Tomorrow’s Not-So-Big ‘Big Box’

Retailers continue to shrink physically and grow virtually. It’s a trend that promises many more unhappy returns this Holiday Season, and beyond. Here are three rules to ensure customers experience happy holiday shopping.

Happy shopping times


As more people buy online – and still more order online for major purchases they later plan to pick up at the store – Big Box Retailers will continue to aggressively shrink their store footprints. That means selling ever more merchandize virtually, and holding ever less of it on the shop floor, or in their warehouse inventories. But this “sight-unseen purchasing” trend – which consumers prefer, and retailers have a powerful interest in satisfying – will only deepen the “dispute resolution” challenges sellers and their suppliers will face.

As veteran Holiday Season cyber-shoppers well know, the online product photo is never quite the same as what is shipped to the buyer’s doorstep or local store for pickup. Differences between an online and in-store price can also routinely leave in-store buyers later feeling they didn’t get the best deal – and threatening to return the item if they can’t get the better bargain. Bottom line: There is going to be a lot more “buyer’s remorse” driven customer disputes in the Future World of Retail.

That noted, affected businesses must ask two questions. One, “How can we leverage ‘smarter’ analytics to anticipate dispute issues using a combination of customer, retailer and product histories?” And two, “How can we design Customer Service platforms to resolve disputes in ways that not only leave the initially unhappy purchasers satisfied with their treatment and the final outcomes, but also minimize the amount of disruption to receivables cash flow such disputes routinely create?”

The analysis, process re-engineering and IT investment that naturally follow posing those questions can have a significant impact on the loyalty of patrons, and on the likelihood of their being a source of repeat business – or not. To capitalize, enterprises must abide by these three rules:

Use analytics to predictively avert many more disputes before they happen. The Big Data, and technology needed to sift through that data and glean the necessary insights, both now exist. All that’s still required to make such predictability possible is a serious enterprise commitment to carefully marrying the tech and analytics pieces.

Leverage technology to make it easier to “self-serve” a dispute resolution. When a purchase does go awry customers should, more often than not, be able to easily self-resolve the issue quickly and completely online. By having the right information and interactivity built into the online Customer Service platform, disputing parties can take action on their timetable and terms. Better still, phone-center service reps will be left to concentrate more exclusively on only those calls that can’t be adequately self-served.

Disputes resolved by phone must get callers to the right “expert” as quick as possible. Where online self-serve isn’t a practical option, first-time-call dispute resolution should be the goal. That means investing in Next Gen Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. A well redesigned IVR architecture can reduce “hang ups” and the need for “recalls” from poorly prompted customers. It can also cut wait times in getting to a live rep as needed. And it can increase the likelihood that the caller will be directed to the right troubleshooter without having to endure multiple “escalations” to another rep.

Adherence to the three rules above assures a more-timely, fuller resolution of disputes of retail purchases – and with it, the prospect of many more happy returns for customers and businesses alike for many year-end holiday shopping seasons to come.

About the Authors

S. Bala and Nitin Jain are co-authors of the White Paper, “Building the ‘Channel Agnostic’ Customer Service Platform”. They are SVP and VP, respectively, of Reengineering at Genpact, a global leader in business process management and technology services that leverage smarter processes, analytics and technology to help its clients drive intelligence across their enterprise.

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