The Customer Is The Channel

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Outperforming Amazon with Dynamic Customer Experience and Engagement

With their breadth of available inventory and shipping infrastructure, it seems that Amazon has everyone cornered. But, there are incredible opportunities for brands and retailers to compete with Amazon – and thrive. In today’s post, we’ll focus on how to outperform the big, smiling behemoth when it comes to customer experience and engagement.

With the Growth of Amazon’s Third-Party Retailers – Customer Service Quality Is Deteriorating
Today, over 50% of products sold on Amazon come from third-party sellers who are responsible for providing their own customer service for items purchased through the online shopping portal. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that when shopping through Amazon, customer service and engagement is lacking in consistency, simplicity, convenience and positive outcomes. How many people have you heard complaining about problems with Amazon products, who struggle to navigate their arcane customer service methods that rely on website visits, emails and phone calls that feel as anonymous as buying bitcoin with gift cards?

This is where Amazon can be beat. Their quality lacks – in product, in experience and in communication. And this is where your opportunity lies.

Reaching Customers on Their Preferred Channels
It’s time for brands to step outside of their familiar cocoon of email, basic livechat service and IVR phone systems. Today’s consumers expect 24x7x365, instant customer service utilizing their preferred channels of communication like Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant. How many times have you called a customer service line and experienced the dreadful “press 1 for billing, press 2 for shipping, press 3 for product information, press 4 for deals and promotions.” How many times has this led you to hang up in frustration?

Conversely, how much time is spent by your customer service team answering simple tier-1 inquiries about order status? With advanced, automated customer service, you can cut support overheads by using proactive post-purchase communication, branded self-service and automated real-time assistance for over 90% of your customers’ needs. It’s time to ditch the archaic IVR phone system in exchange for synergized engagement across multiple channels, including:
➤ Facebook Messenger
➤ Google Assistant
➤ Alexa
➤ 2-way SMS chat
➤ Automated Livechat

Elevate Your Customer’s Brand Perception and Experience
“With no real-time assistance on these convenient channels, brands are doing no better than Amazon, and may be trying to compete head-to-head on things that they can’t win at, like same-day shipping,” says Linc Global Vice President of Marketing, Luke Starbuck. “Flanking the ‘Big Grin’ with automated assistance on a customer’s Google Home or Alexa, and helping a customer with their exchange, membership or questions about their order will elevate the customer’s perception and experience. Giving them all this, plus helpful advice, services and product recommendations across channels they like to use every day, like Facebook Messenger will give the brand more differentiation, and give the customer more reasons to come back and buy again.”

In fact, brands utilizing Linc Global’s purpose-built customer care automation platform have achieved an average of a:
➤ 21% opt-in rate to conversational channels
➤ 25% customer service cost reduction
➤ 32% more purchases within 30 days from opted-in customers
➤ 17% product recommendation click through rate, and 5% conversion rate

Though they lead with product, price and convenience, the real-life experience of shopping with Amazon leaves plenty of room for brands to offer more, and create better customer experiences. Establishing automated assistance across convenient channels gives the customer a new level of satisfaction, and gives the business tangible results and ROI. Now is the time to leverage the opportunity, and establish new ways to compete with Amazon’s perceived dominance.

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Designing a Customer Experience Strategy for Conversational Commerce

When you master conversational commerce, you’ll deliver experiences that make your customers feel as if you hired a personal assistant to help each of them.  There are several key strategies, smart brands need to think about as they go about creating their conversational commerce strategy. Don’t Forget The Data If conversational commerce is the new paradigm of customer experience, data is the engine that drives all those delightful interactions across touchpoints. Your customers are creating data every time they click, swipe, and like --it’s up to you to find it, analyze it and use it to inform customer engagement. Nordstrom, for example, uses sensors and Wi-Fi to track who comes to the store, wherein the store they shop, and how long they stay. They also incentivize their Nordstrom’s credit card and rewards program to gather data about their clients. Target is also known for its data-collecting. The mega-retailer assigns every customer a Guest ID number, which is linked to their credit card, name, or email address. This Guest ID number becomes a repository of info on a shopper’s past Target purchases and any demographic information the company has collected about them and/or bought from a third-party source. Target’s data is so accurate and fine-grained that they were even able to determine a teenage shopper was pregnant (and send her the appropriate mailer filled with baby items) long before her father ever knew. Collecting relevant data, analyzing it and using your learnings to inform which conversational channels make sense for your brand and what types of experiences your particular customers seek to have on them is the foundation of your conversational commerce efforts. Focus On The Highest-Value Activities Put your energy toward meaningful services that customers already care about. Look at service-oriented features, such as notification capability and on-demand service and support capabilities, to guide the customer journey. Don’t just focus on the “Checkout.” The main benefit of service-oriented conversational channel offerings is the ability to organically drive usage into new channels. For example, a customer might place an order on your website and learn that she can subscribe to order status updates through Facebook Messenger. What she sees as taking advantage of a perk will benefit you by encouraging her toward a channel where your chatbot can take over. ChatBots are best for organic conversations with common use cases, but also provide a sense of personalization and convenience for the shopper. Customer service should be your core use for this technology to start. Be Prepared For Bot-to-Human Handoffs The great thing about a conversation handled over text or Messenger is that the customer doesn’t have to know when they might be switching from a bot to a human. Bot design in the future will focus on what they can do, knowing what they can’t do, and designing a bridge to employee assistance that feels seamless to the customer. It’s not just the customer that will be helped by the bot, but the employee. It will provide faster information and better analytics in real time, perhaps then parsing information to pass on to the consumer. The most important aspect of innovation is convenience for the shopper. They should never have to explain their request twice. Start Simple and Grow to Brand Management You can start with bots as a single voice in the chorus of messages from your brand. The long term will have bots as representatives of your entire brand, managing relationships with your customers. You can start conversational commerce, however, with just a single entry point. You can get your customers used to interacting with you on the same channels they use to chat with their friends. You can piggyback on the culture of quick and informal communication, but be ready to meet their expectations for highly personal and meaningful results. If your bot can’t meet that expectation, your customer could walk away disappointed or annoyed. As the technology improves, and it is, even as we write this, you’ll be able to put more and more of your brand management in the hands of the bots. Authentication Giving your bot a way to confirm the customer’s identity is key to a truly intelligent communication that can leverage data from across your other channels. If this isn’t done right, your bot will see each customer as a stranger, negating the opportunity to provide personalized service. Focus On Concepts Rather Than Solutions Your customers might be on Kik today but head over to Facebook Messenger tomorrow. Focusing on the concepts of conversational commerce rather than today’s hottest medium will help you keep your sanity and provide an agile approach that can be applied to meet your customers wherever they migrate. Try not to get bogged down with the details of how to build for one particular channel, and look instead to use-cases. You can learn more about conversational commerce and engaging your customers at every touchpoint 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 conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.