Clienteling first began as an in-store feature of luxury retailers.
It’s since evolved into a strategy that can be utilized by a variety of businesses to optimize the customer experience.
In the past, clienteling was primarily used during face-to-face interactions.
Nowadays, as businesses and their contact centers embark on a digital transformation, clienteling is increasingly prevalent in virtual communication.
This is especially true since the outbreak of Covid-19. In 2020, global ecommerce sales increased by 32.4% from the previous year.
So, if you’re wondering whether virtual clienteling could be a useful addition to your brand or contact center strategy - read on to discover just how valuable it can be.
In this article we’ll cover.
· The difference between clienteling and customer service
· The importance and benefits of virtual clienteling
· The ways virtual clienteling can be improved or implemented
· The evolving relevance of virtual clienteling within contact centers
But first, let’s start with the basics – clienteling and virtual clienteling defined.
What is clienteling?
Clienteling refers to a business’ ability to provide personalized experiences to customers through ongoing one-to-one communication.
The main objective of clienteling is to promote greater customer satisfaction through a personalized experience.
This is achieved through the use of historical and real-time data, such as:
- Purchase history
- Previous interactions
- Customer information, e.g. needs/preferences
This data is utilized to create customer profiles which enable employees to provide informed and personalized support.
Another crucial aim of clienteling is to create and nurture long-term relationships with consumers.
These relationships are usually maintained via messaging channels. Outbound or bidirectional sales teams will use these channels to keep in touch with customers following a purchase.
As we’ve mentioned, clienteling was traditionally used for in-store interactions.
But as the demand for tech-driven support has increased in recent years, the focus has shifted onto contact centers as providers of a humanized digital experience.
This is where virtual clienteling comes into play – a holistic approach to ecommerce and digital customer support that replicates the in-store shopping experience.
Virtual clienteling defined
Virtual clienteling is simply clienteling that takes place in the virtual or online realm.
It’s achieved through the use of client data and digital communication platforms.
Virtual clienteling is driven by omnichannel technology and can be provided through features such as:
The combined use of these features allows businesses to take advantage of customer journey mapping, which enables a tailored customer experience at all digital touchpoints.
Forward-thinking software, like Talkative’s suite of digital contact channels, can provide you with this integrated and humanized approach to customer support.
With Talkative, you could deploy outbound or bidirectional contact agents to foster continued relationships with your customers.
You could also use Talkative’s Whatsapp integration to maintain contact with customers and keep them in your funnel.
These features will allow you to optimize customer experiences and equip your contact center with progressive ways to increase revenue.
Virtual clienteling vs customer service
Virtual clienteling and customer service share key purposes:
1. To assist and support the client
2. To identify client needs
3. To provide a solution, resulting in a successful conversion
The crucial difference is that customer service relies on face-value information gathered during one interaction.
Virtual clienteling, by contrast, combines customer data with omnichannel digital communication.
This combination equips businesses with powerful knowledge which enables them to give customers the same level of support online that they would receive in person.
It also gives them the tools to forge an ongoing business-to-consumer relationship.
In essence, virtual clienteling is a more proactive approach to customer support.
It allows online sales associates to build relationships with their consumers and maintain contact with them. This creates loyal customers and higher conversion rates!
To see how, let’s demonstrate with an example.
An example scenario
Imagine your business is a retailer of fitness gear and products.
A potential customer is browsing your website and contacts a sales associate via live chat to inquire about buying running shoes.
Using regular customer service, the sales associate would ask them what size and kind of running shoes they’re interested in.
Next, they direct the customer to the appropriate area of the site, before highlighting some suitable products.
The shopper then browses and considers the options before making a purchase.
But how would this situation differ if the retailer was to use virtual clienteling?
Firstly, the customer would receive a far superior customer experience.
This would begin with the agent accessing the customer's data profile to consider their order history and any previous interactions.
The agent then spots a pair of running shoes in their past purchases and asks if they require a similar style or something different.
The agent also notices that this customer usually interacts with staff via video chat, so they offer to switch to their preferred channel of communication.
Once on a video call, the agent implements the use of cobrowsing to guide the customer around the website to the most suitable products.
They also recommend the store's new range of running socks and any other attire/accessories that may be of interest.
In the following days and weeks after purchase, outbound agents maintain contact with this client via mobile apps. They confirm that the items have arrived safely and that the customer is satisfied.
The agent now also has the opportunity to offer further products or assistance.
This increases the likelihood of future purchases via upsells.
As you can see, virtual clienteling closely mirrors the in-store experience.
It also extends the customer journey - to both the customer and the business’s benefit.
Ultimately, it provides a more humanized shopping experience and personalized engagement for key customers.
The importance of virtual clienteling
Virtual clienteling is incredibly important in an increasingly omnichannel digital world. In fact, it is essential in giving leading brands an edge over competitors.
It is also a vital part of understanding complex customer journeys and providing users with a premium, seamless service.
This is particularly crucial if your business is promoting luxury goods or services. High-paying customers expect high-quality service and support.
However, even if you are not a high-end organization, the use of virtual clienteling can create a customer perception of luxury.
This will help your brand stand out from the crowd.
Benefits of virtual clienteling
So far, we’ve touched upon the value of virtual clienteling and its importance in competitive differentiation.
Now, let’s delve into the details of the benefits that virtual clienteling has for both your business and your customers.
Benefits for businesses
A key benefit of virtual clienteling for businesses and their contact centers is that it results in a higher number of happy customers than standard customer service.
These happy customers are more likely to become repeat customers - 89% of consumers are more inclined to make another purchase after a positive customer experience.
They are also 38% more likely to recommend your organization to other potential users and engage in social media advocacy.
Thus, virtual clienteling can lead to brand promotion and a larger customer base!
As virtual clienteling relies on the use of customer data, it shapes better informed contact center agents who can offer proactive customer service tailored to the individual.
This also gives your employees more opportunities to upsell.
As your agents have a better rapport with the customer, they can gain a greater understanding of their needs and preferences.
This knowledge enables them to make personalized offers and relevant recommendations for products or services.
In summary, with virtual clienteling comes great opportunities to increase both profits and customer delight.
Benefits for customers
The great thing about virtual clienteling is that it provides your customers with an omnichannel experience.
This provides greater convenience for customers and more options in how they can communicate with agents.
They can even use multiple channels of digital communication – for example, consider the integrated use of live chat and social media.
Virtual clienteling allows for the delivery of a superior humanized customer experience that is akin to the personal service they would receive in a high-end retail store.
This bridges the gap between face-to-face interactions and digital communication, which is an excellent way to tap into customer demand.
After all, 75% of consumers prefer a humanized experience.
The calibre of service provided by virtual clienteling makes customers feel more valued and understood by your business.
It lays the foundations for lasting customer relationships and brand loyalty.
How to improve virtual clienteling
Effective virtual clienteling can be challenging for businesses to get right, especially within their contact centers.
This is mainly due to an inadequate insight into customer data and a lack of integration between various communication channels.
So, if you want to improve your virtual clienteling efforts, take a look at the following tips. They’ll help you reinvent the digital experience you offer to your customers.
1) Make efficient use of up-to-date customer data
Knowing the details about individual customer preferences, past purchases, interests, and their history with your brand is essential in successful virtual clienteling.
It allows your organization to provide guided selling and the level of personalized service that consumers crave.
In order to provide these personalized experiences, you first need a customer service platform that enables your contact center agents to effectively utilize customer data.
Consider the use of Talkative’s powerful contextual interaction logs, for example, which are always on offer to provide your support agents with the information they need.
2) Implement omnichannel communication platforms
The use of omnichannel clienteling apps allows for greater convenience across all of your organization’s digital touchpoints.
It also provides a more humanized customer experience.
What’s more, clienteling technology allows your contact centers to communicate with customers via multiple channels - all in real-time.
You could even deploy the use of extra features, like Talkative’s cobrowsing, which will truly take your virtual clienteling to the next level.
3) Build and maintain customer relationships
As you now know, one of the primary aims of virtual clienteling is to establish long-lasting relationships with your website’s visitors, thus converting them into high-value customers.
One of the key ways in which businesses can achieve this, is by maintaining contact with clients after their initial purchase or conversion. You can do this via outbound contact agents and social media messaging channels - take Whatsapp, for example.
This will improve virtual clienteling performance and increase the chance of returning customers and repeat purchases.
4) Provide employees with virtual clienteling training
At the end of the day, your contact center agents will be the front-line ambassadors for your virtual clienteling strategy.
Therefore, it is vital that they are fully trained in how to combine omnichannel communication and customer data in order to successfully create a personalized customer journey.
They’ll also need to know how to maintain positive relationships with all your site’s visitors - even rude customers.
In sum, empowering your agents with up-to-date clienteling training will boost conversion rates and revamp communication efforts with your customers.
The takeaway: the new era of virtual clienteling
As we’ve seen, virtual clienteling produces some great benefits.
It’s becoming an increasingly important competitive differentiator, as well as a valuable tool for keeping customers happy.
What’s more, its use is versatile across many industries - from leading retailers to hospitality companies.
Through virtual clienteling, your contact center agents can drive business growth by optimizing the customer experience and maximizing customer lifetime value.
It’s why more and more contact centers are empowering themselves with the tools and technology required for virtual clienteling.
By communicating with customers via their preferred channels and making the most of customer data, these contact centers and sales teams are offering the best and most personalized experiences possible.