails. Employee apps, messaging, and mobile can all work together to provide real-time information to all workers. These also can provide quicker routes to answers when employees are faced with an unknown.

Hosted Call Centers Provide Solutions

Cloud technologies, such as 8x8's Virtual Call Center, provide tools for improved customer response and communications between employees and different stores. These solutions replace multiple on-premise legacy phone systems (plain-old-phones) with modern cloud-based communications platforms. In addition to enabling communication, these systems require less maintenance and management, meaning your employees can focus on innovations and other tactics to drive sales. These tools also allow retailers to tap into analytics about calls and employees performance that results in optimal customer experiences.

Choosing the right technology is crucial to a successful retail business. Establish a streamlined retail communications strategy with 8x8, and focus on growing your business. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.

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