Customer Service for Retailers
“The purpose of business is to create and keep customers”.
It doesn’t matter how good your product is - products do not just ‘sell themselves’. You can't just open your doors and expect customers to come in - and keep coming back unless you give them the customer service they expect. With the threat to bricks and mortar from online shopping growing rapidly, customer service can make all the difference to retail sales.
I was recently at a market in Hobart. I desperately wanted to buy something from a particular stall holder but the customer service was so appalling (there was NONE), I had to walk away. It didn't matter how much I wanted that product I cannot reward bad customer service with my money and more of us should do the same...
Online retail sales only account for 5% of sales – but it is growing at 30% per annum. There are still people who like the shopping experience especially when they receive good customer service. But is seems, if my recent experiences are anything to go by, skilful customer service is disappearing just when we need it most.
“91% of companies claim to be customer focussed – only 10% of customers agree”
“96% of Australians don’t complain they just don’t go back”.
So how can good customer service become an asset to your small business? Here are nine ways you can hone your skills to give good service.
Nine keys to great customer service
We want to have awesome customer service all of the time – but it’s better to be consistently 'bad' than sometimes good and sometimes bad! Consistency is the key to building a great brand.
‘good’ customer service is defined by your customers – how do they define what ‘good’ is – let’s start with that.
2. Know when to use Patience or Speed
Do your customers want your attention or help to make a decision or do they just want to buy and move on?
It is key to establish this early. You should be able to pick this up by their body language. Are they moving around quickly? Do they look like they are trying to find something?
These customers might already know what they want they just need you to make the transaction. Ask yourself how can you help them make the transaction as quick as possible for them while demonstrating customer care?
Some people might want customer service and you have to be patient with them – taking the time to understand their needs.
If customers are moving slowly around the store – looking at things – perhaps picking them up, trailing them etc. – here is your chance to find out if they need any help.
The time spent with the customer was used to better understand their problems and needs of the company.
Patience shouldn’t be used as an excuse for bad service but Don’t waste time trying to go above and beyond for a customer in an area where you will just end up wasting both of your time!
3. Be Attentive
Fast or slow you need to really listen to your customers in order to give them great service.
You do this by paying attention to individual customer interactions (watching the language/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive indirectly.
For instance, customers may not be saying it outright, but perhaps there is something that is missing for them?
4. Know Your Product
Without knowing your product from front to back, you won’t know how to help customers when they run into problems.
Every team member should know the ins and outs of how your product works, just like a customer who uses it every day would..
5. Use Positive Language
Language is a very important part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create perceptions about you and your business based off of the language that you use.
Small changes that employ “positive language” can greatly affect how the customer hears your response...
- Negative language: “I can’t get you that product until next month”
- With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it gets here."
6. Don’t Take it Personally
Sometimes you’re going to come across people that you’ll never be able to make happy.
Situations outside of your control (they had a terrible day, or they are just a natural-born complainer) will sometimes creep into your usual support routine, and you’ll be greeted with those “barnacle” customers that seem to want nothing else but to pull you down.
7. Be Persuasive
Experienced customer support personnel know that oftentimes, you will get messages in your inbox that are more about the curiosity of your company’s product, rather than having problems with it.
To truly take your customer service skills to the next level, you need to have some mastery of persuasion so you can convince interested customers that your product is right for them (if it truly is).
It’s not about making a sales pitch in each email, but it is about not letting potential customers slip away because you couldn’t create a compelling message that your company’s product is worth purchasing!
8. Say Goodbye
As well as 'closing the sale' you need to end the conversation / transaction in a way your customer feels satisfied leaving them with the feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be) and they will come back.
9. Keep Learning
Those who don’t seek to improve what they do will get left behind by the people willing to invest in themselves. Review your customer transactions - which ones felt good, were successful and helped you create a loyal customer? What made it work and how can you do that again? Anyalyse and repeat!
Have you had a good customer service experience recently? What made it special?