Article | 4 min read

How AI infused immersive CX can help retailers win the battle for customer loyalty

With inflation rates impacting customers' spending power all over the world, discover how AI can help retailers improve their CX all the while continuing to attract and retain their customers.

By Eric Jorgensen, VP EMEA at Zendesk

Last updated August 30, 2023

The money in our wallets doesn’t go as far as it used to. Prices are increasing—the cost of low fat milk was around forty five per cent cheaper in December 2021 than today. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of ‘shrinkflation’, a form of hidden inflation, means we’re all paying more and getting less in return.

Companies across the board, from small independent businesses right up to the biggest retailers in the country, are finding it hard too. The rising price of raw materials, high energy costs, and increasing wage bills are making it difficult for them to turn the same profits they’re used to, especially when shoppers are spending less.
So, the dilemma is this: how does a retailer who has been forced to increase its prices keep customers coming back through its doors and/or into its online store?

The answer lies in putting customer experience (CX) front and centre. By making every interaction as smooth, enjoyable, and convenient as possible, retailers can strengthen relationships with the people they serve and improve levels of loyalty and trust.

On the flipside, businesses who miss the mark on CX can pay a high price. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends Report 2023, sixty one per cent of consumers say they’re willing to walk away from a company after a single bad experience and fifty eight per cent base purchasing decisions on the level of service they expect to receive. Worryingly, nearly half of the customers surveyed said their frustration with support services has grown over the past year.

Embracing immersive CX with AI

Most retailers realise the importance of improving their CX and want to take prompt action to do so. The same Zendesk report found seventy seven per cent agree doing so is essential to achieving their goals and eighty one per cent see it as key to competitiveness. Meanwhile, seventy nine per cent believe that providing excellent customer service during an economic downturn becomes even more vital, with seventy four per cent expecting to increase their CX budget during the year ahead.

With most business leaders keeping their purse strings tight, it’s important that CX solutions pay for themselves quickly. And one way of maximising ROI on CX spend is by embracing the new era of immersive CX. This approach sees natural, fluid conversations take place across channels – from telephone calls and website queries to social media and WhatsApp. Additionally, customer preferences are prioritised, allowing them to use whichever channel(s) they prefer. This, in turn, creates a far more personalised experience.

Artificial intelligence (AI) also seems to be maturing at just the right time to give CX the intelligence boost it needs without requiring additional staff at the contact centre. Currently, sixty two per cent of retail leaders acknowledge AI is becoming more natural and human-like while sixty one per cent report performance improvements when using the technology.

The challenge now is to perfect the working relationship between AI and humans where the combination of bots, voice-based AI solutions, and service agents collaborate to answer queries faster and more effectively than ever.

Breaking down barriers

Customers don’t just care about speed though; they also want every agent and every piece of technology to be aware of the full context of their query. That way, they don’t have to repeat themselves when being passed from a bot to a service agent on the phone, for example.

Yet only half (fifty two per cent) of businesses today can access conversations in one place and respond across all support channels. To deliver the cross-channel CX offering that customers are longing for, businesses must seize every opportunity to break down functional barriers between teams in different departments and geographies.

That’s because when data is freed from the silos, it enables firms to deliver the level of tailored service we discussed earlier. Zendesk found that sixty two per cent of consumers prefer personalised recommendations to generic ones while seventy seven per cent of leaders recognise that deeper personalisation results in increased customer retention.

An important step is to connect customer and sales data from every part of the organisation to make customer interactions more context-rich and uncover new growth opportunities based on each person’s unique circumstances. Doing so is the difference between a CX operation that’s merely a cost centre and one that genuinely drives revenue for the business.

Driving long-term success

The problem is that only eighteen per cent of retail leaders say their organisation is excellent at sharing information—lower than the global cross-sector average of twenty two per cent. Share information better, train departments across the business on new ways to sell products and services, and they will immediately clear the path to delivering greater ROI on their CX spend.

They must keep evolving too. As new technologies (especially AI based) come on stream, people will increasingly demand customer service that knows what they want and delivers it when, where, and how they want it. Perhaps even giving them that little bit more than what they asked for too.

Meeting those expectations is what turns regular shoppers into loyal customers and advocates. Which means by acting to embed immersive CX today, companies can set themselves up to gain and retain their customers long into the future.