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6 ways to improve retail customer service

Posted by Sureswipe on 12 March 2018
STOP TRYING TO COMPETE WITH BIG RETAILERS ON PRICE, FOCUS ON WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL INSTEAD – OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE.


By all accounts, customer loyalty is dead. Or is it? Retail consultant and author of The Retail Sales Bible Matthew Hudson is not convinced.

In a study conducted by Hudson’s consultancy, the opposite was found to be true. According to the research, 67% of consumers stated that they preferred to be loyal to one shop. However, they did not feel that anyone shop was loyal to them.

Respondents indicated that retailers had lost their personal touch and were focused instead on satisfying the masses. As Hudson explains: “Customers basically say retail stores today are not focusing on them as individuals.”

These findings present an interesting opportunity for independent retailers.

Hudson argues that too many retailers believe that price erodes customer loyalty, when in fact many shoppers still make decisions based on good customer service and personalisation . Price is something retailers cannot fully control – whereas they can control customer experience.

Delivering outstanding customer service is one way that independent retailers can powerfully differentiate themselves from their big retail rivals and build loyalty.


HOW TO DELIVER EXCEPTIONAL RETAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE

Here are six ways you can improve your retail customer service:

 

1. WHAT DOES GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE LOOK LIKE?


Have you established a baseline that outlines the minimum standards for how customer service is to be handled in your store? Without a clear understanding of the acceptable  behaviours , processes  and  standards it is impossible to assess your team, train them or hold them accountable.

Write a simple overview that clearly outlines your customer service expectations. This document can be used to train your existing team and new staff, it can also be used as the benchmark against which you review individual performance.

 

Describe ‘great customer services’ responses for the following:

  • Interacting with customers, including:
    • How to greet customers
    • How to initiate  conversation  to uncover their needs
  • Transaction procedures and interactions
  • How to deal with difficult situations:
    • Handling irate customers
    • Handling customer complaints.

 

2. ALWAYS HIRE FOR (POSITIVE) ATTITUDE

Something as simple as an authentic and caring ‘Hello’ and ‘Can I help you today’ from a fully-engaged, radiant shop assistant plays a significant role in building positive customer relationships. This is why hiring people with positive, pro-active attitudes toward customer service is essential to retail success. Sure, one of the key things you will have to look for when hiring is experience, but experience doesn’t necessarily deliver charisma or positivity.

Review your hiring process:

  • Keep an eye out for attitude and friendliness in the interview process
  • Remember, you can always train someone on how to use a point-of-sale terminal or swipe a card, but you can’t train someone to be positive.

 

3. TEACH THE FRONTLINE SERVICE TRIFECTA

Questions, eye contact, empathy. These are three fundamentals that lie at the heart of customer engagement in retail. Ensure your team excels at them:

  1. Train employees to ask the right questions
    It’s important to train all frontline staff on how to ask the meaningful questions. The right questions uncover your customers’ intent – why are they there, what do they need and how can you help them. Knowing the answers to these questions can enable your team to provide advice and show their expertise to build a memorable shopping experience.

  2. Encourage eye contact and discourage distractions
    Maintaining eye contact (and smiling) while you’re serving a customer demonstrates that you’re engaged and that you care. On the other hand, when a clerk’s attention shifts elsewhere – talking to colleagues, checking their phone or being minimally engaged – this delivers a powerfully negative statement and can very well be the reason a customer decides not to return to your store.

  3. Show empathy in challenging situations
    Showing empathy  in  any customer relationship situation is key to ensuring a positive customer experience. Discuss the importance of empathy and how it impacts how a customer feels if genuine interest is displayed. Retail insiders say that while it’s common to want to quickly ‘fix’ a situation; it’s better to pause…and listen to the customer. Listening plays a key role in giving customers the opportunity to air their views and shows that you are paying attention. The first response should be: "I'm really sorry you are experiencing this problem." Start with empathy, then take action to help.

 

4. USE ROLE-PLAY IN TRAINING


You’ve heard of the saying that goes something like this: “If you really want to understand someone, you’ll need to walk a mile their shoes.” This sentiment holds that only when you see what another person sees, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel will you be able to truly understand why they act in the way they do. In the world of retail, role play can help you walk a mile in your customers’ shoes.

In fact, role-play fulfills an important dual role. The first is, it’s effective in transforming training from a theoretical exercise into one closer to real-life situations. The second (and possibly more important) role is that of  sensitising  your team to experience the world of the customer and thereby helping your staff to develop the empathy and expertise required to deliver  authentic  and committed customer service.

Introduce different customer scenarios in your role-play -based training:

  1. The busy customers who need to get in-and-out of your store in a hurry – what do they need?
  2. The highly-stressed customer who could become easily irritated.
  3. The rude customer causing a scene.
  4. The undecided customer who may need help in finding the right product.

 

5. DON’T MAKE CUSTOMERS REPEAT THEMSELVES

 

This is a major customer pain point. You have probably been there yourself, – you explain your issue to the person assisting you, only to be told that they are unable to help. Enter their supervisor, at which point you need to repeat the story. How do you feel? Frustrated right?
 
It’s not always possible to prevent these situations. However, you can improve the way you and your team handle these situations.


Minimise your customers’ frustration:

  • Plan with your team how to best handle these situations
  • If a staff member needs to involve a supervisor to resolve a customer issue, have them explain to the customer why they need to do so, and then have them summarise the customer’s issue to the supervisor to show they were listening and to prevent the customer from having to do so.

 

6. RECOGNISE AND REWARD GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE

Talk about who on the team is showing good form. Address issues with poor performers on a one-to-one basis in your office. Celebrate customer experience successes together.

Here are a few ways you can reward staff members that show they care about customers:

  • Raise awareness amongst the team in your weekly staff meeting, of who is delivering outstanding service
  • Make delivering exceptional customer service fun by giving an award or reward to staff members who are able to remain professional (and keep their cool) when an irate or rude customer simply can’t be pacified
  • Reward and encourage team members who are excelling at delivering customer service, to train new staff members as you hire.

 

Delivering outstanding customer service remains one of your greatest opportunities to retain shoppers as an independent retailer. Marketing efforts, sales events, and any profit gleaned centers on the number of customers you have, and they want to know that you are ready to make their shopping experience great; because that’s what drives them back to spend again, and again.

 

WANT TO FURTHER ENHANCE CUSTOMER LOYALTY?

Talk to Sureswipe about a cost-effective loyalty programme. We can help you retain customers and provide the platform to communicate directly with them through email and SMS. Call 0860 200 111 or fill in your details here and we’ll call you in the next hour.

 

 

Topics: Growing Your Retail Business, Outstanding customer service