What does the best retail customer service look like?

May 20, 2022
5 min read

When we think about customer service in retail, many companies think about friendly and helpful floor salespeople and the pleasant interaction with customers during their shopping experience. But while friendliness and helpfulness are certainly crucial for creating good in-store experiences, they are just the tip of the theoretical iceberg.

No matter how friendly your salespeople are, there are a few ways where customers can have poor experiences and no amount of smiles or apologies can fix the damage done. And with retail competition at an all-time high with an increasing number of players vying for the attention of consumers, it’s critical that you can rise above to not just have good customer service – but the best.

Reduce friction at checkout points

Fast and easy checkouts is an area where a significant amount of improvements have been made over the last decades. We’ve come a long way from the manual credit card readers of the 70’s, and while cash transactions have become less common (especially in markets like Sweden and the Nordics) and credit card payments have been simplified through the use of contactless technologies and mobile payments, there can still be some hiccups during the checkout process.

We’ve all been there: waiting in line to checkout and someone a few customers in front of us has a huge pile of items to return. We sigh heavily and maybe tap our foot impatiently, knowing the process may be slow and thinking would the staff please just open another till? It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve found a way to speed up buying things, but why haven’t we improved the process for returning things? Digital receipts may be the answer.

We know that across all industries, digitising processes that were previously manual is the key to better ease of use, reducing friction, and creating better experiences – whether that is internally within organisations, or external customer-facing activities. So why do we still require customers to hold onto lengthy and annoying paper receipts in order to make a return, with the process requiring staff to manually check the receipt for validity, and then oftentimes multiple new receipts are printed, signed, exchanged, stapled, and all the rest. It seems unproductive.

To create even better customer service, we need to think about how to digitise everything, as that is the way forward, and also what more consumers are coming to expect. With digital receipts, customers will worry less about ensuring they keep and hold onto their receipts and warranties, and returns become smoother through 100% digital transactions.

Not only does the service become better for the customer who is executing the transaction, but so does the experience of all those waiting in line. Faster, easier transactions means more customers can be serviced.

Get more feedback and use it

One of the best ways to ensure great customer service? Get feedback from customers.
Hearing sentiment directly from them ensures that you’re not just making guesses about what they want and need, but you’re actually getting the insights directly. With obtaining feedback, you’re also killing two birds with one stone: Asking for their feelings about your service shows customers that you care about their opinions, and you get real data that you can use to actually make improvements.

But there are still problems with the ways feedback is currently obtained. Do your sales staff hand a paper receipt to customers and indicate a web link at the bottom where customers can go to fill out a survey? How many of your customers actually take the time? And is this a good representation of your total customer satisfaction, or is it from those who have only had such a bad experience or such a great experience that they feel compelled to respond?

It can be tough to know whether the answers are representative of all experiences, or are only exceptional cases.

Maybe you send feedback requests via email, which does make the process easier and more digital, but then you’re likely only getting real feedback from those who are a part of your membership service. What about first-time buyers and those for whom you don’t have contact information? Your data is still incomplete.

The feedback process must also be improved through further digitisation. Using in-store, real-time feedback mechanisms such as through mobile apps can allow your customers to rate your service in that specific store and within that specific instance. It can ensure that you are identifying issues to be solved such as long wait times, unhelpful sales staff, or disorganised stores. By implementing further ways for all customers to give feedback, you can provide the best service possible.

Create custom and personalised experiences whenever possible

The best of the best when it comes to customer service and satisfaction, is the ability to provide personalised experiences. Increasingly, consumers want to feel taken care of, and concierge services once reserved for luxury retail, are becoming more of a mainstay within everyday shopping. It can feel expensive, time consuming, or even flat out undoable for some retailers, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

In order to stay competitive, retailers must find methods to delight customers in ways that generate loyalty and increase overall spend. This happens through better product recommendations, personalised offers and discounts, or other types of incentives.

Geo-location targeting can even make it possible to target within-range customers, luring them into stores when they otherwise may have passed by. When your customers feel as if you really know them and what they may want, you are much more likely to be known for providing great customer service.

So how can you achieve this? Using previous customer purchasing behaviour, identifying patterns, measuring frequency of visits, and other key metrics will help you to unlock understanding about customers on an individual level that opens up ways to be more personalised. But again, you need to further develop the digital processes and tools your retail locations are utilising in order to achieve this exceptional level of service.

Competition is high, consumers are demanding, and digitisation must happen more now than ever. The good news is that each of these things can actually present opportunities for you to create the best retail customer service possible.

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