Retail. Week REPORTS. Produced in association with. Abo namus aut. Customer experience How to win consumers in today s retail battleground

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1 Produced in association with Abo namus aut Customer experience How to win consumers in today s retail battleground

2 RETAIL WEEK foreword partner foreword alex hamilton research Editor, Sadiq Mohammed Business Development Director, Serco Global Service Consumers are now constantly connected to brands, retailers and one another, as technology drives new levels of engagement across all facets of life and reshapes the way in which we consume information and products. In a world in which we can shop anywhere, anyhow and anytime, retailers have the opportunity to connect with potential customers at nearly every stage of the path to purchase from initial product discovery to payment and the delivery of items. While this path was once linear in shape, based on step-by-step decisions made by the consumer, the rise of online in its various guises has disrupted this process and turned the path into a complex maze of possibilities that hinge around various digital touchpoints. Despite this added complexity in the shopper journey, consumers are demanding an effortless consumer experience, from start to finish. This is presenting retailers with a big challenge, across a whole host of business operations, including supply chain, product assortment and fulfilment. This is why this report is important reading. Through conducting in-depth interviews with a wide range of customer experience leaders, alongside an evaluation of retailers in store, online and multichannel performance via a series of mystery shops, has unearthed valuable insight that will aid retailers in meeting the needs of modern day shoppers. The research shows that customers don t think about channels and therefore don t want to see channels when shopping for products. ers are looking to build a consolidated view of the shopper as a result, rather than adopting a channelby-channel perspective. Meanwhile, the bar has been raised in terms of expectations of the retail offer and, more specifically, the level of service offered by retailers. If service expectations are not met by retailers then consumers will quickly become disenfranchised with the brand and look elsewhere to fulfil their shopping needs. Getting the consumer experience right has never been so important in today s world of multichannel retailing. The bar has been raised in terms of expectations of the retail offer and, more specifically, the level of service offered by retailers Providing the perfect customer experience for every customer at every time of day, in every situation and in every circumstance might be a tall order. Nevertheless, with customer expectations continuing to rise and technologies continuing to multiply and transform customer interactions, it s an aspiration that should provide the focus for any responsible and progressive retailer. The pressure to provide a seamless, responsive and personalised service that will protect, nurture and develop the experience of customers is immense. So too are the commercial opportunities that exist for those retailers who get it right across increasingly diverse channels. Maximising sales is not the end of the story, though. It s just as important to have the speed and agility to adapt to new technologies not only to deliver an effortless, adaptable and sustainable customer experience model, but also to provide effective and rapid recovery from any shortfall in the customer journey mitigating any impact on customer loyalty. These are all fine words. And we all know how challenging it can be to overcome the shackles of legacy processes and systems and just how many potential pain points there can be in any customer s journey especially if they are switching from one channel to another at their convenience. But how are retailers responding to such challenges in an increasingly connected world, where immediacy and consistency of action are paramount for customer loyalty and where social media platforms can be both a great asset as well as laden with huge risk? And how are they balancing service and cultural transformation while also managing the inexorable shift from purely transactional customer interactions to something that is altogether more inspirational and motivational? This report provides a valuable insight into the practical progress that has been made and the challenges that remain for major retailers. By its very nature, customer experience is a dynamic topic and the findings of this report show how retailers are not only continuing to push each other to achieve competitive advantage and even better customer journeys. They also highlight how pace setters are adding further impetus to the constant rise in customer expectation. Evidently no retailer is perfect and no organisation or brand has all of the answers, but the report s findings are certainly thought-provoking and show that as lessons continue to be learned, new benchmarks are also being created. The pressure to provide a seamless and personalised service that will protect, nurture and develop the experience of customers is immense 2 October 2014 October

3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ers are performing well on customer experience with an average score of 81% ers score best for their in-store experience (85%), compared with online (81%) and multichannel (78%) Social media is now a critical part of the service; 20% of retailers have it in their top three investment priorities for enhancing customer experience 20% As the ecommerce director of a major grocer explains: without a great customer experience you re dead. The rise of online shopping, feedback through social media, a return to focus on store design and, overall, multichannel retailing has brought retailers to life. Many of those interviewed for this report talk of the opportunities rather than challenges provided by multichannel to deliver a great customer experience. Yes, it s not easy, but the rewards for those who get it right can be the biggest of all: loyalty. We want the experience to be seamless; we want it to be easy; we want customers to interact with us; we want to drive an emotional connection and ultimately we want customer experience to drive loyalty, explains the group loyalty director at one of the big four supermarkets. So, how do retailers provide a great customer experience in 2014? What are the challenges they face? Where has there been progress and where do brands need to work harder? And who is mastering the shopping journey in a world where customers jump from channel to channel? conducted in-depth interviews with a wide spectrum of customer experience leaders. This report then goes a step further, evaluating the performance of retailers Mystery shop evaluations rating overview FIRST IMPRESSIONS in store, online and through multichannel in which shoppers browsed on mobile, bought online via a desktop, collected in store and were refunded in a store or collection point via a series of mystery shops. Though not extensive, the data provides a valuable insight into the different shopping experiences and throws up a number of trends some of which complement those discussed by the retailers themselves; others that may come as more of a surprise. So what did we find? Expectations of the retail offer and the service provided have changed. Almost two thirds of retailers (60%) believe that they have also increased, not least because the bar is being raised all the time with new technology and ideas. All are witnessing an evolution in what the customer needs and therefore what businesses must deliver. Seamless, speedy and simple are all words that litter the interviews with retailers, especially when it comes to discussing multichannel propositions. Customers don t see channels, so retailers are working hard to ensure they remain invisible. The shop evaluations show that retail performs better at some touchpoints than others, and this can also depend on whether the shop is online, in store or across multiple channels (mobile and in store). SERVICE TRANSACTION PROCESS RETURNS PROCESS Overall, retailers score best for the in-store experience (85%), but performance is generally high with an average score of 81%. The transaction is an area where the majority are providing an experience the customer wants simple, fast, effective (87%). First impressions are also extremely good across the board (83%), especially in store with retailers scoring over 90% for layout, design, product availability and accessibility. However, the service lets customers and the companies down with an average score of 76%. From the initial welcome to the ability of staff to provide advice it is the department stores and general merchandise retailers that struggle in particular (69%). A smile still goes a long way. Indeed, retailers feel that their role is not just to make the shopping experience easy. Much has been made of the customer effort metric and, while important, many of those interviewed here also talk of delighting and surprising customers. Get it right and customers will come back, spend more and perhaps tweet about it. Get it wrong and they will quickly become disenfranchised, look elsewhere and almost certainly tweet about it. Social media is expected to play a crucial role in customer experience. Some note 400% increases in customers using Twitter for service year on year. Extensive research has shown that OVERALL EXPERIENCE In-store 90% 74% 90% 94% 77% 85% Online 84% 79% 87% 79% 72% 81% Multichannel 76% 74% 84% 87% 67% 78% Average 83% 76% 87% 87% 72% 81% AVERAGE BASE: MYSTERY SHOP PARTICIPANTS 72% 60% Shoppers enjoyed the overall experience in-store more than online response times can be slow on social media, but in the evaluations carried out here albeit using a small base the virtual social side of service is working well (81%). But Facebook and the like are more than reactive tools. ers say that listening to customers on social media sites can provide invaluable insight so they can become more proactive. The personalisation of the shopping experience has received a lot of attention, and it s an area that retailers are keen to invest in. Budget priorities are fairly evenly spread when it comes to improving customer experience, though the overall online experience (20%) and in-store customer service (24%) are likely to be where the most money is spent. Perhaps surprisingly, no retailers chose in-store technology as an important investment. 85% 81% 78% 77% The percentage of retailers that believe customers expectations of service have increased 80%+ STORY-TELLING STRATEGIES Many are extremely conscious that the store is evolving but there appears to be a lack of gamechanging technology available to enhance the bricks-and-mortar experience. Their focus, therefore, has been on staff training, with skill sets evolving from the transactional to the inspirational. As the director of CRM and personal shopping at a luxury retailer explains: We want our customers to have an experience that translates into a story that s worth telling. That s our ultimate goal [and] I think that s a good benchmark. According to the retailers involved in this report, no one is there yet but the mystery shop data suggests that many are on the right path to great customer experience in a difficult retail environment. Indeed, it s not easy in the current climate the score given to nine out of the 21 retailers for their multichannel experience with customers demanding a better experience, value for money and a personalised offer. The winners will be those who see opportunities rather than challenges as technology continues to redefine the customer-retailer relationship. As well as the thoughts of the retailers on the evolution of customer experience, also engaged a consumer research company to test shopper journeys at some of the country s top retailers. Feedback was presented for online, in store and multichannel experience, based on five metrics. The results have been used throughout the next four chapters. However, it must be noted that this is not widespread research, but it is an important snapshot view of modern multichannel retailing to help frame and inform retailers view on how to provide the optimum customer experience. 4 October 2014 October

4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY CONCISE CONCLUSIONS CHAPTER ONE THE customer service advantage CHAPTER 1 THE CUSTOMER SERVICE ADVANTAGE n 60% of retailers believe customer expectations of the retail offer and service have increased n The internet, especially mobile shopping, and the recession have changed expectations n The experience should be seamless, slick and simple, but retailers also need to surprise and delight n ers score well on mobile functionality (80%), but refund processing is too slow n Social media is now a critical part of the service; 20% of retailers have it in their top three investment priorities for enhancing customer experience CHAPTER 4 THE EXPERIENTIAL STORE n ers struggling to see how in-store technology can revolutionise the customer experience n No retailers mentioned in-store technology as one of their top three investment priorities to enhance customer experience n Customer evaluation data suggests staff training should be a priority n Fashion retailers and grocers perform best on in-store service (79%, 81%) and overall experience (85%, 81%) n Staff skills are evolving from the transactional to the inspirational CHAPTER 2 THE MULTICHANNEL CHALLENGE n Customers don t think about channels n Simplicity, inspiration and consistency provide a point of difference and present key opportunities n Nine out of the 21 retailers scored 80% or more for their multichannel experience n Biggest challenges to providing a seamless customer experience are legacy IT systems, lack of investment and stock visibility n In multichannel more things can go wrong and a snag can damage the overall experience CHAPTER 5 RETAIL BENCHMARKS n ers are performing well on customer experience with an average score of 81% n ers score best for their in-store experience (85%), compared with online (81%) and multichannel (78%) n Shoppers enjoy the overall experience in store more than online (77% v 72%) n The service offered from the welcome to the interest and friendliness shown by staff can be improved in-store (74%) n Online and in-store, the transactions are well managed (87%, 90%), but performance falls for multichannel (74%) with collection options (73%) and choice of payments (70%) sometimes an issue CHAPTER 3 RETAIL RESPONDS n IT departments face the biggest challenges in the provision of a seamless multichannel experience n A great multichannel experience is where customers don t see channels n 24% of retailers investing most in in-store customer service; 20% focusing on online experience n er perceptions of pioneers in multichannel tend to match customer evaluations n Social media substantially more important from service perspective; retailers score 80% for the social media aspect of their service n ers also view data from social media as a real insight into performance CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION n Expectations may not have increased significantly but the customerretailer relationship has changed forever n Customers will continue to seek value for money and embrace technology n Mobile will be critical, in terms of transaction, reaction and inspiration n Performance across the channels is, generally, very good but snags in any part of the journey can affect the entire experience n ers will continue invest in store and online as the customer experience evolves n The winners will be those offering a seamless experience that can also surprise and delight 6 October 2014 October

5 n 60% of retailers believe customer expectations of the retail offer and service have increased n The internet, especially mobile shopping, and the recession have changed expectations n The experience should be seamless, slick and simple, but retailers also need to surprise and delight n ers score well on mobile functionality (80%), but refund processing is too slow n Social media is now a critical part of the service; 20% of retailers have it in their top three investment priorities for enhancing customer experience 1.2 Mobile functionality scores, by sector General merchandisers Department stores Fashion retailers 77% 86% 85% 1.3 Refund delays CHANNEL In-store (54 evaluations) Online (63 evaluations) EASE OF OBTAINING REFUND 97% 96% 82% 63% EFFICIENCY IN PROCESSING A REFUND Grocers 69% BASE: ALL MYSTERY SHOP PARTICIPANTS Multichannel (63 evaluations) 88% 89% Expectations of the retail offer and service have changed. The internet and the financial crisis have squeezed customer expectations upwards. Shoppers now want to move seamlessly between channels and get value for money. They want to shop as effortlessly as possible, and be inspired when the occasion arises. They want to offer their personal information, but in return they expect a personal service. This is today s retail climate. It s the experience customers desire and the ambition all retailers harbour. ers can no longer think in only one channel and the days of generating loyalty through repeat visits in the physical store are long gone. Frequently [as a retailer] you re often not a physical presence, explains the information analytics and innovation manager of a department store. You re the result of a search engine query and I think it s going to be harder to generate loyalty and good experience through that. The head of customer insight and pricing of a grocer expands on this. People using mobile, in particular, is transforming their ability to find the 1.1 Have customers expectations of the retail offer increased, decreased or stayed the same? Increased BASE: ALL RETAIL RESPONDENTS best products, shop online and go into stores and check things, he says. There is also the eyes open view of value. People are much less worried about shopping around to get the best prices. Not only are people showrooming (research online as they browse in store), they are also webrooming (researching online before coming in store). As the head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer explains: people are thinking about their own version of austerity. People s behaviour has changed since 2008, he says. I think shoppers have become much more pay-day orientated. People are thinking: What can I spend? How can I spend it? How can I make things last? Greater expectations Asked whether this means that customers expectations of the retail offer and service have increased, 60% say it has, with 40% arguing they have stayed the same (see chart 1.1). It might not be a matter of expectations increasing, but purely their demands changing, most notably through new technology. ers are preparing for 80% 60% 40% Stayed the same Multichannel is dictating everything we do in the customer experience space Group loyalty director of a grocery chain There are more touchpoints with brands than there were a year ago and customers expect a seamless brand experience Ecommerce director of a food retailer smartphone ownership and the acceleration 4G will bring. Speed and mobile are two key trends. Mobile shopping Customers expect to be able to use their mobiles to be recognised to check into stores, to pay, to scan products, to research, to talk to their friends about the products, to compare prices, and to get and give reviews, says the ecommerce director of a grocery chain. Customer experience testing carried out for this report shows that when it comes to their mobile platforms, retailers are doing a pretty good job. Assessed on the mobile functionality of their websites, they scored an average of 80%. Of course, things can change very quickly and it s up to retailers to keep pace with consumer technology and how change could affect their service and in turn the customer experience. If Apple want to introduce a new screen for the iphone, that changes things for us and to be able to offer a seamless experience through that channel [mobile] we need to rethink and reinvest in everything that we ve done, says the director of CRM and personal shopping services at a luxury high street store. The need for speed The pace of change in technology is matched only by the increasing speed with which customers want to be served. Despite the trend for custom- ers to spend more time researching purchases, both in store and online, the process accelerates at the point of payment. Online and multichannel retailers, in particular, need to get the transaction right and then ensure the delivery is convenient. Speed of fulfilment will [definitely] be part of the evolution of customer experience, says the head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer. I think we ll be delivering the same day, at high speed, to remote customer locations [based perhaps on GPS data] and effectively making it much more convenient for the customers. The convenience of click-and-collect might also prove to be a winner. By 2017, click-andcollect is expected to be used by 76% of online shoppers (Planet research, 2014) as they look for convenience, speed and value for money. For retailers it might reduce overheads, compared with home delivery, but expectations from customers remain high. The desk needs to be easy to find and the item must be there on time: it s a very immediate, customer-facing measure of how effective the retail systems and processes are working together. Chapter 5 highlights some of those getting it right. Raising the bar Fulfilment is the perfect example of how retailers are pushing each other to offer better customer experiences. Follow my Parcel is a case in point, says the ecommerce director at a fashion retailer. That s delivering a much better experience for the customer and it s making life very difficult for everyone else. But once customers have experienced better they are much less tolerant of bad. Some retailers talk about taking customer experience one step further. Grocers, for instance, can help customers by providing a shopping list incorporating their regular purchases so they don t have to upload a new list each time. Beyond that there s an opportunity to provide recipe ideas and translate that to the list, which is then all delivered home, to the office, or the nearest tube station. The idea is to incorporate convenience and inspiration and create what one refers to as an organisational memory. The director of CRM and personal shopping services at a luxury high street store says that getting it right can do more than encourage loyalty. We want our customers to have an experience that translates into a story that s worth telling. That s our ultimate goal [and] I think that s a good benchmark, he says. The social story The fact that Facebook has introduced a buy button doesn t mean the question of how to commercialise the site is answered. But retailers are aware of how powerful the tool can be alongside other channels such as Twitter and YouTube when it comes to brand awareness. Last Christmas, mentions of eight of the UK s biggest retailers on Twitter were up by about 45% year on year (Topsy research, 2013). There are 15 million active Twitter users in the UK. Of those retailers interviewed here, 12% say social media is in the top three for investment to improve customer experience. A fifth are also prioritising investment towards the overall online experience, which will include social media or at least it should. The long game Customers not only use Twitter and Facebook to post queries, but to pillory and praise. Aftersales service is now a more dominant factor in the customer experience, and exchange and refund propositions must be easy to use. According to the evaluations detailed in chapter 5, returning an item bought online isn t a problem but getting the money back is. In store the refund experience is very different, with quick service and the money being returned straight away. Store experience In the sea of tweets and likes have retailers forgotten about the in-store experience? Certainly not when it comes to improving the customer experience, in store is among the top three investments for almost a quarter of the retailers interviewed (24%). Of those, two thirds say it is their top investment. However, this is often done with the website and digital offer in mind. Expectations of how they are treated and how they can interact with us has definitely increased Information analytics and innovation manager of a major retail chain A higher expectation means that you have to keep providing an incredible experience Director of CRM and personal shopping services of a luxury store We are redefining our store design for a digital customer Head of ecommerce of a fashion retailer SERCO Advisory points l A positive customer experience is not one dimensional or specific to an individual channel. Ensuring effective transactions and query resolutions is just the start. To maintain or develop a competitive advantage and to move forward with confidence, retailers must have agility and consistency of experience across all channels in order to deliver an inspirational customer experience and to maximise loyalty. l Blaming a cumbersome and outdated IT system for inaction and lack of improvement in customer experience is inexcusable. Customers are more connected, more empowered and more fickle than ever before, so maintaining the status quo is not an option. The onus is on retailers to keep pace with consumer technologies and behaviours and to take decisive steps to provide both existing and prospective customers with what they expect, when they expect it and how they wish to receive it. 8 October 2014 October

6 CHAPTER two THE multichannel challenge n Customers don t think about channels n Simplicity, inspiration and consistency provide a point of difference and present key opportunities n Nine out of the 21 retailers scored 80% or more for their multichannel experience, with only three scoring below 70% n Biggest challenges to providing a seamless customer experience are legacy IT systems, lack of investment and stock visibility n In multichannel more things can go wrong and a glitch in any part of the journey can damage the overall experience ers might think about channels, but customers don t. Customers just think about what they are trying to do at a particular point in time and the role of the retailer is to make that process relevant, quick and frictionless. Your customer experience used to be confined to the footprint of your store, but now it s everywhere, says the ecommerce director of a grocer. It s 24 hours a day; it s accessible at any point using a variety of devices. You have to be prepared to serve that customer anywhere, everywhere at any time. Has multichannel therefore complicated the delivery of a great customer experience? It s certainly more complex, he adds. 2.1 How satisfied are shoppers with in store, online and multichannel? 85% 81% 78% IN STORE ONLINE MULTICHANNEL Mix and match Given the complex nature of the shopper journey and how new much of the technology is it s perhaps not surprising that not one of the retail interviewees believes there is a brand offering outstanding customer experience across all channels. Yet. As the group loyalty director of a major grocer explains, it might not be easy but it is the way to go. It s a big challenge trying to embrace the way that people want to shop in a multichannel era where they want to mix and match [across different channels]. But it s the right one it s the right one for us and it s the right one for the customer. I think there is a range of retailers doing things well, but probably no one single retailer doing everything well Head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer Wherever a customer chooses to interact with us, through whatever channel, that they would receive a consistent high quality service that meets actually exceeds expectations Head of ecommerce of a fashion retailer Pioneers It s the usual suspects that come up when retailers are asked who is offering an outstanding multichannel customer experience. John Lewis, Next, Asos and Amazon are all mentioned, but no brands have yet cracked it, as the head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer puts it. In the individual channels, there are the pioneers, however. Through different touchpoints I could mention some retailers [that have exceptional No snags Customer insight manager of a fashion chain We should all be in the business of reducing customer effort Head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer The whole process was easy, efficient and enjoyable. The collection point was well signposted and the area was bright and very inviting John Lewis customer experience]. I like what Burberry is doing in its stores. I like what Farfetch is doing through their website, says the director of CRM at a luxury high street store. To actually have it right all the time consistently across all channels it s so complex. On the right path But there is progress. Scores of the online and in-store experience might have been higher than for multichannel but only fractionally (see chart 2.1). The results show moments of mayhem goods not turning up, websites not working, staff disengagement or a tweet that goes unanswered. However, these are in the minority. An average score of 78% across all 63 mystery shops shows that many are headed in the right direction. Department stores, in particular, are paving the way to a seamless experience. Minimise effort to the max Minimising the effort is the first base for multichannel retailing. Time is precious and hassle is painful. As Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi describe in their book, The Effortless Experience, companies that build easy-to-use products, help customers execute 10 October 2014 October

7 OPPORTUNITY 1: SIMPLICITY Reducing the effort to shop is something that many retailers are striving for. 2.3 Top three challenges for seamless multichannel experience Customer insight: The item was placed into the basket with ease and efficiency, however, when it came to selecting a delivery option, problems occurred. The site explained how much I would need to spend to get free delivery via click-and-collect or home delivery, however only the home delivery was open to select. The site would not allow me to select to deliver to a store and I had to spend additional money to qualify for this service. I found it appalling that I could not pay a nominal amount for in-store collection and had to order more items instead. New Look customer er insight: I don t think there s one customer service or experience model that is right for all customers. The trick is to offer a level of flexibility that customers can do whatever they want to do, with maximum convenience. Customer insight director of a multichannel major retailer 2.2 Conusmer effort versus inspiration 94% of consumers will repeat buy if the experience is considered low effort Source: Harvard Business review, % will spend more next time if the experience is low effort 81% who have a hard time dealing with a company will tell others about it I think customers will expect increasing personalisation and to have a say in the level of personalisation. I think that will differ between brands depending upon how much that brand is part of their lifestyle. Ecommerce director of a food retailer 27% Legacy IT and data systems 23% Lack of investment 14% Real-time visibility of stock across all channels BASE: ALL RETAIL RESPONDENTS a purchase in a simple way and provide loweffort service on the back end will generate disproportionate customer loyalty returns especially in a world where the hassle factor tends to be more the rule than the exception. That s why retailers are doing everything in their power to provide a seamless experience one that involves less effort. Unless we provide an experience that actually minimises the effort to the maximum, customers are going to switch to another provider, says the director of CRM at a high-end store. Time is a valuable asset for customers it s their most valuable, no matter how wealthy they are, he says, adding: We can t be consuming part of that precious asset. It s not about their capacity to spend today or the physical price tag of the items it s actually about how much of their time we are using and how much effort we are asking the customer to go through. The mystery shop data shows how any glitch in the experience can affect the overall experience. Customers can become frustrated easily during their journey whether it s the speed of the website, directions to a click-and-collect facility or hidden delivery charges. Shoppers appreciate proactive retailers that hold their hand. Customer effort If customers have to do unnecessary work then it creates friction in the shopping journey. This isn t good for conversion or loyalty. Some retailers are focusing on customer effort as a metric of OPPORTUNITY 2: TRANSaction and inspiration Customers should have the choice between transaction and inspiration. If they know what they want then their purchase should be three clicks away. But if they want to be inspired then that journey should be available too but it should still be convenient. I bought a tent recently and there was a problem and I couldn t get through to anyone on a Sunday. It required way too much effort to get hold of them and I couldn t them directly. Quite frankly I am now completely disenfranchised with that brand, and gave up and asked for a refund Group SVP marketing of a fashion retailer performance. A survey of 75,000 customers in the Harvard Business Review in 2010 discovered that delighting customers doesn t build loyalty; reducing their effort the work they must do to get their problem solved does (see chart 2.2). What s more, acting on this can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs and decrease customer churn. This goes against the grain of net promoter score (NPS) and, as a concept, has continued to divide opinion. Of those that had heard of customer effort score, some are using it and see it as an incredibly important benchmark. The group SVP marketing of a fashion retailer explains: Customers can become disenfranchised really quickly if they can t get to the source. It s all about options and the retailer does the work for the customer to make things simple. Others suggest measuring effort is a useful tool, but only in conjunction with NPS. As the group loyalty director of a major grocer explains: NPS allows you to measure that emotional attachment: I like you so much that I m prepared to tell others about what it is you do. In a world where millions of customers are armed with Twitter and Facebook, positive reviews can reach millions more. However, it s the negative experiences that are more likely to be posted. OPPORTUNITY 3: CONSISTENCY ers that provide a consistent brand experience across all channels are likely to reap the benefits of increased loyalty. With the sharing of information locally, nationally and internationally on social media, this consistency becomes even more critical. It s so difficult to get consistency across the board. If a customer walks into one store and talks to one individual, they re going to get a completely different experience from another store and another individual. The challenge is going to be building that consistency, says the customer insight manager of a fashion retailer. Two different mystery shops at two different Debenhams stores provide a case in point. 97% I was greeted and offered assistance as I browsed. The staff member asked questions about my personal preferences before introducing suitable T-shirts. 24% There was a lovely greeting when I walked in. Although there were plenty of staff I had to go to the till for help. I was given directions to one fixture with no mention of the other locations [for wallets]. Simple and smart The coupling of customer effort scores with metrics like NPS seems to be where retailers are headed at least according to many of those interviewed here. Many talk of the simple experience (low effort) that they want to offer, but then there is another level, where they hope to surprise and inspire and encourage promotion. As the ecommerce director of a food retailer explains, the shopper journey must be seamless and simple, but there s also an opportunity for retailers to get smart too. This is where multichannel can play a part. If someone is planning a dinner party and they re browsing for recipes and ideas then they ll have time for an immersion experience using all the rich content [on the website]. On another occasion [that same person] might just be doing the weekly shop and they re in a transactional frame of mind. ers have to be able to cater for both of those experiences. Personalisation of the offer will have a part to play on both counts. Taking stock But let s not get ahead of ourselves. The real-time visibility of stock across all channels is something that many retailers are still grappling with. It s an area where errors can creep in. Once again it s because customers don t think in channels they don t want to know why the shirt they are looking at in the store isn t available to purchase online. Of the leaders interviewed, 25% cite supply chain as one of their top three challenges for delivery of a seamless multichannel experience. Meanwhile, the lack of real-time visibility of stock across all channels is a major challenge I was served by the same member of staff but he didn t recognise me at first. Once he recognised me, he began chatting and processed the return smoothly Topshop customer If you re sending a customer to pick something up in store then you need to know it s there and hasn t been sold in the last four hours Group SVP marketing of a fashion retailer for 14% when it comes to delivering a seamless customer experience across all channels (see chart 2.3). Having real-time availability is extremely important in today s marketing environment, says the customer insight director of a chain of department stores. The director of CRM and personal shopping services at a luxury high street store adds: We are a bit far behind on inventory tracking. It s like the lack of visibility of stock has really hindered our customer experience. We re working really hard to improve the information of the supply chain. There is also some overlap with store operations, with both potentially resulting in a poor experience. The information analytics and information manager of a major retailer explains: Store operations is fundamentally about putting the object in front of the customer and that s your biggest opportunity to get it wrong. It s the supply chain operation that gets it there in the first place. So, if you build expectation and people come in store and it s not there, then the expectation [suffers]. ers have to be able to cater for people in a transactional frame of mind as well as those looking for an immersion experience Ecommerce director of a food retailer I wouldn t say multichannel has complicated [the customer experience] it gives us more ways to delight our customers and give them what they need Head of customer insight and pricing of a major grocer SERCO Advisory points l Making life easier for the customer means removing potential obstacles, restrictions and frustrations. Disenchantment with a service will manifest itself quickly. So it s up to the retailer to minimise the effort required from a customer to ensure fulfilment in any interaction from choice of product and transaction to the resolution of queries and delivery or collection of the goods/services that have been purchased. l The move towards greater personalisation is an inevitable consequence of efforts to establish service and brand differentiation. So too is the need for real-time stock availability and brand consistency across all channels. Matching the simplicity and versatility of smart technologies with smart experiences that involve minimum effort, time and hassle on the part of the customer will enable a retailer to deliver an excellent customer journey. Only then will it be possible to embrace the countless opportunities to use advanced technologies and more motivated and informed staff to deliver competitive advantage through inspirational customer interaction. There were huge numbers of payment options and delivery options available and I saw that I could even check stock in my local store Schuh customer We ve had some complaints recently where customers have come in to collect their items and they are not ready because the to them has gone out too quickly Customer insight manager of a fashion retailer 12 October 2014 October

8 CHAPTER three retail responds n The IT department faces the biggest challenges in the provision of a seamless multichannel experience n A great multichannel experience is where customers don t see channels they are invisible n 24% of retailers investing most in in-store customer service; 20% focusing on online experience n er perceptions of pioneers in multichannel tend to match customer evaluations n Social media substantially more important from service perspective; retailers score 80% for the social media aspect of their service n ers also view data from social media as a real insight into performance in the broadest terms, mobile is the way most of our customers now want to shop and where there is an exponential level of growth Head of commerce, specialist retail chain The invisible retailer Much has been made of a seamless customer experience, and reducing the effort involved in the customer journey. The very best experiences are offered by businesses that ensure channels are invisible. ers think about channels but customers don t, explains the ecommerce director of a grocer. A great multichannel experience should feel frictionless, so you don t really notice [the different channels]. Customers don t notice channels they just think about what they re trying to do at that particular time. ers see a number of challenges ahead for various business functions. When asked which of these functions face the greatest challenges in improving customer experience, the IT department came out top, followed by supply chain and store operations. It is a similar story when asked what the major challenges are for retailers in delivering a seamless customer experience legacy IT and data systems and 3.1 Other than designated customer service and experience teams, which business functions have the greatest challenges in improving customer experience? Marketing 10% stock visibility are top and third. Sandwiched in between is the lack of investment. Investment priorities So, where are retailers investing to ensure the delivery of a great customer experience? It depends on the retailer. Those with large store presence, such as the grocers, say they are investing much more in their store experience. But that doesn t mean online isn t critical. The head of customer insight and pricing at one of the big four supermarkets explains: The top [investment priority for us] is customer service in store, then store design and then overall online experience. They re just in terms of scale as for us [with hundreds of stores and thousands of employees] whatever you do in store is expensive. But the online pieces are the fastest changing so in terms of importance it s probably them. Asked where their investment priorities for customer experience lie, in-store service Technology 40% Supply chain 30% Store operations 20% Online/multichannel teams 10% Store design 10% BASE: ALL RETAIL RESPONDENTS People are increasingly starting to expect a much more personalised engagement, from whatever channel that might be. They expect their data is being actively used across all the different interactions that they have with companies, but in return they expect that the companies use that information to give them an experience which is a bit more personalised and relevant to them Customer insight director of a chain of department stores and overall online experience were in the top three of 24% and 20% of retailers respectively, with 16% also selecting online customer service. It seems that online service and experience (36%) and in-store experience (24%) are the priority areas for investment. In-store technology, which is discussed in chapter 4, was not a top three priority for any of the retailers interviewed (see chart 3.2). Up close and personal Service level can define a business, but in 2014 this has to extend to a deeper understanding of the customer, on an individual level: who they are, what they like, what their current situation is. To do this, retailers are embracing big data to offer personalised shopping experiences on a massive scale at least in theory. Customers are more willing to offer up their personal information but expect a more personalised service as a result. However, retailers are struggling to use it to improve their sales: more than two thirds of those surveyed by for a report in April (Data management: Re-engineering retail structures, skills and strategies for a data culture) felt underprepared. Those interviewed here are certainly aware of the role big data can play in enhancing customer experience and 14 October 2014 October

9 Social media has become more important from a service perspective. We re seeing something like a 400% year-on-year increase in customers using Twitter for service Head of ecommerce of a fashion retailer You can listen to what people are saying [through social media] that is more real and more useful than what people are telling you directly Group loyalty director of a grocery chain Social media gives us really critical information on how customers experience stores and what problems they might be having. We take it very seriously. We are learning Head of customer insight and pricing of a major grocer You used to write a letter and could probably respond within a week. Now people expect a response within an hour and that s pushing it Group loyalty director of a major grocery retailer Response is about 11 minutes [on Twitter]. There s no point responding tomorrow to a tweet left today Head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer Technology should be an option to deliver a better customer experience than you ve ever had. On the flipside, when you ve got to consider five or six channels as opposed to one it s going to be harder to deliver. Information analytics and innovation manager of a major retailer The contact centre is critical and we continue to train and invest in them to make sure they deliver great customer service Head of customer insight and pricing of a major grocer The call centre is the moment of truth so if the customer isn t happy then this [interaction] is the best opportunity to actually make them an advocate of the brand Director of CRM and personal shopping at a premium store The telephone is still important, but to deliver a proper call centre experience now, you have to ensure you are integrating social media and responses Group SVP for marketing of a high street fashion retailer There isn t one customer service model that is right for all customers. The trick is to offer flexibility with maximum convenience Customer insight director of a chain of department stores Delighted customers spend more money and make more profit. Once they do that there s every reason to invest in customer experience management Customer insight manager of a fashion retailer The ability to use [internet] channels to be there whenever a customer wants to talk to you makes the online experience really important Information analytics and innovation manager of a major retailer 3.2 Name three areas where you are placing the greatest investment in improving customer experience In-store customer service 24% Store design 12% Online customer service 16% Pillory or praise Customers tweeting tend to be operating at the extremes of emotion they re either very happy or extremely peeved. People tend to react more to a negative thing than a positive one, says the information analytics and innovation manager of a major retailer. That ability to publicly rant, instantly, to a huge number of people, unfettered, is a game-changer it means that somebody other than the company owns what the brand means. This is why retailers have begun to filter their online reviews not by deleting the bad ones but ensuring they are relevant to the customer reading them. Currently, peer reviews tend to be unfiltered, with different people commenting on products and services from very different perspectives. Helping customers find reviews that come from people like them is incredibly important, says the customer insight director at a high street department store chain. Twitter, Facebook and the like can be used to assess brand awareness, customer satisfaction, loyalty and so on. As well as knowing who bought what, when and how, retailers can now understand why. Data masters However, there is a long way to go before retailers master not only how to use this so-called unstructured data from social media, but also how to measure their performance as a result. Some have hopped straight on the numbers bandwagon counting likes and positive v negative tweets. A report by Crimson Hexagon last year charted social sentiment across a large and vocal sample of consumers over time it showed how an understanding of the reason behind a positive or negative tweet is vital. One retailer, for example, was mentioned in 200,000 posts, just 9% of which were negative. However, almost all the negative sentiment was centred around one issue: the value of the goods. Reaction speeds One metric others have used is the reaction speed. As discussed in chapter 1, previous reencouraging loyalty. The director of CRM and personal shopping services at a luxury high street store explains how this can work. A great multichannel customer experience is one which, as a customer, I don t need to think about. I don t need to think about what I need I just get a very good proposal which links to me and my needs. I can select it easily and there are no delivery charges. It comes pretty quickly, wrapped beautifully and they don t ask me for feedback. Some feel they are getting there. The director Overall online experience 20% Call centres 12% Social media 12% of CRM continues: We have integrated all our systems so we know the journey of a customer, their history, if they have complained before and what happened. We ve been working on that for almost a year now, but I think next year we will be in very good shape to have the right technology to support our customer service. Listen and learn For those looking for truly personal experiences to offer, the social media channels offer a wealth Other 4% BASE: ALL RETAIL RESPONDENTS of information. In fact, some believe the data gathered from listening is more real and useful than direct communication between retailer and customer. The information analytics and innovation manager of a department store explains: Our ability to use [what people are saying] to understand what they are thinking and how different actions and words and locations could be moved into other processes [is the exciting part]. But it s something we haven t got our heads around and we need to. 3.3 Who excels in customer experience? Do the views of retailers regarding the brands that excel match those of the mystery shoppers? Brand er view Multichannel mystery shop score Amazon Asos John Lewis search suggests that retailers have been quick to embrace Twitter and Facebook, but slow to react once they ve gone live. In knowing the challenges that confront customers be it online or offline more quickly, retailers have had to improve their reaction speeds. The ecommerce director of a food retailer calls it the ability to recover. Our customers expect us to give them a great experience and I think part of that is we re also great at recovering. If something goes wrong then we ll fix it because we want people to have had an experience they like. Of those retailers interviewed here, 12% say that social media is one of their top three investment priorities. A fifth (20%) are investing in the overall online experience (see chart 3.2). As part of the online customer experience tests, detailed in chapter 5, the availability of social It s clichéd, but I think Amazon offers outstanding customer experience just because it s so easy and I think easy goes a hell of a long way. Group loyalty director of a major grocery chain 84% 84% Asos do a very good job. They know the customer very well and they are very good at refreshing their ranges consistently. They re also very good at telling customers when and where and how they re going to get hold of those items, so they meet customer expectations really well. Ecommerce director of a major grocer John Lewis has got what you need and it can deliver on the right day and at the right time and you know it s going to be fine. Group loyalty 90% director of a major retailer media, responses through the channel and efficiency of social media customer service were all scored as part of the service criteria. In fact, the social media element is among the strongest services. Going forward it s likely that more and more customers will want to communicate directly through social media and staff will need to be equipped to deal with that. Technology drive Not only do the shopping experience and response times need to be quick, but so too does the adaptation to new technology. Many retailers are in switching from legacy IT systems to a more agile approach. As the information analytics and innovation manager of a department store explains: A lot of our legacy systems were designed for fewer products, sold through a single 16 October 2014 October

10 CHAPTER four A great multichannel experience is fundamentally one where customers don t see channels and don t see systems they just get what they were looking for quickly and accurately Head of ecommerce at a fashion retailer You can listen to what people are saying [through social media] and that is actually more real and more useful than what people are telling you directly Group loyalty director of a grocery chain 3.4 What do consumers want from the social side of service? Efficiency of social media service Responding to social media Help from a real person when required Quality of advice Friendliness of staff 84% 83% 80% 78% 78% the experiential store channel to fewer people when it really didn t matter how much they wanted to buy it. The IT team is expected to face the greatest challenges when it comes to seamless and even enhanced customer experiences according to 40% of those surveyed here. The legacy systems are also a major issue 27% selected it as one of the top three challenges in delivering a seamless customer experience, more than any other (see chart 2.3, chapter 2). It s (still) good to talk Smartphones and mobile retailing are changing the way people shop, the expectations they have and the way they interact with retailers. But what does this mean for call centres do they still have a role to play in customer service and experience? The majority of retailers believe they do They have a massive role to play, says the group loyalty director of a supermarket but the way they are run and the skills of the people who work in them has to evolve. Call volumes are dropping, explains the head of ecommerce of a fashion retailer. We now have more video interactions than phone calls, but the call centre is still massively important. Others have also spied an opportunity. The ecommerce director of a food retailer explains how customers today perhaps through convenience and lack of time are keen to selfsort issues, with a phone call the last resort. For this reason, call centres are increasingly thought of in terms of outbound communications rather than inbound. They re sort of sales orientated, he explains. We re looking at it more in terms of having [product] specialists in our call centres. Others have followed the same route. We spend a lot of money making sure staff are fully trained in sales interaction so they deliver something that is natural and efficient but is actually orientated towards selling products. BASE: ALL MYSTERY SHOP PARTICIPANTS Clear availability of social media service Interest shown by staff Ease of gaining assistance 3.5 What are the top three major challenges when it comes to delivering a seamless customer experience across channels? Legacy and data systems 27% Lack of investment 23% Lack of real-time visibility of stock in all channels 14% Lack of board support 9% Inability to link multiple channels 9% Inability to get accurate single view of customer 9% Other 9% BASE: ALL RETAIL RESPONDENTS SERCO Advisory points l It s essential to keep the finger on the pulse not just in terms of technologies, but also customer behaviours and preferences and what s being said on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The impact of smartphones and mobile technologies has changed the landscape for shoppers and, therefore, for retailers too. l Optimising the experience of customers and moving towards greater service personalisation in the multichannel world demands a level of customer insight that s deeper, broader and more precise than ever before. It also demands agility and an ability to respond at a moment s notice so that a potential negative can be turned into an emphatic positive. l When something goes wrong in the customer journey, for example, a progressive retailer will react quickly to provide an effective resolution. Such care and responsiveness shows any customer that they are valued which, by definition, provides the foundation for a positive customer experience. But that s only possible if a retailer has listened to customer feedback, is monitoring (and responding to) social media commentaries and has a detailed understanding of evolving customer behaviour and shopping patterns. 76% 74% 77% Arena Photo UK / Shutterstock.com 18 October 2014 October

11 n ers struggling to see how in-store technology can revolutionise the customer experience n no retailers mentioned in-store technology as one of their top three investment priorities to enhance customer experience n Customer evaluation data suggests staff training should be a priority n fashion retailers and grocers perform best on in-store service (79%, 81%) and overall experience (85%, 81%) n Staff skills are evolving from the transactional to the inspirational I was disappointed that no areas of the store are designated for demonstrations B&Q in-store customer 4.2 Service is where retail performance dips (in-store, all sectors) First impressions 90% Service 74% I was impressed by the various demonstration areas where customers can try laptops and notebooks Currys/PC World in-store customer Transaction 90% Returns 94% The majority of transactions go through self-service tills and customer ratings of that experience continue to increase Head of customer insight and pricing of a major grocer Overall experience 77% The in-store experience remains a top priority for retailers not least because of the rise in multichannel shopping and both show-rooming and webrooming. Customers need to have an increasingly compelling reason to come in and shop in a store, suggests the ecommerce director of a food retailer. And as the director of CRM and personal shopping services at a luxury high street store explains: Customer expectations of the retail offer have increased it s like being multichannel and having more access to things through a digital world means that a store experience also needs to pick up again. Stores must inspire. And for some the new era of multichannel retailing has inspired them. Currys/PC World was a business trying to find its place five years ago if you go into stores now it s really quite impressive what they ve done, says the head of customer insight and pricing of a major grocery chain. Currys/ PC World, in fact, scored 91% in the customer evaluations for its in-store shopping, with one store receiving full marks (100%) thanks to the useful demonstration areas, helpful staff, speed of service and the layout. Currys/PC World was one of six retailers to achieve 90% or more in the mystery shop evaluations, with a further nine scoring over 80%. Indeed, the design of the stores in all 18 retail brands impressed the majority of customers, with an average score of 90%. The area that lets those in general merchandising down 4.1 Best and worst aspects of service across sectors is the demonstration area (58% average). With consumers keen to come in store to touch, feel, try and discuss products this is an experience that many will want to focus on. Cool reception ers generally seem to struggle to provide a warm welcome to customers, scoring 56% on average. This on the back of a high score for first impressions (90%), including layout (91%), design (91%), product accessibility and availability (both 92%) and fitting rooms (82%). Other than the welcome, staff were generally friendly (80%) but more could be helpful (74%). There was a seamless experience, generally speaking, at the till (90%) and regarding any returns (94%). (See chart 4.2.) However, there was a notable dip in performance among department stores and general merchandise stores concerning service which included everything from the welcome to the responsiveness of staff. These two sectors scored 69%, whereas fashion retailers and grocers achieved 79% and 81% respectively. The importance of friendly, knowledgeable staff is becoming more important as customers look to stores to provide not only an enjoyable shop but to make life easy. Touchscreens left untouched With the overall experience in store suggesting room for improvement (77%), what more could SECTOR BEST FOR WORST FOR OVERALL EXPERIENCE Dept stores Choice of payment methods (98%) Welcome (53%) 67% Fashion retailers Staff involved in refunds (98%) Welcome (51%) 85% General merchandise Refund service (98%) Demonstration areas (58%) 77% Grocers Refund service (99%) Welcome (62%) 81% All sectors Staff competence for refunds (98%) Welcome (56%) 77% Giving people ideas of how to products would fit into their lives could be really great for them. With the inspiration piece, I think the store environment is very important. Customer insight director of a high street retailer be done? Might in-store technology provide some solutions? Given that it is levels of service that retailers fell down on staff knowledge, responsiveness to the customer etc then perhaps not. The importance consumers place on in store is expected to rise as everything from click-andcollect to virtual fitting rooms and bluetooth beacons all become the norm. However, some retailers are still waiting for the big revolution in in-store technology. If you look in the UK there s not really a lot of innovation happening, says the customer insight director of a multichannel retail brand. It s stuff that everyone s working on but nobody has really figured out how it s going to revolutionise the customer experience. I think there is a lot of test and learn that needs to happen. Others admit there is a temptation to go for big-ticket technology, but it has to be relevant. More than one mentions big touchscreens that customers left untouched. However, kiosks offering real-time stock information are adding real value, say others. This comes back to convenience: people want to know what s there, now. Shopping online, in store It s no surprise, therefore, that more retailers have provided staff with the technology to check online stock, and even allow customers to do so themselves. However, the information analytics and innovation manager of one retailer suggests that in-store technology has, so far at least, given us a crutch to cover up some fundamentally bad processes. It strikes me that anybody who goes into a store and is forced to order online from there has fundamentally failed in their shopping mission. In that respect, in-store technology has helped us put a safety blanket [over] some processes that maybe we haven t got a handle on. On the other hand, the future is brighter. Virtual shopping assistants, in-store mapping, beacon locations and technology like that are going to change the way the customer interacts with the store environment and I think all for the better, he adds. Savvy staff In the meantime, retailers will do well to focus on staff. According to the customer evaluations, service is where performance dips and this has a bearing on the overall experience. An exceptional customer service provision is often a reflection of the quality of people put into the store environment. That makes the difference, says the information analytics and innovation manager at a major retail chain. Of course, this is a world in which young people are speaking more via YouTube, mobile phones and Twitter than they are in person. The world is also obsessed with Facebook. But what does this mean for recruiters in retail? There might well be a new generation of tech-savvy 4.3 Fashion and grocery lead the pack for in-store service SERVICE DEPARTMENT STORES graduates on the horizon, but how about the skills required in stores? Twitter training As the customer-retailer relationship is reinvented thanks to multichannel retail, staff across the business need to be multi-skilled. Customer service centre staff are also becoming experts in social media. In the past a letter received could be responded to within seven days, while many adhere to an response within 48 hours. But in social media the response times need to be measured in hours, if not minutes and seconds. Staff have to be trained to work autonomously and arguably with a greater degree of authority. You want staff to be able to feel like they re able to [provide the customer] with whatever they need to make the situation better, says the group loyalty director of a grocery retailer. In businesses run by rules it s hard to remove those shackles. Indeed, the more control staff are given, the more risks: poorly trained staff could cause more trouble in the social media sphere than they solve and result in negative PR. As Sir Richard Branson has suggested: Thanks to the internet, the fallout from a badly handled complaint in FASHION RETAILERS GENERAL MERCHANDISE Welcome 53% 51% 59% 62% Ease of gaining assistance 71% 85% 77% 87% Interest shown by staff 74% 81% 69% 84% Quality of advice 72% 79% 67% 80% Enthusiasm for product 71% 81% 67% 83% Friendliness of staff 74% 91% 71% 88% Responsiveness to needs 72% 87% 71% 83% Average 69% 79% 69% 81% GROCERS London can reach the other side of the globe within seconds. Nevertheless, confident in its training and staff, Virgin is one of the brands that has allowed staff to express themselves and even break the rules to make the customer happy. That is what customer service is all about, so expect to see retailers follow suit as the game changes in customer experience. As more people come into stores for the experience, the sort of interaction staff have with the customer will not be so much about the transaction. It will be more about delighting and inspiring the customer so they might buy something Information analytics and innovation manager of a department store SERCO Advisory points l Today, the relationship between a retailer and its customers bears little resemblance to years gone by. The digital revolution has put customer service standards right at the heart of matters and changed all of that. And the changes are relentless. Not only has this fuelled a need for more multi-skilled and better trained staff in Contact Centres, it has also focused the spotlight on the in-store experience and the need for staff to be able to resolve issues and enthuse customers not just complete transactional tasks without seeking constant approval from their superiors. l More empowered staff armed with knowledge, insight and capability will help to transform the in-store experience and service for customers. This will enable a retailer to match practical product and service demonstrations with inspirational presentations and guidance. Such an approach fosters much greater personalisation in the store experience to complement rather than clash with the accessibility and versatility of the digital world. 20 October 2014 October

12 CHAPTER five retail benchmarks As well as the thoughts of the retailers on the evolution of customer experience, also engaged a consumer research company to test shopper journeys at some of the country s top retailers. Feedback was presented for online, in-store and multichannel experience, based on five metrics. The results have been used throughout the preceding four chapters, but here we provide a snapshot of some of the key trends and data sets. It must be highlighted that this is not widespread research, with three shoppers per store type. Topline results l ers are performing well on customer experience with an average score of 81% l ers score best for their in-store experience (85%), compared with online (81%) and multichannel (78%) l Performance is, overall, very high though there are some large variations between channels, between retailers and within retailers l Shoppers enjoyed the overall experience in-store more than online (77% v 72%) l The service offered from the welcome to the interest and friendliness shown by staff and their ability to help could be improved in-store (74%) l Online and in-store, the transactions are well managed (87%, 90%), but performance falls for multichannel (84%), collection options (73%) and choice of payments (70%) l ers perform marginally better on service online (79%) than they do in-store (74%). However, when it comes to returns, the in-store experience is far better than online (94% versus 79%). The problems centre around processing of returns which took too long or, in some cases, left customers chasing a refund long after the goods had been sent back. In-store visits (54 evaluations) Stores given a score out of 10 for: l First impressions (S1) layout, design, product accessibility and availability l Service (S2) welcome, assistance, enthusiasm for the product and responsiveness l Transaction (S3) queues, efficiency of service and payment methods l Returns (S4) refund policy, ease of process, staff competence and efficiency l Overall experience (S5) was it enjoyable? Analysis First impressions count, and the design of the 54 stores visited by mystery shoppers achieved an average score of over 90%. Product availability and accessibility also scored well but there is an opportunity to do more. The use of demonstration areas let many retailers down, with an average score of 58%. There was also a feeling that the welcome isn t warm enough (59%). In fact, when it comes to service many retailers will have wanted to score better. On average shoppers gave a creditable 74% for service, but the advice offered and the enthusiasm shown by staff can be improved. The transaction and returns scores are impressive at 90% and 94% respectively. However, are retailers doing enough on the shop floor to ensure customers make it to the till? (See chart 5.1) l ers excelling on returns with 94% l Service is where they struggle, scoring 74% l Grocers considered best on service (81%) l Fashion retailers score highest overall (87%) l Department stores fall below 70% on service and overall experience The staff member pointed to the relevant product areas without enquiring about my needs or making any specific suggestion. Boots l Six retailers score above 90% Schuh, Sainsbury s, Currys, Next, Oasis and Asda l Nine retailers score above 80% River Island, Topshop, New Look, John Lewis, Homebase, Marks & Spencer, Argos, Boots, Tesco l Three retailers score above 75% Debenhams, House of Fraser, B&Q l B&Q scored 99% for returns but only 53% for service. 5.1 Customer service across channels FIRST IMPRESSIONS SERVICE TRANSACTION RETURNS OVERALL EXPE- RIENCE In-store 90% 74% 90% 94% 77% 85% Online 84% 79% 87% 79% 72% 81% Multichannel 76% 74% 84% 87% 67% 78% AVERAGE Average 83% 76% 87% 87% 72% 81% I was not made to feel uncomfortable as I returned the product B&Q l Many customers like being greeted on arrival, but if their needs are not met thereafter the impression they are left with is extremely negative 22 October 2014 October

13 5.2 In-store visits: best in class l Transaction scores are high, but could this be at the expense of help on the shop floor? l ers generally are struggling with the overall experience and service offering l Department stores in particular struggled in terms of service and overall experience, scoring below 70%. I struggled to get help and when it came it was very limited. There was no warmth from any of the staff and I would not return again on this basis House of Fraser Online visits (63 evaluations) ers given a score out of 10 for: l First impressions (S1) homepage layout, site speed, search function, availability, product information and presentation l Service (S2) help options (including real people), quality of advice, availability of social media, social media response l Transaction (S3) delivery options, efficiency and choice of payment methods l Delivery and returns (S4) timeliness, 5.3 Online visits: best in class AVERAGE SCORE AVERAGE SCORE BEST IN CLASS Department stores 82% Next 91% Fashion retailers 89% Schuh 93% General merchandise 82% Currys/PC World 91% Grocers 87% Sainsbury s 92% packaging, refund service and processing l Overall experience (S5) was it enjoyable? Analysis This section threw up a few surprises, not least with Amazon finding itself towards the bottom of the list. Although this wasn t an extensive survey, Amazon was let down by its service score (63%) which was dragged down through limited interaction with shoppers on social media. As discussed in chapter 3, this is a channel that offers retailers a wealth of information and a way to engage quickly and accurately with shoppers. Less surprising is the fact that grocers are still playing catch up when it comes to their online offer it is the only category to score below 80%. Sainsbury s scores 85%, however, excelling for the speed of its site (97%), product availability (93%) and information (93%). Customers expect convenience and availability when shopping online and the retailers, on the whole, delivered. Both product availability and presentation score 84%, with many of the shoppers impressed by the sites. When it comes to service including interaction through social media those selling general merchandise score best (82%). BEST IN CLASS Department stores 82% M&S 87% Fashion retailers 81% Schuh 91% General merchandise 82% Boots 86% Grocers 78% Sainsbury s 85% Dealing with couriers and the fulfilment service has been an issue for the retail sector, but shoppers appear pleased with what s on offer. This isn t the case when it comes to refunds, however, with shoppers finding it easy to return products (81%) than to get their money back (63%). l Only grocery sector scored below 80% overall l Transactions (87%) and first impressions (84%) are a success l Delivery and returns scores 79% but performance varies wildly l Poor processing of refunds tends to affect the experience (63%). There were lots of images of each product, even images showing the bedding on a bed in a bedroom so I could really picture what I was getting and how it would look my home Argos l Only Schuh scores above 90%; 10 retailers score above 80% l Marks & Spencer tops scores for returns (91%); Argos struggles (54%) l Only Next, Topshop and Tesco score below 80% for first impressions l Only Asos, Amazon and John Lewis score below 70% for service l Argos left all three mystery shoppers chasing a refund more than a week after goods had been collected The instructions were clear and I found getting a refund very easy M&S l Shoppers tend to like what they see, with websites working fast and offering a good range l The chance to speak to a real person goes down well Schuh s live chat option was a notable success l ers appear to be getting to grips with delivery, with very few issues and an overall score of 85% l It s not enough to offer an easy way to return goods shoppers also want their money back quickly. The transaction was a breeze. There were huge numbers of payment options and delivery options available and I saw that I could even check stock in my local store Schuh Multichannel (63 evaluations) Shoppers browsed on mobile, bought online via a desktop, collected in store and were refunded in a store or collection point. ers given a score out of 10 for: l First impressions (S1) mobile functionality, wish lists, speed of site, product availability and presentation, continuity of brand experience l Transaction (S2) collection options and speed, transaction efficiency, choice of payment methods l Collection (S3) communication, ease and efficiency of collection in-store, staff friendliness, packaging, overall convenience of click-and-collect l Returns (S4) ease of obtaining a refund, returns efficiency and staff friendliness l Overall experience (S5) was it enjoyable? Analysis Multichannel is where excelling in customer service becomes more complicated. Shoppers want consistency in whatever channel they choose to interact regardless of whether they switch channels during the journey. These evaluations involved shoppers 5.4 Multichannel visits: best in class AVERAGE SCORE buying online with the mobile and collecting in store. While the overall score (78%) is behind that for online and in-store experiences, it s not far off (81% and 85% respectively). Nine out of the 21 retailers score 80% or more, with only three scoring below 70%. This is reason to be optimistic especially given the emphasis that customers are expected to place on click-and-collect services and mobile shopping. There is room for improvement, of course, most notably in terms of the overall experience especially for the general merchandisers, fashion retailers and grocers. Department stores excel (85%) thanks to an effortless experience for customers. (See chart 5.1.) l Department stores are top of the pile when it comes to multichannel retailing (85%) l Grocers are struggling (72%) especially with first impressions (65%) and overall experience (61%) l ers score well generally on collections (84%) and returns (87%) l The overall experience might not be up to scratch (67%) especially among fashion retailers (57%) l Department stores score close to 90% for collection services while grocers score under 80%. The website was great and a pleasure to use, being simple and quick. My item arrived in a good amount of time, and it was hassle free collecting and returning it. I would happily shop here again Debenhams BEST IN CLASS Department stores 85% M&S 92% Fashion retailers 75% Asos 84% General merchandise 80% Homebase 85% Grocers 72% Tesco 74% l Two retailers score over 90% M&S and John Lewis l Seven retailers score above 80% Homebase, Asos, Amazon, Argos, Very, Debenhams and Schuh l Schuh was top of the pile for in-store (93%) and online (91%), but fell down the pecking order in multichannel (81%). l Homebase scores 100% on its returns service but is let down by transactions (52%). The process was easy, efficient and enjoyable. The collection point was well signposted and the area itself was bright, airy and very inviting John Lewis l More work needed on wish lists (28%) l ers are offering multichannel experiences with less friction l The overall experience can be improved (68%) the lower mark reflects how one or two issues can reflect badly on the whole experience. SERCO Advisory points l Delivering a positive customer experience means making life easy for a customer from the very start to the very end of the customer journey. The less effort required by a customer to find and buy the product or service they re looking for, the more likely they are to consider the experience to be a positive one. But that s not all. The experience does not end at the point of a transaction. Delayed product availability and poor after sales service will undermine even the most efficient and simple purchasing process and, inevitably, impact adversely on customer experience and retention. l It s essential to provide delivery, collection, payment and refund options that provide customers with the choice and convenience they have come to expect in other areas of the customer journey. In other words, if a retailer is truly committed to providing the very best customer experience at all times and across all channels, customers must not endure undue hassle and effort at any stage in the customer journey. 24 October 2014 October

14 CHAPTER six conclusion n expectations might have increased significantly but the customer-retailer relationship has changed forever n Customers will continue to seek value for money and continue to embrace technology n Mobile will be critical, in terms of transaction, reaction and inspiration n Performance across the channels is, generally, very good but snags in any part of the journey can affect the entire experience n ers will continue to invest in store and online as the customer experience evolves n The winners will be those offering a seamless experience that can also surprise and delight The level of expectation might not have changed significantly among customers, but the dynamics have. The rise of multichannel retailing and the fall of the economy have resulted in shoppers looking for value for money and a simple purchase journey across a complex mesh of channels. Mobile is possibly one of the most important, especially as 4G is rolled out, digital wallets become the norm and retailers become more adept at pushing personalised offers to their customers. More and more people are also expected to post their experiences on social media sites. ers are reacting to all this, and many see a landscape full of opportunities as well as challenges. Indeed, the provision of a slick, speedy and seamless experience is the top objective for many. And many are heading towards that. The customer experience evaluations carried out here are not extensive, but they do reflect the snags in some of the multichannel journeys in this case an order made on a mobile phone and collected in store. Excelling in this experience is more complicated, which explains the lower scores compared with online and in-store visits. But with almost half of the retailers assessed scoring 80% or more, the auguries are good. ers cannot rest on their laurels. An issue in one part of the customer journey that results in more effort being required can reflect badly on the entire experience. Indeed, when it comes to service the friendliness and knowledge of staff a poor experience goes down very badly indeed. In-store retailers could improve their service performance. This will require more training of staff: as stores become experiential, so the customer-staff relationship will become less transactional and more inspirational. The challenge for retailers in the multichannel retail environment follows this trend. On the one hand, customers want simplicity an experience that doesn t waste any of their time and in which their movement between channels is an irrelevance. That is part one. The next stage will be to offer the customer an experience that delights. This will undoubtedly involve the use of big data to personalise the experience as far as possible retailers will therefore be listening and learning on social media. Much has been made of whether it s reducing effort or delighting customers that garners loyalty, but from those interviewed here it seems that both are vital. Get it right and customers will come back, spend more and perhaps tweet about it. Get it wrong and they will become disenfranchised very quickly, look elsewhere and almost certainly tweet about it. Customers have great expectations, but meet them and they will have a good story to tell. We re trying to change the [online] journey so that it s an experience rather than a transaction Information analytics and innovation manager of a major retailer Although the first impressions were good, the transaction was so frustrating that I was really quite annoyed Tesco shopper Long-term we d like to give customers that instant response 24-7 experience, but we also want to surprise and delight them Group SVP marketing of a fashion retailer 26 October 2014 October

15 Produced in association with 28 28

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