Retailers spent huge money on branding, advertisement, technology, artificial intelligence and everything. But when it comes to customer service in a retail store many stores lack the quality they should be providing.
Salesmen and customer facing staffs are not just there to pack products and get the payment. Everyday you are loosing customers, sales and money as you are not hiring people who have people skills. You also have to train them well and retain them with good compensation.
I don’t disagree with the fact that it is not easy to hire good sales people in store. It is not a very well respected job and people think its an easy job, so not much value. But as an employer it is your responsibility to find the best, train them and keep them. Understand what your employees want, help them uncover who they are and what their strengths, and then help them lean into those strengths, you will then build a great team and company culture.
Why Retailers should Design Customer Service?
If a customer comes to a store for something and if the salesman is not able to point him to the right product and help him, you are loosing sales. Here I am not even talking about upselling or cross selling. If the sales man can’t even point him to a product the customer wants, forget upselling and cross selling.
Everyday this is happening in a lot of stores. They have no clarity on what is their job role, retailers don’t educate them about the products, so they are not knowledgable staff.
Worry about Quality Customer Service
I have recently came across many such situations, including big retailers. I am checking a handbag at Central Mall, the person who is “supposed to” help me buy it, comes and tells me “its a fast moving item”. That is the only few words she could tell me, nothing else. How many of these customer facing associates even know how to have a conversation? I said okay and moved on. I never bought the bag. Central Mall just lost that 40% profit they could have made if she was trained well on how to provide customer service.
Another incident at Foodhall, I ask for an item to a customer service agent and the person started asking other agents about the availability of the product. But nobody knows about it and those 30-60 secs are so uncertain for everyone. Finally someone said its not available, the easy answer. After a while you are exploring the aisle and there it is, the product you were trying to find. They don’t even know what they are selling.
Some companies just don’t understand why they should worry about customer experience. Many companies learn it the hard way. Last year United Airlines had a brand crisis, in which $1.4 billion in value was wiped out overnight when a passenger’s experience went viral on social media. Customer Experience is the New Brand.
Invest in your Customer Facing Staff – The Real Face of your Brand
Retailers complain that they are not getting quality staff, they are always on the mobile, they are not dedicated, so we are replacing them with in store communication, vending machines etc. But trust me, you are all doing a big mistake.
If they are doing their job properly, you are also responsible for it. Either you hired the wrong person or you are not training them well. If you want to motivate them to do good customer service, pay them well as well. Find ways to incentivise them. It needs to become a two way bridge and you please take the first step. If you are paying them according the “industry standards”, don’t expect anything different from them.
Studies on retail stores shows that, shopping experience, shopping ambience and family shopping are the three main factors determining the customer satisfaction in the large retail outlets/formats. On the other hand, staff friendliness, shop location and social desirability factors determine the shopping satisfaction at small retail outlets/formats.
Shopping experience largely depend on customer service.
Understanding Customer Experience
Customer experience does not improve until it becomes a top priority and a company’s work processes, systems, and structure change to reflect that – Understanding Customer Experience. Don’t just invest in technology and CRM Softwares and think its all done. Too much money already lavished on CRM is your excuse for not investing on your customer facing staff? Well daily you are loosing sales and so loosing money.
The gap between customers’ expectations and their subsequent experiences needs to be closed down to zero. Invest in customer experience management also, not just on customer relationship management. Nobody cares about that email blast you sent on occasions because you have a CRM.
You don’t need the resources of Amazon or Netflix to make the moves that will keep your customers coming back for more.Ilya Pozin, Founder of Pluto TV
What Customers Really Want?
- Focus on the shopping experience, not the buying experience – Shopping is about discovering a need that you weren’t necessarily aware of but are interested in finding.
- Choose quality of service over speed – If quality is set aside for the sake of speed, both will inevitably go into a downward spiral.
- Personalize customer experiences – Examine customer actions during the shopping experience.
- Communicate constantly – 80 percent of customers report that receiving an immediate response to a query affects their loyalty to a particular brand.
Nick Barker from Stella Pulse, who Turn Your Customers Into Mystery Shoppers, in his article explores ways to improve customer satisfaction in retail stores. Out of 15 tips he is giving, to achieve half of them you need good customer facing staff.
Keep Your Employees Happy
Let’s see what Lucinda Honeycutt have to say about improving in-store customer experience for shoppers.
When you take care of your employees, they will be happier at work, and be more apt to take care of customers. If they don’t feel valued, what motivation do they have to make your customers feel valued?
When you focus efforts on employee engagement, you’re likely to outperform companies without engaged employees by up to 202%. Companies lose $11 billion a year as a result of employee turnover – so it pays in multiple ways to invest in engagement initiatives.Huffingtonpost
There is a saying, if good design is expensive you should look at the cost of bad design. Here, poorly designed customer service is costing companies $41 million every year. It is important that companies should understand this – cost of bad design is a lot larger than you think. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Customer Service Design is how customers are getting treated at various touch points.
Why in-store Shopping in the age of “Everything Online”?
In-store experience shopping is really personal. Shoppers can touch and feel products before they buy them. Trying on clothing, inspecting items from different angles, and being able to test certain products all help customers feel more confident in their purchases.
Your customers expect knowledgable customer service agents in stores who can explain about products and clear their doubts. Customers service agents needs to listen and understand what a customer need and recommend the best product. Customers should feel confident while making the purchase decision after hearing everything from the customer service associate.
They should be confident to help the customers however they can, should be dressed well, should smell well, should have great overall appearance. One of the reason why people come for in-store purchase is for instant gratification, give it to them.
Customers at the Center of Everything
As Todd Dean said if you want to succeed in this new era, you will need to put customers at the center of everything you do. The problem is everyone knows about this and preaches about human experience, customer service, empathy etc, but nobody is actually doing anything in the ground level. Technology is sure an enabler, but not a replacement.
So the point is, as Micah Solomon said, Customer service is the new marketing, and it’s the new sales engine. Retail stores of Apple and IKEA is the best example. They DESIGN Customer Service in these retail stores. The customer facing agents are so pleasing and they will go to any extent to serve the customer and delight them.
Today when online market places are taking over retail spaces, providing the best customer service is the only possible way to bring sales in retail stores. Start with training your staff how to smile at least. Even that will give you more sales.
Don’t make the face of your business boring, make it memorable. No, logo and branding is not the face of your business, the customer facing associates are.
Read this amazing experience from Frances Canicasio.
The girl was knowledgeable and helpful; she told me which brands she liked best, what their top-sellers were, and she explained the distinctions between different products. Then when she found out that I’ve never tried dry shampoo before, she recommended I purchase a travel size bottle instead of pushing me to buy a full sized product. She even showed me how to apply the product to my hair.Retail Experience of Frances
Additional Read from Frances Canicasio – 7 Examples of Good Customer Service in Retail (and How to Apply Them to Your Stores)