The impact of COVID-19 on retail customer service has been immediate and sweeping. Spending across all the economic sectors is down, purchases have shifted from in-store to digital channels, and public safety has become of paramount importance.
With dramatic shifts in customer behavior, retail businesses have to work hard to tackle the ever-evolving challenges and meet customer expectations.
So, if you operate as an online retailer, investing in smart and advanced analytics-based customer service software can be a good start. On the other hand, if you are an offline retailer, you have to look beyond just having smart salespersons, in order to win and stay relevant!
In this blog, we will discuss some of the top tips to deliver exceptional retail customer service and explore how omnichannel operators can adapt to the emerging challenges in the retail sector to steer their business towards growth.
What is Retail Customer Service?
Retail customer service is an assimilation of all the complex and simple interactions between a shopper and the customer service representative that make the shopper feel like he is the most important person in the store.
Listening to their requirements, showing them the products, responding efficiently to their queries, and offering proactive information and services – there are many activities that drive retail customer experience.
While offline stores have the advantage of modifying, upgrading, and improvising the customer experience on the spot as per the changes in customer behavior, online stores need to make the most of digital technology.
If you are wondering why you need to invest in digitization or take the troublesome road to customer delight, then keep on reading.
Why is Retail Customer Service Important for your Business?
Customer service is one of the key brand differentiators and has driven the purchase decision of 86% of the customers that are even willing to pay more for higher levels of service.
While the retail business has spread its wings to the online world as well, it has fallen behind in terms of offering highly personalized and carefully crafted customer journeys.
Lack of digitization, negligible data analysis, and a receding focus on serving the customers with a proactive sentiment have contributed to unhappy customers.
Hence, if you wish to maintain your stance in the overcrowded market and ensure that your offline and online retail outlets stay profitable, NOW is the time to transform your shopping experiences.
There are various benefits of delivering excellent customer service in the retail sector, such as:
1. Customer service builds trust
When you take that extra step to ensure that all your customers are well-served, they don’t look for your replacements and gradually become loyal brand advocates. With positive word-of-mouth, they promote your brand to their friends and family members. Every single positive customer experience translates into customer loyalty and trust that drive sustainable business growth.
2. Customer acquisition is more expensive than retention
Studies have shown that you have to spend 5 times more to acquire new customers, as compared to what you spend on customer retention. Customer retention is directly proportional to the standards of customer service you offer. Delightful retail customer service is a great strategy to retain customers and encourage repeat purchases.
3. Brand awareness comes naturally
When you deliver delight to your customers across their entire journey, instead of standalone touchpoints, they cherish the happiness from this wholesome experience. They explore more of your brand offerings and spread the word about how nice your staff was, or how awesome the visual experience at your store. A wonderful example in this regard is IKEA that is a perfect visual representation of a happy, cozy and inviting home.
4. Happy customers are reluctant to leave
Happy customers will never think of leaving your brand or searching for a worthy replacement. They buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more (every transaction), and generate 3 times more value as compared to other customers.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the tips for giving excellent customer service in retail and making your customers stay with your brand forever.
15 Retail Customer Service Tips for the Best Retail Experience
1. Train your staff
When it comes to offering customer service in retail stores, staff members play a key role. Further, as per a BCG analysis, two-thirds of the transformation issues faced by retail operators are “people issues“.
Always remember, your staff includes everyone working at your store, and not only the salespeople. Your delivery person, cleaners, front desk staff, and help desk staff – everyone needs to have a clear-cut goal in mind – “Customer delight is supreme!”. Only when all of them understand this, can they work towards achieving it in unison.
2. Looking beyond the purchase
It is important for your team to be able to look beyond just sales. They must educate, inspire, and instill confidence in the customers they are interacting with so that they can make the shopping more of an interactive experience.
Motivate your sales team to talk with customers they think might be having any kind of problem in finding the right product or in comparing two or three products to help them make the right purchase decision. However, don’t focus on selling pricier items only. Try to talk about the budget they are looking at and then offer a personalized shopping experience.
3. Suggest taking risks
It is an extremely common thing for customers to wish to buy something expensive just because of its appeal and other characteristics. However, such impulsive buying might be a little bit of a risk for people that came with a set budget in their mind.
Smart yet, gentle nudges to push such customers towards purchase requires a great level of expertise in customer understanding. So, tell your salespeople to encourage willing customers to take risks by highlighting product features and benefits.
However, always take care that the encouragement doesn’t become a cause of embarrassment for the customers.
4. Build relationships
Always remember that it’s not just one day, but the entire journey that matters when it comes to experiences. So, focus on building cordial relationships with your customers.
Your staff must be able to listen to your customers’ pain points, comprehend their feelings, and cater to them in the best possible manner. After all, this humanistic customer service is one of the biggest advantages retail businesses have. Leverage your ability to interact with every customer and ensure that every interaction of the day is a fulfilling and positive experience for both parties.
5. Different perks for different customers
There are some customers that are your regulars, and there are some that are newbies. In order to ensure that both of them are happy, you have to rethink your perks.
Personalize your perks, discounts, and that “extra step that you are willing to take” to make them happy, such that both of them feel valued. While your new customers might cherish an extra 5% discount on their first purchase, your regulars might prefer a personal shopping assistant, or a cup of coffee while shopping in their favorite section. Your regulars might love to leave their feedback, while newbies might look for faster checkout.
So, if you are considering perks, personalize them!
6. Prepare for the shopping events and holidays
Holidays and sales events are the biggest opportunities for you to connect with your customers at a deeper level. So, prepare for them such that your customers can make the most of them.
Create hype through special announcements in your offline stores, and with engaging banners for your online stores. Create newsletters and ask your customers to subscribe to them for getting early updates about the sales.
Reveal the prices earlier for personalized shopping catalogs, and announce attractive rewards for the first few shoppers. Such proactive efforts on your part delight your customers and make them feel valued.
7. Listen, understand, then speak
Unhappy, unreasonable, angry, and frustrated customers are nothing new on the shopping scene. However, every person has a different level of reaction in such situations. While many choose to express dissatisfaction in stiff words, some might get rude, or downright offensive.
Catering to such customers is easier when you have an understanding of human emotions. While online customer support allows you time and discretion to respond gracefully, things can go awry easily if you are not careful while interacting with such customers in-person.
So, focus on listening and understanding the reason for their behavior, and then respond.
8. Never miss a query
During physical interactions in a store, a customer can resolve the queries directly and easily by simply asking a question to the management or staff. However, online queries can go unnoticed and even missed for a long time.
As every missed query means an unhappy customer that can walk away silently without giving you a reminder, you have to be quick and efficient with your resolution process.
A smart and efficient Help desk Ticketing system can help you with its ticketing functionalities. Every query is automatically converted into tickets that can be easily assigned to relevant agents, prioritized, and tracked for faster service.
9. Embrace digital transformation
Digitization can help you automate your workflows and allows you to deliver amazing customer experiences. You can dig into customer data and learn more about the preferences and purchase motivation of your customers.
It helps you minimize redundancy and speed-up your service in many ways.
10. Value every customer
Every customer has a different spending capability. However, your level of service should not be biased. You must ensure that all your customers feel valued and they get the message that they are important to you.
Every now and then, show your gratitude and thank them for being associated with your business. Highlight the important role they play in your business improvement and appreciate them for sharing their feedback.
11. Create leaders in the pack
Having a hierarchy among the salespeople allows you to redefine your retail customer service. Expert salespeople can handle priority and difficult customers easily. They can share their skills, techniques, and train the new staff members. Having people with different levels of experience also allows you to cater to issue escalation in a smart and efficient manner.
12. Gather, process, and work-upon customer feedback
Customer feedback is a powerful tool that allows you to learn more about your customers and their experience with your stores. Ask them to leave their feedback via small survey forms, or questionnaires (online and offline).
However, don’t just stop after gathering the feedback. Process the information and ensure that you work towards modifying and upgrading your brand offerings to make them more relevant for your customers. Working on the collected feedback and sharing the results with your customers is one of the smartest moves towards customer-centric retail customer service management.
13. Work on those queues
Long queues were frowned upon even before the days of COVID-19, and are being feared now, for the sake of safety.
65% of the shoppers found long queues as one of the worst things about shopping in stores. So, work on making your checkouts as fast as possible and offer different payment methods. Integrating online payment options with offline stores, such as online orders and physical pick-ups from sanitized locations, in sanitized boxes or bags are some of the examples that you can follow.
14. Emotional quotient matters
Always respond with positive body languages, such as a smiling face, friendly conversation, and a helpful attitude. Be kind to the elderly and be patient with the kids.
For online stores, offer humanistic support and ensure that all your support agents offer positive responses and aim at converting every customer into a happy one.
15. Easy access to products and information
Customers find it frustrating when they don’t find the desired product in an aisle. Hence, ensure that products are arranged neatly, and in the order of popularity among your customers. Aesthetics is an essential part of every store and always ensure that confused customers are catered to smartly.
Let us take a look at the best examples of retail customer service, and find out what makes them so.
3 Best Examples of Retail Customer Service
Yumble is a food delivery service that responded to late deliveries in a fantastic way. It not only delivered personalized messages to the customers with a detailed explanation but also issued a $10 credit as a small compensation.
Another awesome example of a sterling retail customer experience is the story of a Zappos employee who talked to a customer for more than 10 hours, even after collecting the order and processing it.
Personalized and hand-written welcome notes, freebies for newbies, and delightful surprises, such as free portraits with your pets – Chewy is an online retailer for pet products that have an incredible customer game.
Retail Customer Service – Your key to Sustainable and Futuristic Growth
While brand offerings can differentiate you among your competitors, customer experience and service differentiate you even when you have no unique products to offer!
Focusing on your customers, their requirements, and brand expectations allow you to curate highly personalized and lucrative customer experiences that fuel your growth.
So, follow the retail customer service tips shared in this blog, and delight customers with a personalized retail shopping experience.
Jared Cornell is a customer-support specialist, a marketing evangelist and a book lover, associated with ProProfs Help Desk. Jared is passionate about customer support and loves to solve customers’ queries. He is always keen to develop new strategies to help customers seeking Help Desk assistance for a delightful experience. You can connect and engage with Jared on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.