Level 3 Communications

Susan McReynolds

Are Contact Centers the “Secret Weapon” for Optimizing the Customer Journey?

It’s no secret the retail landscape is rapidly transforming before our eyes. The overbuilding of stores and rise of ecommerce combined with changing consumer preferences and behaviors are accelerating the pace of change, forcing retailers to adapt or risk falling behind forever.

As the industry responds to market pressures and rising consumer expectations, one thing is clear: customer experience drives retail success or failure. Retailers must embrace digital transformation to help create a differentiated customer experience in today’s hyper-competitive omnichannel environment. And retailers are getting the message. According to RIS News, 52 percent of retailers are delivering and scaling digital transformation.1

While many technology investments and digital upgrades to enhance customer experience are proliferating across brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, social media and mobile, the contact center is often overshadowed by these more high-profile channels. A recent report from Boston Retail Partners shows 47 percent of retailers indicate the need to improve and expand upon current capabilities in the contact center2. The contact center is where elevated, one-on-one customer interactions can help drive enhanced satisfaction and positively influence shopping behavior, resulting in an optimized customer journey that drives bottom line results.

The Contact Center: A Key Customer Touchpoint in Your Digital Transformation Strategy

Zappos, a native eCommerce pure-play, intentionally encourages online shoppers to call their prominently displayed 1-800 number to engage in live conversation, versus other customer care methods like live chat or email.

In a Forbes article, the company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, explains his view of the contact center as his secret “brand-building weapon” to drive superior customer engagement. At Zappos, the phone is viewed as a unique customer service differentiator, which “lets us have these in-depth, textured conversations with our customers. It’s the key to how we build customers for life”.

Just how valuable is driving enhanced customer experience in the overall scheme of digital transformation success? According to Gartner, more than 70 percent of retailers surveyed expect digital to have the greatest impact on customer experience.3

A report from Microsoft shows 66 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to spend more money with a company that provides them with excellent customer service. On the flip side, this same report states 60 percent of consumers did not complete a purchase due to bad customer service. The bottom line: rising consumer expectations and market pressures leave little room for operator error.

In today’s high-stakes environment, it’s clear retailers must enable a secure, elevated brand experience across the entire omnichannel environment to retain customers and survive. Strategic IT investment in technologies and capabilities designed to elevate and bring customer experience to life is a “must-do” in today’s retail environment.

Creating deeper customer relationships includes transforming contact center technologies and capabilities. Contact center decision makers should consider the five tips below to enable an optimized, more agile contact center strategy.

5 Contact Center Business Drivers for 2017

  1. Move to cloud-based platforms Overhaul legacy voice platforms and move to cloud-based contact center solutions that help drive operational efficiency and provide global scalability, while reducing IT complexity. Retiring legacy systems is cited as the top 2017 challenge facing retailers over the next three years.
  2. Embrace digital transformation It’s a digital-first world. Cloud-based contact center platforms help bring together disconnected systems and accelerate digital transformation. Increased agility and access to advanced call center features and technologies can help boost business innovation and operational efficiencies within the retail organization.
  3. Enhance customer experience Optimizing customer experience is a top priority for 55 percent of retailers. Drive deeper customer satisfaction and engagement through innovative contact center technologies designed to reduce frustration and churn.The ability to provide a frictionless customer experience in the contact center is especially important during peak times of year, like the holiday season, when retailers compete for share of wallet. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
  4. Deploy call center analytics Apply real-time customer experience analytics to optimize agent effectiveness, reduce call time and increase first-call resolution and satisfaction. Gaining analytical insight in the contact center allows retailers to layer on a scientific, unbiased metric to measure results. The Frost & Sullivan “2016 North America Cloud Contact Center Buyers Guide” states the use of cloud-delivered analytics tools to manage all aspects of contact centers will increase 17.6 percent by 2020.
  5. Combat fraud The contact center can be a doorway into fraudulent activity and social engineering of valuable customer and loyalty program data.Leverage authentication and fraud detection and prevention technologies to identify fraudulent callers, prevent chargebacks and better protect sensitive customer data. By 2020, 75 percent of omnichannel customer-facing organizations will sustain a targeted, cross-channel fraud attack with the contact center as the primary point of compromise.5

Today’s retailers are being asked to deliver a more profitable customer experience that drives loyalty and brand experience – with less capital and resource investment. Moving to a cloud-based contact center platform allows retailers to better embrace digital transformation for seamless integration and rapid adoption of advanced customer experience, analytics and fraud detection technologies that help improve rapport with customers, and create a strong and sustained competitive advantage.


1 RIS News: 27th Annual Retail Technology Study, Reconnecting with the Consumer

2 Boston Retail Partners 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Study

3 Gartner, 2017 CIO Agenda: A Retail Perspective, February 2017 (Figure 4)

4 Boston Retail Partners 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey

5 Gartner, Don’t Let the Contact Center Be Your ‘Achilles Heel’ of Fraud Prevention, March 2017