Never A Better Time for Providing Outstanding Customer Service
The retail landscape continues to change. Brick and mortar operations are struggling to achieve sales goals as online retailers continue to develop optimal logistics for getting product from their warehouse to the consumer’s homes.
The year 2018 has not been good for many retailers. Companies like Toys R Us, Claire’s, Bon Ton, Kiko’s USA, The Walking Company and A’GACI have declared bankruptcy. Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Foot Locker, Ann Taylor, Gap and Macy’s are all closing a considerable number of stores.
However, all should not be gloom and doom for the brick and mortar operations. A large percentage of consumers still enjoy the shopping experience by going into stores to view and touch merchandise and interact with store staff. The mall experience is still alive and well.
A key question for the mall retailers to ask themselves is “How do we create a memorably pleasant experience for all of our customers so that they want to return to our store?”
Key Steps to Providing Outstanding Customer Service
In answering this question, the best place to start is to look at the recruitment process. Are we “hiring the smile”. This is a best practice because logically any task can be taught but teaching people to be nice and provide excellent service is a more difficult challenge.
- Review the Customer Purchase Model
From a psychological viewpoint, customers have a need or a want. The questions that they ask themselves include “Do I Buy?”, “How Do I Buy?”, “Where Do I Buy?” and “How Much Do I Spend?”. Next, the customer has options to consider regarding where they buy. Is it your store, your competitor or online? Other factors to consider when making a purchase include but are not limited to Convenience, Location, Price, Service, Product Availability and Brand Loyalty.
- Teach that the Customer Comes First and everything else (e.g. Task) is Second
- Develop a behaviorally based Service Model
Retailers must train their team members how to provide outstanding customer service. The investment in providing detailed face to face training cannot be minimized and is essential for establishing a store culture that provides memorable customer experiences. A recommended approach would be to create an acronym that defines the preferred behaviors for providing those memorable experiences. For example, one company can we worked with had a STAR service model. The “S” stood for “Smile and say hello”, the “T” stood for “Talk about the merchandise”, the “A” stood for “Ask about the customer needs” and the “R” stood for “Remember to thank and invite them back”
- Create a reward and recognition program for all team members
The rewards and recognition tools provided for exceptional service do not have to be only monetary in nature. We have given out certificates and “outstanding service” buttons in addition to complimentary breaks, lunches and pizza parties. It’s the act of recognizing service achievement that is really important, more so than only a monetary reward.
It’s hard to believe that in this retail environment, excellent service can be a differentiator, but this has come to pass. Retailers like Publix and Nordstrom who provide products and services and Marriott and Ritz Carlton who largely provide services have experienced growth and are at the top of their respective retail categories in operational success.
A word of advice to those retailers who are struggling with sales, profits, customer count and market share: Do Not Cut Back On Service! Revisit your training program and be sure that follow up, execution and accountability are an integral part of the training program. Promote outstanding customer service, making it a cornerstone of your business model. Do this and great things will happen to your company’s overall performance.