Why Human Interaction is Still Important in Retail

By Steve Davidson Jan 24, 2019 10:00:00 AM


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In an ever-changing world, how can retailers adapt for digital while preserving human connection with customers?

Technology has evolved to become a critical part of our everyday lives as the world continues its march toward continuous connectivity. This digital transformation is affecting every aspect of society—including retail.

Since its inception, the retail industry has been constantly transforming, but one aspect has remained a consistent component throughout its history: human interaction. Unsurprisingly, consumers still crave connection despite connectivity, as recent studies show that 70 percent prefer the former. As retailers make efforts to keep pace with the digital transformation, it’s important they remain sensitive to customers looking for human interaction. Here’s how:

Create a human-centric culture

A strong company culture can create a competitive advantage in a number of areas—including customer retention. However, in today’s digital landscape, many retailers struggle to maintain human interaction as part of their brand culture. The key to pulling it off lies in proper staff training.

For example, to maintain a customer-centric culture, employees must first understand how to communicate certain emotions and behaviors effectively—like empathy, patience, adaptability, and consistency. This can be accomplished through the use of training modules like role-playing scenarios, as well as continued employee education. When employees have a grasp of a brand culture that cultivates these ideas, they’re more likely to relay these same values to customers.

Keep the personal touch in customer service

Despite access to tools like live chat and email, 86 percent of consumers still prefer face-to-face or real-time vocal communication. Retailers should take note by providing customers with a live representative on their service lines. To make interactions even more personal, train customer service reps to go off-book rather than reading a script word-for-word to keep customer conversations fresh and personal.

Find the middle ground

While it’s vital for retailers to offer the human touch, it’s also important that they don’t completely ignore advantages provided by digital and bridge the gap between the user and the online experience. Allowing customers to control their experience while still being available with a helping hand when needed is a good place to start.

Take PetSmart, for example. The pet supply retail chain recently implemented a delivery window option, allowing customers to choose when they want items delivered to their door. This utilizes digital via online shopping but lets the customer control part of their experience allowing them to choose when items are dropped off. Plus, PetSmart has ensured representatives are available anytime to assist in-store or by phone.

Despite the fact that digital transformation is changing retail, human interaction remains as important as ever. By maintaining a customer-centric culture and finding the sweet spot between human and digital connection, retailers can foster long-lasting customer relationships.

For more information on how retailers can adjust to the evolving landscape, check out our blog on prioritizing customer service for the digital age.

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