Massive increase in online shopping has changed customer service
When COVID-19 hit last year, Anne Campion, former opera singer and owner of Revel Coffee Inc. in Stratford, Ont., Was determined to continue bringing her products to the community she loves.
Before the pandemic, cafe was popular in this theatrical city for its welcoming vibe, where you might find yourself sipping your ethically-sourced Americano next to Othello at the large communal table.
Three locks and various color coded provincial rules later, it’s open for take out and deliver only. But good customer service always requires personal relationships, whether that’s beautiful handwritten notes with special occasion deliveries, staff chatting with regulars behind masks and plexiglass, or photos and updates. captivating video on social media.
Maintaining or increasing sales during a pandemic requires creativity and agility. In the beginning, when everyone was getting down to baking, Revel competed by offering frozen rolled dough to help customers make croissants at home (a difficult product to DIY with all those layers of butter). It also added free contactless coffee bean delivery so customers can enjoy a great cup of coffee with these freshly baked croissants.
For Ms. Campion, customer service is guided by its mission that every decision must be made for the good of the community, locally and globally. Since its inception over ten years ago, Revel has supported direct trade coffee growers as well as local farmers, growers and the community.
“It’s not just about me and not just the customer – it’s about us collectively,” says Campion. “That’s why we have a Black Lives Matter poster in our storefront, and it will stay there. This is why I am a member of our BIA (Business Improvement Association). There is a commitment to develop this community so that it is reflective and welcoming to everyone. This is why we are in business. “
Grace Ayoub, general manager of the consumer goods industry at Montreal-based consulting firm Accenture Canada, says personalized service has changed during the pandemic. For businesses, it’s more about the values people associate with a business and less about the transaction. For example, customers may want to know if a business is sustainable or how it takes care of its employees.
“Increasingly, what we’ve seen during the pandemic is that people are looking to shop with a more human side, which we have learned from the pandemic,” Ms. Ayoub says. “There is an increase in sympathy for local businesses as people spend more with them and these businesses provide good service. This is a trend that has really changed with the pandemic and is likely to continue. “
The other aspect of personalized service is more practical. Is it a good quality product? Was the transaction simple and convenient? According to a May 2021 Accenture Research poll, more than 70% of consumers say convenience is more important than ever.
“There has been a 300% increase in online shopping and that automatically generates a need for technology,” says Ms. Ayoub. “Businesses no longer need to invest just in their physical spaces, they need to make sure the online experience is great. It’s more than your website, but make sure your entire supply chain is running smoothly. “
Étienne Mérineau, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Heyday.ai, a Montreal-based tech company that provides chatbot software and a conversational artificial intelligence platform for retailers, says the paradigm of how we shop has changed. with the pandemic. This is a real game-changer for any type of business, where the primary point of contact and interaction with customers was previously in-store or in person.
“Personalization is the holy grail, and you need the technology to make it happen,” says Mérineau. “We can connect in-store associates with online shoppers directly through live chat or video chat, and we have artificial intelligence technology that acts as a first line of defense to sort out conversations and pass them on. to the right people. ”
How effective is it? On the sales side, Mr. Mérineau says that one of the largest furniture chains in Quebec achieved nearly $ 4 million in sales thanks to Heyday’s live chat at the start of the pandemic when all of its stores were closed. . On the customer service side, the challenge is how to meet the sudden and growing demand for traffic and the number of questions coming from the live chat on the website.
“We saw an increase of 300 to 800 percent on average, depending on our customer portfolio of inbound traffic, so teams weren’t ready to respond to that pressure,” says Mérineau. “The addition of AI technology helps a business deal with repetitive questions and continue to provide good service without breaking the bank.”
He cites another client, Popeye’s Supplements Canada, a national sports nutrition retailer, as an example where the company has been able to save significantly on customer service costs and reuse its staff to be more efficient.
“When you automate a big chunk to chat, it’s a win for your budget,” says Mérineau. “But it’s also a win for the end customer, as the new generation of buyers expect to send messages to brands the same way they send messages to their friends. Every business now has to think like a tech company. This is how you will win in the long run. “
For her part, Ms. Campion of Revel Coffee continues to try new things. She launched “Pop up Fridays” with 10 boxes of goodies sold to the first 10 people who text, and Saturday brunch boxes are delivered to homes for a “Revel at home” experience.
Pickup of brunch dishes, napkins, and reusable wooden boxes takes place in the afternoon, so there’s no work and no waste. It’s an initiative Ms Campion hopes to continue after the pandemic for business meetings or breakfast weddings.