As brands struggle to meet rising customers expectations, humans are proving far more disruptive than technology, argues Tiffani Bova, growth & innovation evangelist at Salesforce. 

Speaking at the Online Retailer conference in Sydney this week, Bova told delegates that ultimately, consumers want more. 

“We want an app that can do this, we want to be able to order on this social media platform, we want to be able to make returns and make orders at two o’clock in the morning,” she said.

“We want to be able to ship to multiple addresses, we want to be able to have reminders, we want you to know me, personalise it and be engaging.”

She said the consumer is driving retailers to change their ways or risk closing down stores. 

“[Some retailers] have kept the exact same business model with the exact same engagement model with the exact same experience for them with very little leverage on technology and pivoting into the experience, so they’re losing on price. 

“They’re losing on availability because they’re not trying to compete on experience as these rules of customer engagement are being rewritten. 

“It is no longer about how you engage with me today. It’s about how are you going to engage with me tomorrow? How are you going to engage with me six months from now and 12 months from now?”

People and process problem 

Online retailers are not faced with a technology but a people and process problem when trying to obtain and retain customers according Bova.

Tiffani Bova, growth & innovation evangelist at Salesforce

She explained employees use the excuse of “we’ve always done it this way, so we don’t feel comfortable doing it” or blame the managers of the organisation for the lack in technology. 

With all these excuses it is important for companies to start with the people and processes. 

“Who you hire, how you train, what you allow them to do, what you empower them to do and what you enable them to do. All those decisions on the employee side have impact on the kind of experience that your customers are going to get,” Bova said. 

She said the biggest thing is having disconnected teams where the sales team says one thing but the customer service team says another. 

This usually happens because of disconnected metrics, Bova said. 

“So what ends up happening when you have disconnected teams and disconnected metrics, [is] you have this really, really disconnected experience.”

Customers are more interested in how they engage with a brand than a company’s sales process or its marketing funnel, says Bova. 

“You can have the best technology in the world but when the people and processes aren’t aligned, it’s a very expensive learning curve to get yourself to use it.”

“But if you want to reframe the way you think about how you engage with your customers, where you’re engaging with them, timely moments of wow and personalisation. 

“Then don’t just replicate what you’re doing today and try to shoehorn it into new technology, because that won’t solve the problem unless you start to get into the people and process side.”

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