How to Align the Retail and Contact Center CX

Retail is reinventing itself. With the unwavering rise of online shopping, it MUST.

Professional retail designers are taking more care than ever to strategically configure floor plans, shelving, and wall displays, payment and pickup counters, window fronts, furnishings, change rooms, price tags and promotions, lighting, flooring, music, restrooms, signage, etc. to bring brands to life and appeal to specific demographics. They even give names to different floor layouts, like forced-path, grid, loop, geometric, etc.

The Retail Gazette noted recently that, "Without a doubt, effective design helps to boost customer understanding and enjoyment of the products and the brand itself, and, therefore, sales! Retail design helps to narrate the brand and product story, educate consumers about the pieces, and, ultimately, make the items displayed more desirable as a result."

In an article entitled "5 Trends That Will Redefine Retail in 2019," a Forbes online author pointed out that "Multichannel is the new normal. One of the interesting dichotomies of the current retail model is that, despite their alarming closure rates, brick-and-mortar stores still play a key role in the sales process. Nevertheless, it has transitioned from the primary point of sales to being part of a broader retail strategy. Instead of a single touchpoint for consumers, the trend in retail over the past few years has been to widen the net that brands use to catch leads and convert them."

Store managers are constantly changing the layout, analyzing traffic/flow patterns, the placement of products, trying out new offers, curating products to reflect trends and seasons, etc. to optimize the CX and maximize revenue. Retail has worked hard to invigorate teams to align with the brand, integrate social media, mobile apps, chat, offer mechanisms such as buy online pickup in storeand ship from store, align with catalogs and flyers, etc. to modernize the in-person customer experience (CX).

All of this, of course, has had a ripple effect on contact centers. But, have contact centers truly made an effort to stay relevant, appeal to changing customer preferences, and reinvent themselves to align with the retail experience beyond layering on the new chat, social, messaging, text, etc. channels like store managers have?

Resources abound on how to create ideal retail store interiors. Adapting and applying these same concepts to your contact center might not only allow you to create more brand consistency, it might increase customer satisfaction and increase sales. Let's ponder a few questions in the context of store design and contact center design.

1. Does your contact center experience make a good first impression? Stores often use entrance decompression zones to allow customers to shift gears and allow them to focus on the task at hand: shopping. Similarly, live agents and automated interactions can inject a similar immersion in the brand through tone and messaging.

2. Does your messaging, music, agent attitude, pacing, and tone reflect your brand story? If your in-person representatives are young, energetic, and enthusiastic, are your contact center agents, too?

3. Do you offer opportunities to let people touch, try, and ask questions about the product? Online or through a contact center, could you send free samples or demonstrate products with video or co-browsing?

4. Does your team offer honest advice online, on the phone, and in-store? In-store representatives offer honest advice when it's face to face. Do agents share what they really think of the product?

5. Are you offering the same deals online, in-store, and on the phone?

6. Stores have to be easy to navigate to make sales. Stores also group products and services logically according to customer type, color, price, and trends. Are your queues and tiers easy to navigate? Is there anything you can do to take customers on a delightful on-call journey?

7. In-store representatives are easily accessible and eager to help. Are your contact center agents?

8. Stores often allow product customization through alterations, engraving, mixing and matching. Do your contact center offerings allow for personalization?

9. It's trendy in retail to set up pop-up shops. Should you create a pop-up contact center queue for specific purposes, like limited-time promotions?

10. Shops set the stage for low-cost, low-risk impulse purchases. Does your contact center?

11. VIP customers and members get exclusive access to products and services. Could you apply this concept to your contact center?

12. While browsing, customers do not like to be rushed or harassed. Aisles in shops usually allow for ample personal space. Are your agents crowding your contact center shoppers?

13. Cash registers are easy to spot and access in stores. Is your contact center checkout process easy to access and pain-free?

14. When purchasing from a store, customers can buy a product off the rack and enjoy same-day access. Can you speed up delivery for contact center or online purchases?

This is just a short list of useful questions to ponder when comparing contact centers to retail stores. There are probably many more questions relevant to your business. Perhaps reinventing your contact center is in order.

Heidi Solomon-Orlick is vice president of global sales at VXI Global Solutions. She is a business process outsourcing industry veteran with significant consultative sales, operations, and executive leadership experience. She serves as a co-chair of the IAOP's Women Empowerment, Leadership & Diversity Chapter. A frequent industry speaker on workforce diversity and women empowerment, she has held senior roles in nearly half a dozen customer-care organizations.