Customers are everything in retail, and they have ever-challenging and evolving expectations. It's simply no longer enough to provide good customer service, it needs to be great! In this article, Tom Hurst discusses growing customer expectations and how to keep up.
Over to Tom...
One of the oldest adages in business is that your customers should come first. There are countless examples of companies that attribute success to the pride and emphasis they placed on customer service. For retailers looking to offer a gold standard of service, the challenge is meeting with the increasingly sophisticated demands of their customers.
Today’s online consumer is technologically savvy and well-informed. The internet has made it easy to shop around for the best deal and to let the world know if a brand experience doesn’t meet with expectations. A recent study conducted by Blue Yonder amply demonstrated the first point, with 20% of parents willing to return gifts before Christmas due to finding a better deal elsewhere.
As for the dangers of angering social media’s global community, a number of well-known brands provide cautionary tales. Kenneth Cole’s attempt to piggyback on the Cairo uprisings in 2011 to sell his spring collection is a case study for the dangers of social media.
Increased expectations are not limited to ecommerce. On the high street, consumers now look for personalised service and an offline experience that integrates with the online. So how can retailers keep up with these demands?
Great customer service starts with looking after your team
Hopefully this doesn’t sound counter intuitive. If you have any ambition to provide a memorable and quality service to customers you will need motivated, conscientious staff. So before worrying about your customers, ensure that your team are happy. Do you have the right incentives and training in place? Are you creating an environment that makes it easy to succeed?
When dealing with customers, imagine each one is your gran
This approach comes from John Roberts, founding Director and CEO of AO.com. In their call centres there is only one rule: “Treat every customer as if they were your gran.” Staff have no financial constraints on what they can do to resolve a complaint and have a high level of autonomy to dispatch replacement or new items without needing approval from above.
Use technology to your advantage
It is true that technological advances have increased the demands consumers place on retailers. However, in the same way these advances provide new opportunities for retailers. In-store technology, when implemented effectively, can simultaneously improve the experience for customers and drive efficiencies across a business.
Converse provide an excellent example of how, with the right strategy, social media can become an asset rather than an Achilles’ heel. The brand encourages supporters to post pictures of their customised shoes on the Converse Facebook page. These shots are curated and used for the brands own marketing with embedded links to the original photographer’s name and caption.
Be consistent across all channels
Whether it’s marketing, customer service or operations, offering a consistent experience across all channels will to some extent put power back in your hands to define consumer expectations. Having a clear brand identity that is reinforced wherever it is marketed creates an idea in a customer’s head of the values you stand for. Consumers will always shop around for deals, but it doesn’t seem to stop tech giants Apple and multiple designer fashion brands from growing successful businesses whilst charging more than competitors.
Technology has changed the way that consumers interact with retailers. Alongside this, consumers still expect value for money, quality customer service and variety to choose from. This creates new challenges but also new opportunities and the perfect environment for the best retailers to thrive.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to discuss ways to impress and inspire your customers then why not get in touch on 01829 260 600 or send us an email.