Feilim Mackle, Head of Sales and Services at O2, spoke to Retail Gazette about the significance of omnichannel in today’s market and how O2 as a business is creating a seamless online and offline experience for customers.(
As becoming ‘omnichannel’ becomes an increasingly key focus for retailers in the competitive digital space, what does the word mean to you and why is a seamless experience across stores and online so important?
I believe that all modern retailers should be customer-centric, operating wherever their customers choose to interact and communicate. ‘Omnichannel’ is about making it as easy as possible for customers to engage with a brand, and ensuring a consistent experience across every touch point.
The power of the internet and the rise of social and mobile technologies have empowered consumers, and their expectations continue to increase. They want to be able to browse online, view in store, pay via mobile – and for the whole experience to be seamless and intuitive.
In today’s digital world, technology should be at the heart of delivering an outstanding customer experience, whether online or offline. It makes it possible for retailers to transform shopping into an interactive and rewarding experience, providing shoppers with the excitement and accessibility they are increasingly coming to expect as standard.
O2 uses Twitter and other social networks to engage with customers and offer individual customer service; why is this medium the preferred way to interact with O2 shoppers and what positive and negative experiences have the team had on these networks that have informed the strategy?
Soaring smartphone usage and the mobile internet have fundamentally changed what people expect from customer service. We know that our customers are increasingly opting to interact through digital channels, including social media which, in O2’s case, has seen an almost five fold increase in customer interaction over the last two years.
Instant gratification is now the norm, and customers want a more flexible way to contact companies. Technology and social media are making this possible – for example, Twitter enables real time interaction, helping to resolve queries faster than many traditional methods.
At O2, we believe it’s crucial to recognise the value of the insight that we gain from these conversations with customers. From information on service performance to feedback on particular devices, the two way dialogue via Twitter enables us to be agile when issues arise, as well as developing a closer relationship with our customers.
This insight is also informing the way we work as a business. For example, the strength of interaction on Twitter has led us to implement what we believe to be a global first – a system that will see us offer customers the opportunity to check their accounts by tweeting. This innovative new service will be available in the coming months.
O2 recently announced new digital customer services; tell us more about this and how it fits in with your broader omnichannel strategy.
Last month we set out bold plans to redefine our customer service offering to better respond to growing demand from customers wanting to connect via digital means. We’re investing £31 million in digital customer service, and investigating how we can further develop our services to serve the customer of the future.
O2 was the first company to offer web chat for customer care as opposed to sales, and we want to remain progressive. The investment will allow us to scale up and enhance our digital service channels which are becoming increasingly popular. MyO2, which allows customers to manage and check their bill online, is currently being used nine million times a month, while web chat services are used three quarters of a million times every month. In addition, we’re also able to facilitate over half a million answers per month in response to questions on the O2 Community forum.
O2 is to invest £19 million in transforming its stores to streamline these with your digital offer; what will this transformation involve, how long will it take and to what extent will these create a sense of the retail space as more of a showroom than a traditional store?
Retailers need to recognise that the in-store experience must extend into every channel, and this multichannel environment needs to be consistent.
This means fundamentally changing both the way our stores look and the interactions we provide to our customers. It is no longer enough to simply showcase products in store. The function of the retail environment today shouldn’t be just to sell, but to excite and inform customers.
Our investment will be used to create an in-store experience that mirrors shopping with O2 online, recognising that customers are increasingly using a range of channels before making a purchase. For example, we know that 70 per cent of our customers go online to research handsets before they even set foot in one of our stores.
Are there any other upcoming developments you can share at this time?
We operate over 450 stores and are responsible for serving more than 23 million customers in the UK, so we know retail and we know mobile. I’m excited about how technology is going to transform the way we shop in the future.
The launch of 4G later this year will be central to these advances, both online and in-store. Not only will this make experiences faster, it will also provide ubiquitous connectivity, allowing retailers to connect seamlessly with their customers. Small retailers and pop-up outlets will benefit in particular. Up until now, they haven’t necessarily had the time or capital to invest in more than a basic network connection. 4G will give them the same power to enhance the customer experience using technology as their large and more established competitors, and will stimulate innovation across the sector.