The human touch in retail

Human Touch in retail

Retail might be finding new and innovative ways to support the consumer experience and operate with greater efficiency, but according to a recent report from global accounting firm PwC, it’s the human factor that really counts.

PwC recently surveyed 15,000 people from 12 countries to find that although technology can offer insight and improve the consumer experience, when it comes to customer service there’s a formula for getting it right.

Here are the key takeaways of their survey findings, and an insight into how retail can find the sweet spot between technology and the human touch.

Five key requirements

What are customers looking for during any interaction with a brand?

Well according to the findings of the PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey, it comes down to five key factors: “Speed. Convenience. Consistency. Friendliness. And one big connector: human touch”.

When an organisation offers the right mix of the above and ensures a frictionless interaction, people are more likely to reward that brand with loyalty, recommend their services and even pay more as a result.

The challenge lies in using new technology with purpose to make the experience feel more human—”without creating frustrations for customers and while empowering employees”, the report explains.

“Call it an experience disconnect: companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but they haven’t focused on—or invested in—the aspects of customer experience that are the most meaningful.”

The value of experience

Not only does a superior consumer experience ensure customers feel valued, it also leads to brand loyalty, referral, and can help people decide between buying options.

PwC found:

  • “73% of all people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. Yet only 49% of US consumers say companies provide a good customer experience today,” and:
  • “43% of all consumers would pay more for greater convenience; 42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience. And, among US customers, 65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.”

So how do retailers go about ensuring that experience is right?

Getting it right

The report argues finding the sweet spot of a superior customer experience comes down to understanding what consumers value as part of their purchasing and loyalty decisions, with a series of key areas that every retailers should comprehend. These include:

The value of getting it right – A brand focus on the right experience is no small matter, with the payoffs financial and tangible. PwC found:

  • When customers feel valued and appreciated they will pay up to a 16% price premium on products and services, plus increased loyalty.
  • Customers are more likely to try additional products or services.
  • 63% said they’d be more open to sharing their data for a product or service

The cost of poor experience

A company may believe they have more than one opportunity to meet a consumer’s expectations but according to the report, 17% of US customers will walk away from a brand they love after one negative encounter, 59% will leave after several.

It’s not about bells and whistles

Harnessing the power of technology involves using it to meet consumer’s needs.

“While many companies focus significant time and money on design that pops or cutting edge technology to wow customers, these aren’t as essential to the experience equation as many companies believe,” the report states.

“Customers expect technology to always work and often don’t take notice of it (unless it’s malfunctioning). They want the design of websites and mobile apps to be elegant and user-friendly; they want automation to ease experience. But these advances don’t matter much if speed, convenience and the right information are lacking.”  

The human factor

The human factor matters now as much as ever. Over 80% of US consumers want more human interaction in the future, while 59% of all customers globally say companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

Meanwhile, there’s room for improvement on the human front as well. Only 38% of US consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs.

“Automated solutions should “learn” from human interactions so those experiences also improve. This shift allows your employees to be more engaged when they’re needed, provide better service and get necessary support from technology—as part of the seamless experience.”

Experience is the strategy

Almost three-quarters of all consumers note experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, behind price and product quality.

PwC reports:

  • Customers are willing to pay more for the experience qualities that matter most to them: 43% of consumers would pay more for greater convenience;
  • 42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience and;
  • 65% of US customers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.”

Key takeaways

Technology is a facilitator rather than the outcome, with the companies who provide the best consumer experience knowing when and how to draw on its power.

Finding the balance is about knowing the real demands of the consumer, empowering employees, and considering the consumer experience first and foremost when implementing tech.

The key drivers of a good consumer experience are speed, convenience, friendliness and knowledge. Technologies that facilitate this offer opportunities for brands to improve their standing with clientele.