In recent years retail has experienced dramatic changes punctuated by the rise of e-commerce. However, one thing remains unchanged: the customer is everything. Retail is a customer-centric industry, highlighted by the fact that 90%of CEOs stating the customer has the greatest impact on their business.
And while online shopping continues to rise rapidly, many consumers still find value in brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, 46% of consumers report preferring in-person shopping to online, pointing to human and product interaction as the main appeal. This isn’t the time for retail stores to take a back seat. Refining and optimizing your in-store customer service can separate you from your competition.
Keep reading to find out why customer service is key to retail success and how you can improve yours.
Why customer service is the key to retail success
Good customer service does a lot more than convince a consumer to make a purchase. Of course it helps drive sales, but it also builds customer loyalty, influences recommendations, and distinguishes you from your competitors—all of which result in greater revenue. Let's take a closer look:
Good customer service increases conversion- We’ve all experienced occasions where our purchasing decision was swayed by an informative and friendly employee who quelled any doubts. The reverse is also true—78% of customers have said they backed out of purchasing due to poor customer service.
Positive interactions build customer loyalty - Customer loyalty remains invaluable to a retailer's success due to its financial benefits. Returning consumers are 5 times more likely to purchase again and are up to 10x more profitable than new customers. Good customer service contributes towards greater customer retention— 96% of customers say that customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand.
Good experiences result in recommendations - Recommendations are a cornerstone of any successful retailer and word-of-mouth among friends drives more purchases than any other purchase influence. Consumers who judge a company’s service as ‘good’ are 38% more likely to recommend that company.
Quality of service differentiates you from competitors - With the world of retail remaining as competitive as ever, stores are finding it increasingly difficult to separate themselves from the pack. There’s little variation in products and pricing among retail industry leaders, leaving customer service as the best way to differentiate yourself. In fact, 39%of CEOs listed customer experience as the most effective method of creating a competitive advantage.
The 4p's of excellent customer service
Each retailer's customer service will differ depending on a variety of reasons ranging from staff training to store size. However, the 4 p’s of customer service can be applied to every store and help lay a foundation for an excellent consumer experience:
Promptness - This means delivering the service in a timely manner. For retailers, this could include welcoming customers to your store, stepping in at the right moment to answer questions on a product, and ensuring the purchasing process is as quick and efficient as possible.
Politeness - The foundation of customer service. 68% of customers highlighted politeness as a key to excellent customer service. While having knowledge is necessary, how you communicate with the customer is just as important. A simple ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way in the world, and the same is true of retail.
Professionalism - While politeness helps put the consumer at ease, professionalism is usually what secures the purchase. Customers want to feel like they’re talking to an expert, someone who can assure them that they’re making the right decision. Your workforce should have knowledge of all products and services and can answer almost any question the customer asks. Considering that 83% of consumers believe they know more than retail associates, this expert approach is needed now more than ever.
Personalization - The days of one-size-fits-all customer service are gone. 90% of consumers are likely to spend more with a company that offers a personalized experience. There are many ways a retailer can deliver a personalized customer experience such as greeting the customer by name, leveraging data to better understand a customer's needs, and utilizing customer feedback to improve their experience.
How do you improve customer interactions with your brand?
Although we are looking at optimizing in-store interactions, many retailers provide an omnichannel experience, focusing on providing a unified customer experience across all channels. Therefore your retail store customer service must align with everything else.
With that in mind, here are proven ways to improve your in-store customer service.
A loyalty program is a customer retention strategy, offering incentives in a variety of forms as a reward for a customer’s repeat business. They’re incredibly common—more than 90% of all businesses have some form of loyalty scheme. Loyalty programs are a win-win for the customer and business as they reward consumers with discounts, offers and rewards, and help the business with customer retention. Considering a returning customer is, on average, 10 times more profitable than a new one, loyalty programs pay for themselves many times over.
Additionally, loyalty programs provide businesses with relevant customer data, allowing retailers to profile their loyal customers and tailor services and offers to meet their needs. By understanding buying habits and consumer behavior, you can adjust your inventory management, pricing, and promotional planning to drive sales and enhance the customer experience.
Barnes & Noble are an example of how a loyalty scheme can retain customers and drive sales even when you sell a physical product that can be purchased online in a digital format. The book store offers 40% discounts on hardcover best sellers and 10% off every purchase as part of its program.
Collect feedback from customers
Who better understands the customer interaction than the customer themselves? By going directly to the source, you gain a clear understanding of what to improve and how. Employee interaction, in-store displays, and product pricing are just some elements that could benefit from customer feedback.
Not only is it financially rewarding—brands that employ a customer-centric approach are 60% more profitable— it’s also valued by your customers. 77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they seek out and apply customer feedback.
Surveys are a great way to collect feedback as they are easily rolled out at scale and can be customized to receive the information you need.
Optimize in-store atmosphere
Customer interaction extends beyond the customer-employee relationship and your store’s atmosphere plays a vital part in the customer experience. Retail shopping is a sensory playground where shoppers are drawn in by visual displays, enticing scents, and the sounds of satisfied customers. That’s why it’s so important retailers optimize their in-store atmosphere.
Humans are wired to absorb visual stimuli, making up 90% of the information our brain receives, and 67% of consumers list images as an important factor when making purchasing decisions. When optimizing visual displays, follow the rule of three and focus on your point-of-purchase layouts—customer’s are more receptive to products while standing in line.
Supplement visual merchandising by engaging the remaining four senses. Consumers like to touch products as it creates a sense of ownership. Smell is the only sense with a direct line to your emotions and is proven to drive sales when optimized— just ask Starbucks. And the right sounds can influence memory, emotion and drive connections within the brain, making consumers more receptive to products.
Invest in the right tech
Investing in technology is now a necessity for retailers, but choosing the right technology can prove challenging. When effectively utilized, technology can drive sales, enhance the customer experience, and even improve the lives of your workforce.
Divide technology into two categories: for the customer and for the employee. Figure out each group’s needs and use that as a foundation for investment decisions.
Consumers favor technology that enables ease of experience. The less steps and time involved in the purchase process, the better. For example, 43% of US consumers list scan-and-go as a preference to waiting in line, resulting in Amazon rolling out scan-and-go stores all across North America. Other technologies that consumers value include free store wifi and automated payment processes.
And for employees, technology should maximize their time spent on the shop floor and assisting customers. Many retailers continue to manually complete tasks that could easily be automated, leading to 40% of workers spending a quarter of their work week on repetitive tasks. But with automation, workers’ productivity can increase by 66%.
Self-service kiosks are another example of tech that maximizes time spent on the shop floor. By empowering consumers to scan their own items, employees can focus on tasks that have a greater influence on the customer experience.
Retail employee training
Your workforce is the heart of your store and the face of your brand. Without a well-trained and optimized team, your other investments—loyalty programs, technology, etc—are redundant.
And In an increasingly omnichannel world, they’re your chance to make a difference to the customer on an individual level. It’s the human element that drives in-store sales, builds your brand reputation, and helps retain customers and increase recommendations.
The best way to optimize your workforce is by equipping them with knowledge via effective training, not just at the onboarding stage but as part of a continuous learning process. The thinking is simple: the more informed your team is on products, sales techniques, and customer interaction, the more likely they are to make a tangible difference.
And the statistics agree—companies that invest in employee training enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t.
The benefits of employee training extend beyond the customer. Your investment in your employee’s success leads to greater workforce engagement, employee satisfaction, and retention. When you buy into your team's development, they return the favor by buying into your brand, and this leads to a greater effort in all areas including customer service.
Apple is a leading example of a company that benefits from optimizing their employee training, resulting in 90% employee retention rates and a global reputation for outstanding customer service.
eduMe is a mobile-learning platform that utilizes the power of microlearning to improve employee performance. With the ability to seamlessly integrate into existing work tools, eduMe has partnered with industry leaders to achieve tangible results including a 10% increase in quality of service.
Get in touch to see how eduMe can optimize your workforce!