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Top 6 Retail Technology Trends for 2022

The pandemic accelerated an evolution already underway in retail – digital is transforming how and where consumers shop, what they buy, and their expectations for support and experience.

Evolving consumer behaviors combined with a hybrid workforce are driving the six leading communications technology trends in retail. Here’s what’s in store…

1. Supply Chain Resiliency

Supply chain resiliency will continue to challenge retailers for the next several years. It’s not just bottlenecks and a shortage of materials crimping the chain. Consumer shopping behaviors make it more difficult for retailers to stock the right quantities of the correct goods.

Ongoing communication can help retailers and their supply chain partners minimize disruptions and keep stores and warehouses stocked with just enough of the right items. Cloud communications and collaboration tools like web chat and video conferencing keep retailers connected and on the same page with vendors worldwide. Combining data from the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation make it possible to keep real-time tabs on inventory levels so you can keep the correct number of items on the shelves.

2. Recycling Returns

“Reduce, reuse, and recycle” isn’t just about bottles and cans anymore. In the circular economy, returns are given a second life. This is a particularly compelling concept for retail for several reasons. In 2021, retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6 % compared to 10.6 % a year prior.

As a result, many retailers are putting conservation programs in place to put returns on shelves or sell them at a discount. A smooth return process is key to the success of such initiatives. Contact centers can be optimized to make it easier for consumers to reach retailers and work out the details of returns, from shipping the product back to refunds.

3. Employee Experience

Amid the “Great Resignation” and labor shortage, retailers find it challenging to hire and retain staff in both stores and call centers, where turnover has traditionally been high.

Although retailers have increased pay and offered better benefits, they still have another tool in their arsenal: employee experience. More than eight in 10 retailers say they plan to invest most heavily in employee recruitment and retention, Deloitte found in a recent survey. By investing in communications and collaboration tools that empower employees and support flexibility – including where and when employees work – retailers can elevate the employee experience.

4. Mobile-Enabled Workforce

Like other industries, retailers are also adopting hybrid and remote workforce models. For instance, many contact center agents now work from home offices. Employees are often on the move, even in brick-and-mortar retail stores and warehouses.

As the workforce becomes more mobile, retailers can leverage communications and contact center technology, AI, and machine learning to deliver a stellar customer experience. In the hybrid workplace, humans and AI assistants work together. Machine learning is used to analyze customer behavior and determine patterns. Employees can use these insights to design hyper-personalized experiences that keep customers fully engaged.

5. Omnichannel

From the start of COVID in March 2020 through March 2022, e-commerce sales increased 33 %, according to McKinsey research. Consumers have adapted to shopping online, and the trend seems poised to continue. However, they’re now also ready to shop in-store. McKinsey also found that in-store spending increased 8 % year-over-year in March 2022, up from 5 % in early 2021.

By seamlessly blending the digital and real-world experiences throughout the buying journey, retailers can reach shoppers where they are – and deliver goods however they want – at home, curbside, or in-store.

Easy access to customer information means retail staff in stores can order an item for a customer and have it shipped to their home without any fuss. In the contact center, agents can manage interactions across all channels – voice, email, SMS, web chat, social media, a website – via a single interface and deliver a consistent experience every time.

6. Faster, Frictionless Transactions

Blending the digital and real worlds has raised the bar for accessibility and ease of use. It should come as no surprise that after two years of online shopping, almost 40 % of internet users worldwide now report a preference for chatbots over virtual agents. Their usage is also predicted to grow alongside the rising demand for service during what have traditionally been non-business hours. Chatbots don’t care if it’s 2 am.

Chatbots play an essential role in creating faster, frictionless transactions. AI-powered chatbots can answer basic questions, then hand off customers to agents or in-store staff to finalize purchases.

It All Adds Up to a Stellar Experience

Retailers must deliver an exceptional experience to customers and employees to stay ahead of the competition and thrive amid modern-day challenges. The proper communications and collaboration technology makes it easy to keep your workers and customers engaged, happy, and informed. TCI and Mitel have the technology necessary for retailers to make this happen.

Modern times call for modern tech. Grow and evolve with TCI, your local technology partner. Contact TCI today at (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

The 9 Most Important Call Center Trends of 2022

We’ve seen a lot of changes to the call center and customer experience landscape over the years, from cloud communications and virtual agents to more strategic thinking around analytics, more flexible social media interactions, and innovative ways to involve artificial intelligence. And when the pandemic pushed businesses to modernize their business communications overnight, we’ve seen even more shifts in how businesses meet the evolving needs of both customers and their employees.

Here are nine technology trends that are helping companies deliver the best quality customer experience. See how far your business has come in building customer relationships that last — or which of these trends may need to be on this year’s to-do list.

1. Artificial Intelligence

As early adopters continue honing AI applications for call routing, we expect to see more connections forged between various media channels and streamlined call center response.

2. Digital Transformation

A forward-looking digital transformation strategy is going to be essential for business competitiveness. And it’s not just about using the right channels to interact with customers where they are; the smartest businesses are integrating technologies to provide full customer context with each interaction and leveraging system data to provide proactive service.

3. Better Contact Center Analytics

Gone are the days of relying on supervisor skills and know-how to get the most out of contact center agents. Now, even smaller businesses are taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data – like call and screen recordings, chats, SMS messages, and more – into useful feedback for their agents. We expect more advancements in analytics as companies continue to implement more unified communications platforms and strategies.

4. Omnichannel Communications

More businesses are recognizing that while a customer journey may begin on one channel, valuable insight and feedback from the customer can be gained on a completely different channel. Responsive businesses are using this trend to create a superb customer experience by unifying communications across channels into one stream. This helps their customers by connecting them with an agent who knows their purchase and service history and provides valuable context. Most importantly, the two-way conversation is public on a social media platform, so other customers can see how the business solved the problem.

5. Cloud Communications

Many businesses have already adopted cloud communications as part of their communications strategies, but cloud communications have become particularly important for contact centers. The steady increase in remote call agents has made cloud communications a necessity for businesses who want to take advantage of seamless team communications and collaboration. With cloud communications, traditional office-based contact centers can take on new locations, and grow and contract workforces as market needs demand.

6. Employee Engagement

Just as customer expectations have evolved in the last few years, so have the expectations of the employees that make quality customer experience possible. And dissatisfaction in the work environment and culture has led to high agent attrition in the contact center space and beyond. Businesses that want to remain competitive will provide their employees with the culture and technology that empowers an efficient, productive, and flexible workforce.

7. Flexible Working Options

Lower overhead, time zone flexibility, and variable working hours have made remote contact center workers a stable trend in 2022. With constantly improving unified communications, remote workers have become a permanent and beneficial part of the contact center environment. By using collaboration tools, contact center agents can be mobile, with access to real-time analytics and customer context.

8. AI-Powered Self-Service Tools

The high priority on process improvement and self-service since the pandemic has addressed the issue of increasing workload for contact center agents, as well as the difficulties around achieving the desired service levels or Average Speed of Answer (ASA). Giving customers information quickly helps reduce call volumes, and easy-to-navigate FAQs help narrow down calls to those with sufficiently complex issues. Quick access to self-serve solutions also provides an emotional benefit to customers (that DIY-fix high!) and reduces overall call times.

9. SMB’s Leveraging All Employees to Support Customers

SMBs are extending traditional contact center agent desktop features to employees that work outside of the contact center to supplement customer-facing employees. Blended UC/CC solutions that bring customer and employee experiences together into a single user experience tear down the silos between traditional contact center agents and the rest of the organization.

If you need more help determining how to apply these trends to your call center, TCI’s local experts are here to help. Contact us today: (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.

 

Live + Digital… Ready to Deliver a Seamless Customer Experience?

There’s no question that the customer experience (CX) has undergone a dramatic shift in the past few years. Consumers are online more than ever. Like the rest of daily life, CX has become a true blend of the digital and “live” worlds.

Most people channel-switch without thinking these days and consumers will only want the process to become more seamless as they return to brick-and-mortar stores. In-person shopping has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, while smartphone purchases have undergone a 70% increase since 2019 and continue to grow.

Digital, but Make it Personal

Because so many transactions take place in the digital space first, it’s more important than ever to prioritize investment in technology that supports client engagement. Being able to deliver curated products and personalized customer support goes a long way in making your customer feel like you truly care.

CX is tied directly to Employee Experience; customers are increasingly sensitive to the person on the other end of the line and can tell when a company doesn’t prioritize staff well-being. Equipping your employees to work in hybrid or remote settings and giving them the tools to make informed decisions at any point in the customer journey makes everyone feel empowered.

Tips for Building Trust

A little investment in the CX goes a long way towards building loyalty, ensuring customers will continue to use and recommend your services. So, how can you build trust in this complicated, digital-first world?

  • Lead with digital, finish with personal: Ultimately, customers want to feel that human element. Customize their experiences and connect with them personally to keep them engaged.
  • Discover new customer journeys: Your clients will be accessing your products from multiple channels. Do you know how to meet them every step of the way?
  • Define your values and follow through: Not only do consumers want to understand your values, they also need to know that you see them through. Showing that you care about the same things as your customers will bring them back time and time again.
  • Provide excellent customer service: Employee happiness translates to customer happiness. Give your staff the technology they need to maximize CX.
  • Ensure data privacy: Customers are willing to give more of their personal data if they know it will be handled securely. This data can be used to customize interactions even more.

The Commercial Advantages of Blended CX

Consumers are willing to pay a premium for positive transactions and are increasingly tying their personal values to their purchasing decisions. If you can meet customers on their terms, speak to them on a personal level, and develop their trust, your investment will yield returns far beyond your expectations.

TCI is ready to implement technologies that help your business maximize the Customer Experience. Contact us today: (703) 321-3030 or info@tcicomm.com.