(v)WeCare Expert Roundtable: Retail Trends

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the brightest minds in the customer service and customer experience industry. Thought leaders in customer experience, customer service, and call centers all weighed in on the biggest trends impacting the industry.

We asked the hard hitting questions: Is customer support seen as a cost center? What makes the e-commerce customer experience so different from other industries? What are your thoughts on retailers outsourced customer service?

We’ve included their raw insights below, and we encourage you to connect with these thought leaders in the comments below and on Twitter using the #vcareroundtable.

Let’s meet our Customer Care experts:



Shep HykenCustomer service speaker and bestselling author, Shep’s focus is on delivering amazing customer service, customer engagement, managing the customer experience, and creating customer loyalty.

Join Shep’s 71,000+ followers on Twitter and subscribe to the Shepard Letter for weekly customer service tips.



Anna Sabryan: Anna is an experienced social media and modern marketer at Oracle who blogs about the digital customer service and customer experience.

Join Anna’s 28,000+ followers on Twitter.



Jeanne Bliss: Jeanne pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first ever CCO role for over 20 years at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate.

Join Jeanne’s 13,000+ followers on Twitter and download a free chapter of her book, Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty.



Mike Aoki: Mike is the President of Reflective Keynotes, which offers sales, customer service, and management training. Mike's background includes almost 20 years of customer service and contact center experience from Bell, Telus, and TD Bank.

Join Mike’s 3,000+ followers on Twitter.

The Roundtable Discussion:

How important is customer service? Is it treated as a profit center or a cost center?

Customer service is one of the most effective ways to prove the value it takes to separate one company from its competition. So much of what is sold today is a commodity. The competition sells the same thing. What makes a company stand out is its ability to deliver a better experience. The bottom line is that customer service doesn’t cost. It pays. -- Shep

What makes retail customer care different than any other industry?

Retailers generally have a very high percentage of front-line turnover. As a result, many fail to invest in proper customer service training, thinking the employee will quit soon anyway. However, remember the old joke:

CFO: What happens if we train them and they leave? CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?


What are e-commerce customers’ expectations for support today? Omnichannel? Speed?

Deliver a “one company” experience. Provide me with service on my terms. Give me choice. Don’t surprise me with rules or fine print that make it hard to do business with you. Give your people that are working with me the ability to help me without constantly putting me on hold, or making me stand in your store waiting for an answer. -- Jeanne

What are today’s expectations on retail customer service being handled in-house or outsourced?

Both in-house and outsourced customer care have distinct benefits. Every business has its preferences which fit the company goals best. In some cases, the combination of both in-house and outsourced call centers is beneficial. With in-house support, companies have more direct control, whereas outsourcing is beneficial if cost reduction is a priority. Outsourcing can also be very helpful getting coverage for all regions and time zones. For any growing business, usually the best course is a combination of in-house and outsourced customer care. -- Anna

How are COOs thinking about retail customer care in 2016?

There are stats and facts that say that the customer experience is or will be a focus of most companies. Unfortunately there is a disconnect with many companies and organizations.

A recent statistic quoted in Jay Baer’s latest book, “Hug Your Haters,” states that 80% of companies think they deliver exceptional customer experience, while the customers think that only 8% do. It’s time for the COO to understand the expectations and the satisfaction levels of their customers.

Peter Drucker once said: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  So, once you have the measurement, do something with it. -- Shep

To have the best customer care, COOs need to start thinking like their customers. In this competitive, customer-centric era, any retail leader should be putting themselves in their customer’s shoes. It’s not easy to deliver exceptional customer support, but when you see the business through the lens of the customer, you start to see all the opportunities to create a better experience than your competitors! -- Anna

Customer experience – the end to end and comprehensive development of your store experience – is on the agenda of nearly every COO. They must think of service in the context of the overall relationship with their customers and to deliver a consistent experience.  -- Jeanne

One big topic on all COOs minds this year is in minimize the damage from social media. Training retail staff to defuse situations before they escalate online and damage a company's reputation is hugely important. -- Mike

Subscribe to the (v)WeCare Blog today and get customer care best practices, industry news, and helpful customer service tools right to your inbox.