As executives realize the need to reach customers on the channels they prefer, the post-purchase is the easiest and most common first action to take for creating an optimized customer experience.
Conventional approaches used to improve post-purchase touchpoints were built to serve the challenges that were previously faced: brand impact, meeting email and landing page standards that Amazon set many years ago, and making an effort to reduce inbound customer inquiries. The challenges in taking the approach of improving specific touchpoints, however, are many. Primarily, improved touchpoints don't tackle the fundamental challenge brands have today in differentiating their offering, meeting customer expectations with a limited budget, and creating loyal customers – ultimately – competing profitably.
Additional challenges can be faced with post-purchase optimization, including
Garnering opt-ins from users - meaning many customers never see the improved touchpoints.
There is often not a substantial reduction seen in customer inquiries, because the information offered only covers a small subset of things customers have concerns about.
Delivering only one-way notifications via email and text doesn’t provide 2-way engagement - leaving the customer feeling like the brand does not want to connect with them.
Lack of data-sharing across departments and platforms adds no value to customer data warehouses, leaving data and analytics sitting in human-facing dashboards only.
One additional pitfall to those listed above is seen when attempts are made at predicting fulfillment timelines in a less-than-perfect environment, where variability exists in pick-and-pack, warehouse operations, delivery networks: customers are given an estimated delivery date that proves to be wrong, which increases customer inquiries and the burden on existing contact teams.
Going beyond post-purchase point solutions
Automated customer engagement makes it possible to deliver a seamless customer experience across a broad range of services and channels, in a highly personalized way. This is in contrast to post-purchase point solutions, which are only able to improve specific touchpoints in a narrow part of the customer journey.
Lets take a look at the primary differences in the conventional post-purchase approach, and the more modern, holistic automation approach.
The difference - Transactional communication vs relationship-based engagement
Point solutions are based on transactions, and ask customers to opt-in every time the customer checks out. There is no central customer profile used. In contrast, automated customer engagement is based on customer profiles, and only needs to ask the customer to opt-in once, creating an opportunity to continually engage and serve the customer, specific to their purchases, and also in between purchases, with additional assistance, updates and answers to their questions. See the below image showing the different connectors between a point solution and an automated solution.
The difference - Features vs context
To provide customers with assistance, throughout their lifetime journey with a brand, automated customer engagement makes use of a rich customer data profile, and uses AI to create contextual understanding of the customer and their specific situation.
Often, a customer has related questions that are not specific to their order, or they have a particular way of asking a question that is dependent on their current situation. Providing exceptional automated assistance through chat (Web chat, Messenger, SMS text, Twitter), and voice (Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa) relies on contextual understanding and customer data that is available in real-time.
The difference - Finite vs limitless use cases
Fundamentally, Customer Care Automation uses a modular architecture that enables its automated assistant to easily add additional capabilities and services, as well as make use of a variety of communication channels, and provide a breadth of automated services to customers.
While post-purchase point solutions aim to address specific needs with prebuilt features, like branding an email about an order, or providing a text message update notification about a delivery, automated customer engagement is ready to engage with the customer in 2-way, real-time conversation, and can offer assistance with an unlimited number of services, dependent on what is offered today, including post-purchase service, loyalty program assistance, product recommendations, membership changes, and any other program or service offered by a brand today.
The difference - Point solution vs Platform solution
Most solutions for post-purchase experience rely on software that is built to address specific use cases, and channels. Adding capabilities is difficult and does not come quickly. More importantly, point solutions are generally built to deliver their features, and nothing more. This means that any integrations or data connections will be built specifically to enable a feature.
An automated customer engagement platform is built to not only provide automated services to a customer, but also to be able to share data in real-time with other systems, and provide options for expanding the capabilities offered to a customer through shared customer data and contextual understanding, business logic, data enrichment, and open APIs. The platform solution offers the ability to integrate with many existing systems, to deliver greater benefits, and build upon its initial feature set.
The difference - Send-elsewhere vs Collaborative resolution
In a post-purchase environment, often a customer has a question or need that goes beyond the information that is commonly presented to them. Whether it is a change of delivery address, a wrong item, or a mis-billed credit card, contact centers are familiar with the breadth of requests that customers have every day. A post purchase point solution is only able to provide information about how to seek additional assistance, such as offering a link to a contact page, or providing an email address to submit a support ticket. Automated customer engagement offers the customer ways to get a solution, not ways to get in touch with support or access generic help information. Where possible, the automated assistant will work to resolve the customer’s inquiry, and does so across a more broad breadth of inquiries.
The difference - 2-way messages, even SMS
Customers use text messages as a 2-way communication channel with their friends and family, and want their favorite brands to be ready to engage here too. Using SMS Text for notifcations that are sent from a ‘no reply’ phone number don’t meet customer expectations anymore. 2-way SMS Text gives customers a way to conveniently ask questions, get additional assistance, and get their needs taken care of in real-time.
The difference - Blended merchandising, marketing, service and sales
Any in-store experience a customer has is often a seamlessly blended mixture of sales, service and merchandising (marketing). As an example, if a customer returns to a store with shoes that didn’t fit, they will be served by a trained in-store retail associate who will help them return those shoes (return/exchange assistance), will offer alternatives by size and style (recommendations), will mention the promotions they have happening (marketing) and guide the customer to new arrivals or other items of interest (merchandising). Of course, this feels natural, organic and is what’s expected in the store.
Online, however, due to the nature of the systems involved, and the continuing evolution of eCommerce customer experience, many of the types of service offered above are today provided on separate channels, powered by separate systems, and often require the customer to become educated about how to get what they want, ostensibly making the customer do the work to make up the gap between the customer wanting a range of service, and the brand’s systems not being ready to deliver all of it in one place. Using an automated assistant breaks down the barriers between systems, and unifies the customer’s experience.It offers the ability to seamlessly blend marketing, sales, service and merchandising into one unified experience, in a range of channels the customer may want to use. The result, as shown in the image below, is a far more engaging and satisfying experience for the customer, and for the brand, it opens up new opportunities to elevate engagement, revenue and loyalty results in online shopping holistically.
Brands that automate their customer engagement can enjoy stronger engagement, loyalty and retention and confidently deliver better experiences throughout the shopping journey. By using one platform, brands have far more opportunities to offer innovative customer experiences, grow revenue, further reduce costs, and improve other the results of programs more broadly, through enriched data.
You can learn more about automated customer engagement by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated customer engagement in their businesses today, in our resources page.