The launch of Amazon in Australia has sparked a huge amount of debate within the Australian retail sector, with reactions ranging from complete gloom and doom through to joyous welcome.
What everyone does agree on is that disruptor Amazon will significantly change the face of Australian retailing and publishing.
Exactly how things will change is not yet clear, as Amazon has remained extremely tight-lipped about the full product and services range it will provide Down Under, but we do know that initially, it will include:
- Its own retail offerings of goods including apparel, books, baby goods, beauty, electronics, peripherals, stationery, homewares, jewellery, appliances etc and its own home-brand range
- Amazon Fresh – initially with packaged food and non-food groceries, and possibly fresh food later
- Marketplace – a platform for third-party sellers to offer new and used goods
The real core of the Amazon difference
It’s not the breadth and depth of its’ e-commerce product range that has seen Amazon become the fourth largest company in the world, and its boss the second richest man on Earth.
It’s Amazon’s obsession with customers.
Amazon’s customer-centricity ethos permeates everything they do.
- Make Shopping Easier: Amazon pioneered the use of the Recommendation Engine to help their customers discover and buy more, by suggesting products based on customer browsing and purchasing preferences. This occurs both while customers are on their website, and is also included in automated emails.
- Offer Product and Pricing Choice: Amazon’s sheer purchasing power and marketplace of 3rd party sellers means that customers have a huge range of choices and prices in every category.
- Get Products Faster: For a small monthly/annual fee, the Amazon Prime Service guarantees 2-day delivery, and the Prime Now Service provides delivery within 2 hours (in metro areas). Speedy delivery has been instrumental in Amazon stealing some market share from traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
- Make Returns Easy: Amazon allows customers to purchase a product then return it for a refund if they’re not satisfied; within 30 days for a full refund, and partial refunds for periods beyond that. And many Amazon-fulfilled items are marked “Free Return”, which means there are no postage fees on returns.
The opportunity for Australian retailers
Competing head-on with Amazon is not a viable option for any Australian retailers. The Amazon juggernaut has the technology, logistical and infrastructure lead over all its competitors.
A far better strategy is to focus on what customers are demanding, and should always receive – an outstanding experience with your brand. Make it easy and delightful to do business with you and keep them loyal.
This is where Contact Centres can make a significant impact.
It’s all about building good relationships to keep your customers loyal – which is why the Contact Centre has moved from being the operational backwater to become the linchpin of customer experience management and your most valuable strategic asset.
There are three key things which we believe retailers need to be focusing on to minimise the Amazon effect, and maintain market share.
1. Gear up operations to deliver a great experience at every step
Customers want a great experience online and instore, and for returns, service and support. Are you delivering this at every step of the customer journey?
Making customers feel valued, appreciated and confident drives loyalty, Forrester’s research into customer experience suggests.
Start by seeing it from the customer’s point of view.
Take yourself on a customer journey with your organisation and see what really happens at every touchpoint. As we covered in our post Why Contact Centre CX is Crucial to the Customer Journey, it often only takes one poor experience along a whole customer journey, for a sour note to overshadow all the things which were done right at every other touchpoint.
Get your whole team involved in creating strategies and procedures to overcome any experiences that are less than ideal. Things like lack of self-help information on your website, over-zealous return policies, cumbersome payment systems, long queues for customer service, and the worst one – rude or disinterested staff, will quickly drive your customers over to the waiting arms of Amazon.
2. Use your customer knowledge
Mine the mountains of information you already have about your Australian customers and use it strategically to provide better instore and online shopping experiences, and to launch proactive marketing campaigns. Amazon is new to the Australian market and has not yet acquired data on Australian colloquialisms, preferences and shopping habits, and this will take a while to amass and use to strategic advantage.
Cota Capital founder Bobby Yazdani said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review that “traditional retailers know less about their customers than online retailers, and need to build sustainable strategies based on data so they can engage with shoppers in stores, online, on mobile and on social media.”
“Trust is a big currency now so stand by your products, have warranties and guarantees, and get to know your top 100 customers by name and spend. It’s about bringing personalisation and relationship back into retail,” says Brian Walker, Chief Executive of consultancy Retail Doctor Group.
3. Give your Contact Centre’s team what they need to do the job properly
Look at what you put your customers through when they contact you for support. Even if you have the most wonderfully empathetic, knowledgeable and skilled support team in the world; making access easy and the process smooth is crucial to the overall customer experience.
It all hinges on the technology, systems and workflows you have in place to enable your team to get on with it and deliver an outstanding service.
The first step is to honestly answer each of these 12 questions and see what barriers may be hampering your customers’ access or experience with you.
- Do you allow customers to contact you their preferred way? By phone, by email, through chat?
- Can they only connect during your business hours, or do you offer extended support so they can get help when they really want it (eg: when they’re not at work)?
- How long do they have to wait to connect with your team? Do you offer a call back service so they don’t have to wait for more than 5 minutes?
- How many times do you ask them for ID verification? If it’s any more than once you need to fix this straight away – as this is the number one complaint. Have you considered implementing voice biometrics to make authentication faster, simpler, and more convenient for your customers?
- What is your first call resolution rate? Does this reflect your customer satisfaction index?
- What are the 25 most common questions you receive every week? Are these answers on your website, or available as self-service features?
- Do you use a chatbot to help customers get support on your site?
- How much do you know about every customer when they call you? Do your agents have instant access to the caller’s full history when the call connects?
- Do you provide mobility features to enhance the experience for mobile callers?
- Can your team take credit card payments in a secure, compliant manner?
- Do you offer your customers the opportunity to rate the service they received from you right after the call?
- Do you call your customers to develop the relationship, get feedback, sell other products, invite them to events?
Once you have an honest evaluation of each of these questions, the second step is to plan in detail how you’re going to fix the gaps and the issues.
Banish complacency and transform into a customer centric organisation
There’s no doubt that the arrival of Amazon into the Australian marketplace will significantly impact our retail sector – for both physical and online stores.
Those that maintain customer loyalty will only be those who take action to do so, and commit to a CX transformation in a very proactive manner.
In 2016 Accenture commissioned Forrester Research to survey 702 global business executives (including many Australian companies) to evaluate global enterprises’ CX transformation efforts. In the report: Expectations vs Experience: The Good, the Bad, the Opportunity, they summed up their findings of business executives’ attitudes toward customer experience (CX): complacency.
Only 17.8% of companies were using their customer experience to drive brand differentiation, and their results put them into the league of high performers. They were achieving higher rates of success across a number of key business metrics than the rest of the respondents, as we can see in the graph.
The real risk for retailers lies with not understanding or acting on changing customer needs, rather than Amazon itself.
And we believe that retail Contact Centres, if properly equipped, trained and supported, will be pivotal in helping to stem the tide of churn.