All Customers Want for Christmas – Make it Easy for Them to Find What They Need

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Many retailers are looking ahead to the approaching holiday season with a mix of hope and concern. Although sales for the holiday shopping season are expected to rise 3.5 percent to 4 percent, according to retail consultant Neev Capital, there are widespread concerns that consumers impacted by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast U.S. could potentially affect overall sales figures.

By focusing on the experience from the customer’s perspective, retailers can make it easier for customers to shop for holiday gifts, making the experience less stressful while strengthening satisfaction and loyalty. The use technology can help simplify and improve the customer experience for holiday shopping and, by doing so, differentiate retailers while improving their share of wallet.

For example, in 2011, TeleTech worked with a large national retailer to develop a dynamic knowledge management system powered by a proprietary algorithm which enables customers to find one right answer to questions submitted on the retailer’s web site. 

Typically, when consumers type a question into a company’s search engine, they receive pages of potential answers. Customers don’t want to scroll through dozens of “possible” answers. They also don’t want to reach out to a company through a second channel, such as the contact center, to find the answers they’re seeking. They simply want to receive one answer to their question, the right answer.

To help the retailer develop an effective and accurate knowledge management system that could deliver the right answer to customers, we identified the top call driver types to the company’s contact center. This information assisted the team in identifying the most frequent and most likely questions that customers would submit to the search engine for a particular product set. For example, if one customer types in “How much does it cost for Brand X television set?” the search technology looks for key aspects of the question to help identify the right answer. Consumers can enter multiple variables of the same question (“How much does a Brand X TV cost?”) and the search engine will display the same right answer.

Based on a survey conducted by its contact center associates, we determined that 70 percent of the retailer’s customers, who had tried to obtain answers online first, ended up dialing into the contact center. Clearly, the retailer’s search engine capabilities weren’t meeting its customers’ needs.

After demonstrating our knowledge management technology to the retailer in September 2011, the retailer decided to move forward with an implementation for one of its white label product sets three weeks before Cyber Monday.

When we launched the search engine capability for the retailer on Cyber Monday 2011, we determined through root cause analysis that we could achieve a 64 percent accuracy rate in delivering the right answer to customers. In those instances where we weren’t able to provide customers with the right answer the first time, we went back and asked the customer what they were looking for. Their response was then fed into a knowledge database to be reviewed and approved by the retailer. This way, if a variant of the question is asked that we don’t have an answer for immediately, we’re able to deliver a correct answer in a very short period of time. We’re also able to use continuous learning to strengthen the knowledge management system and improve its accuracy rate.

By drawing on customer feedback and continuously fine tuning the system, we were able to increase the search engine accuracy rate to between 82 and 87 percent per month over the past seven months.

This resulted in a win-win for both the customers and the retailer. Most customers were able to get the right answers to their questions immediately, enabling them to move on to the next step in their journey. Meanwhile, the retailer benefitted by having more satisfied customers. The retailer was also able to engender greater trust from customers by delivering a reliable and accurate service that customers can count on. In addition, the retailer has reaped other business benefits, including its ability to lower its contact center costs by virtue of a 10 percent monthly improvement in call deflection into the contact center.

Of course, there are myriad ways for retailers to use technology to deliver improved customer experiences, from the use of analytics to better understand and act on customer behavior and preferences to the use of cloud-based platforms for providing greater agility and responsiveness in addressing customer needs across the various channels they use. As customers gravitate more towards the use of self-service technologies, such as the intelligent search engine capabilities we developed for the national retailer, the deployment of these types of tools will enable companies of all types to devote fewer resources to the contact center while strengthening customer loyalty and customer value.