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01.23.17 | blog

NRF17: Retail Cares About Care

Against the usual backdrop of store closures, retail restructuring, and executive hopping, NRF 2017 hosted its latest “must-go” trade show Jan.15-17 in New York City. While it’s not a customer care or contact center show, per se, I predict it will become more – not less – of one.

The reason is simple: care touches every aspect of commerce, either explicitly or implicitly.

Three themes very clearly emerged over the course of NRF 2017.

CX = THE competitive differentiator. Retail is bookended by scale (“Walmazon”) and specialization (Shinola, The New Stand). For brands in between – and that’s close to all of them – selection and price can potentially be matched somewhere else. CX is harder to replicate, whether it’s in-store (like an REI climbing wall or an Oak Labs digital dressing room), online (Rocksbox or Warby Parker) or mobile (Wayfair’s VR app). And CX replenishes the emotional well that underpins brand affinity and loyalty.

Care under stress is broken. StellaService, a brand consultancy, reviewed US retailers’ rates of answering calls in 30-seconds or less. Pre-holiday (August to October), that rate was 21%. That’s bad. During Cyber Weekend, that rate dropped to 16%! And during Christmas Week it slid further to 15%. Chat fared somewhat better, though the rate of chats responded to within 20 seconds dropped from 44% pre-holiday to 41% during Christmas Week. Some individual retailers and merchants crushed these metrics – most did not. Now juxtapose those stats with the fact that 83% of US consumers want a live person on the phone to handle customer service issues across channels.

Technology alone is not the answer. Let’s face it – technology offers enormous opportunity to fundamentally disrupt customer care (as a tech platform company, Arise makes no bones about the importance of our stack components – now available via a standalone SaaS model). But tech alone doesn’t cut it, or, as one NRF speaker put it, “Humans are the killer app.” Tech’s job is to enhance human effort (Arise makes no bones about that either, as our platform connects great brands with great care capabilities sourced from micro call centers in our network). We also know AI will play a growing role in customer care – in fact, we partner with a leading AI-based intelligent assistant provider. With customer journey complexity rising, preferences for human contact persisting, and gaps in the technology remaining (most users abandon chatbots after 2 messages), we’re confident “tech AND touch” beats “tech OR touch.”

Last thought: the time is now. Take the first step toward delivering a differentiated CX during peak 2017, today.

About the Author

Tadd Wilson, (Vice President, Business Development – Retail & eCommerce), brings deep retail and eCommerce expertise and a passion for helping brands reshape customer experience. Tadd joined Arise because, in his words, he “loves brand engagement across web, stores, mobile, and voice – but hates the trade-offs most brands face between quality, flexibility, and cost.”

Prior to joining Arise, Tadd directed business consulting for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, and served as partner for the world’s largest store-based retailer. 

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