Fortune may favor the bold, but pandemics generally don’t favor incumbents. 

With retailers struggling amidst the global effects of COVID-19, more and more organizations will be forced to make a choice between the status quo or making a change.

There are a number of things retailers should expect as we emerge from COVID lockdown: 

  • Consumers have adopted short-term behaviors that are a presage for long-term shifts. The processes that customers used to connect with products are likely to linger even longer than the threat of Coronavirus.
  • Economic scarring will cause consumers to spend less freely, following a historic period of economic uncertainty. Expect an even larger emphasis on customer experience to impact loyalty and retention.
  • Consolidation is coming for every industry. With non-essential products and services taking a back seat to market leaders, like Amazon or Costco, disruption may be the only path forward for retail brands competing against behemoths for market share.

For retailers, whether in e-commerce or traditional brick-and-mortar, there’s still plenty of opportunity for disruption.

Here are four key ways retailers can rethink their business models to reduce costs and improve customer experience.

1) Be Easy: How Retailers Can Improve Customer Experience

I get it. As far as advice goes, “make it easier” sounds pretty vague. But it still might be the best advice you could hear.

So how can you make “easy” actionable?

For starters, what are your customers looking for? What are their common questions? 

Call center agents are talking to your retail customers 24/7 — and these chats represent an opportunity to make life easier for customers.

Consider improving your website’s UX for common queries such as “Where is my order?” or “How long until it arrives?” If users are able to quickly and easily find the answers to common order inquiries, you save time and ultimately benefit.

And why stop there?

Retailers that are embracing lightweight and affordable channels, like website chatbots, are managing simple interactions skillfully with AI.

By offloading common customer service queries, you can spend less on agents (because you’ll field fewer calls) and deliver better experiences (as agents can deliver more focused, personalized service). 

Retailers should work with their call center agents to identify new ways to clarify topics of interest via your website or automated across other channels, like email, IVR, or chat. 

2) Be Proactive: Communication That Keeps Customers Happy

More than most businesses, retailers commonly have direct omnichannel access to their customers. From email addresses and phone numbers, to their customers’ social channels, brands can connect with customers nearly anytime, anywhere. 

Why not preempt common, recurring call center queries to ensure consumer experience is tailored and seamless?

For instance, once an order is placed, a great retailer knows the conversation is just beginning. That’s because nurturing existing customers is 5x more likely to generate an additional sale than earning one from scratch.  

Retail call centers are helping innovative brands build automation playbooks to engage customers with pertinent info across the consumer lifecycle. 

Here are just a few communication steps within a successful retail playbook:

  • “Thank you — your order is confirmed”
  • “Guess what? Your shipment is on its way!”
  • “We just dropped your order off at your door.”
  • “How are you enjoying your purchase?”
  • “Want to see products that customers like you enjoyed?” 

By setting a proactive communication process, you eliminate unnecessary customer calls, checking their order status or tracking deliveries. By freeing your agents from fielding questions that you can proactively address, you can easily focus your agents on more ROI-generating activities — you could even lower your total FTE headcount. 

3) Be Compliant: Retail Security That Cuts Costs 

Customers are wary of how you use their data. With high-profile retailers like Walgreens, Estee Lauder, and J-Crew suffering security shortfalls in 2020, they have the right to be.

And even if you’re safeguarded from external threats, too many brands suffer breaches from internal teams, including incidents of credit card fraud. 

PCI Compliance has always been a primary concern for the retail industry, but with so many agents working remotely it has become much more complicated. What worked fine in your office setting may be putting your customers at risk in a remote one, as the ability to control an agent’s physical surroundings no longer exists.

If your PCI compliance software is not removing the agent from scope completely when collecting sensitive information, you’re not compliant in a remote environment. When customers exchange payment information over the phone, agents need to be temporarily blocked from seeing or hearing the information being exchanged, with the PCI platform serving as the middle person between payment approvals for the customer and agents. 

Certainly, your outsource call center can, and probably does, provide this kind of technology – at a mark up. Taking your PCI compliance into your own hands can ensure the safety of your customer data, reduce your technology costs, and provide the option to move your business to a lower-cost BPO provider without compromising security.

PCI software goes beyond compliance, too, as customers value brands that prioritize data security, with customer satisfaction increasing 3x and 40% of consumers saying they’d spend more with retailers that deploy data privacy tools. 

4) Be Borderless: Shore Up Your Retail Call Center and Reduce Costs 50%+

All customer experience improvements come at some cost — whether time or money. And call centers have always been a great way for retail brands to control customer experience while minimizing costs. 

But now, more than ever, with COVID-19 increasing call center volume and heightening the need for cost-effective solutions, retailers are taking it a step further. 

Or maybe it’s farther, as many U.S. retailers are literally relocating their call center operations to the nearshore, where they can enjoy all the benefits of a domestic center at a fraction of the price. 

This transition allows retailers to deliver customer service at less than half the cost, in some cases, without sacrificing consumer experience or access to leading technology. As industries re-establish their footing and make long-term plans for 2021, it will be vital for retailers to have capital on hand to make nimble investments down the line.

Find a Cost-Cutting BPO Partner

If your organization is overburdened by the cost of your call center provider, there’s a good chance the experts at Outsource Consultants can help. With our no-risk, no-cost consultation, you can quickly discover if a nearshore call center makes sense for you.

Whatever your organization currently spends on call center operations, there’s a good chance that Outsource Consultants can find you a competitive BPO solution that will save you over 50% versus US call center costs.

Don’t hesitate to contact our experts with any BPO-related call center questions. Our team has been serving retail partners for more than 25 years.

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