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Why Multichannel Service Builds Long-Term Loyalty [Future of Retail]

A proactive approach to customer care designed to deliver problem resolution and information that is streamlined and personal.

PSFK Labs
PSFK Labs on November 28, 2013. @psfk

The proliferation of personal mobile devices and customizable social media profiles has had a wide-ranging effect on how people connect with the products and services they want. In the past, shoppers depended on face-to-face interactions and telephone conversations to learn more about a potential purchase or get an issue resolved, but as their time and attention goes elsewhere these limited options are no longer adequate. As a result, retailers and brands are expanding the reach of their customer service efforts to connect with customers through the platforms they’re already active on. This proactive approach is designed to deliver problem resolution and information that is streamlined and personal.

In our fourth Future of Retail report, PSFK Labs has identified the trend of Multichannel Service, where brands and retailers are providing customer assistance on more platforms, creating more staff touchpoints and enabling interactions to happen on shoppers’ terms. This new set of mobile and social tools and practices enable associates to deliver on-demand customer service when and where shoppers need assistance both before and after a sale. Continue reading below to see how forward-thinking companies are implementing this idea to better serve their own customers.

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Department store Sears has integrated a Member Assist service into their mobile application that connects shoppers with in-store associates through text messaging. Users of Sears’ Shop Your Way program can browse associates by department, look at profiles of available associates and connect using text messaging or call employees directly in order to find out more about products available online or in the store. Employees with iPads respond in real-time by tracking items down in-store and sending shoppers links of where they can purchase the items at Sears.com. The Member Assist feature has a limited release and can only connect with stores that have staff equipped with iPads and iHelds. The app bridges the gap between the limited stock of brick-and-mortar stores and the inventory range of eCommerce sites, while tying it together with proficient in-store associates that can advise on both areas.

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Retail giant Amazon have been experimenting with Mayday, an on-demand support system that helps users troubleshoot issues on their Kindle Fire HDX devices. It comes pre-installed on the tablet to connect users with an associate in under 15 seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During a call, the associate cannot see the caller, but they can speak with them, draw on their screen, and even screen-share to help solve the problem. The user’s data is kept private. Amazon’s next challenge is to scale the service across the company’s other platforms and offer real-time support to all of its customers.

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Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which already has a strong presence on Pinterest, implemented an online concierge service allowing travelers to connect with local hotels for travel advice through the Pinterest site. Travelers can create their own ‘Pin.Pack.Go’ board and invite any of the 77 Four Seasons hotels to collaborate using Pinterest’s ‘share’ feature. Once invited, online concierges can recommend local sites, upcoming events, and must-visit dining spots by pinning them to the traveler’s board. Four Seasons sees this as an opportunity to provide personalized recommendations and talk directly to customers.

The Multichannel Service trend is part of a bigger theme called Networked Purchase Path. At key points along the shopping journey, a forward thinking retailer or brand can effectively employ data, connected technologies and human service to meet the shopper where they are and anticipate where they will go next, created seamless experiences and better interactions across channels.

In the fourth edition of the Future of Retail Report, PSFK Labs brings together two interconnected themes and eleven key trends that provide a foundation for the modern shopping experience. The findings are brought to life with best-in-class examples, actionable strategies and leading questions to inspire leading retailers and brands. Join us at our San Francisco conference on Nov. 21st where talks from retail innovators will bring the key themes to life.

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Images: CMS Wire

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