When it comes to customer service, you are in the driving seat

7 steps to great customer service

From the products on offer and their prices to the in-store environment; there are many factors that can affect the retail experience for your customers in your stores. But customer service is always going to be one of the top factors that have a major impact on how shoppers perceive your brand.

Whilst you cannot influence external factors such as the weather or control what your competitors do, the good news is that the level of service that you provide is completely within your control. This gives you the valuable opportunity to wow your customers and is why you should always be thinking about ways of improving the customer service that you deliver.

Now you might think that improving customer service is easier said than done and that the phrase is merely a vague aspiration. However, there are practical steps that you can take that will help you to take your retail customer service to the next level.

Here are our 7 steps to delivering great customer service in your stores.

1. Remember and appreciate repeat customers
Make surprise and delight key components of your customer service and retention strategies. Repeat customers are the best kind of shoppers to have and they are very appreciative of retailers who remember them. So, a key component of your customer retention strategy should be to let your frequent customers know that you’re grateful for their custom and their loyalty.

How can you do this?
Keep a record of your repeat customers, a good loyalty system will let you record customer details with contact information, purchase history and their birthday, amongst other things. You should put that information to good use and use customer data to serve your customers better.

For instance, if you see an order from someone who’s already in your database, acknowledge them for the repeat purchase then send a note of thanks, you could also pro-actively send them a discount voucher on their birthday to thank them for being a loyal customer.

2. Make an effort to upsell and inform customers
You might think that upselling is bad for customer service? Not if you do it right. If you take the time to inform customers before they make a purchase and tailor your recommendations to their needs, then the shopper will leave happy.

How can you do this?
Train your team to upsell and cross-sell, start by encouraging them to pay attention to each customer and determine any individual needs or wants they may have and make recommendations on that basis.

They should also try to inform and educate shoppers, up-selling and cross-selling is not just about pushing products, it is also an opportunity to let customers know the benefits of the products that you are recommending and why they should buy it.

3. How to deal with out of stock
While the best way to deal with items being out of stocks is to avoid them altogether, it is possible to turn a negative out of stock situation into a positive one with the right customer service.

How can you do this?
Always have a back-up plan for being out of stock. When a customer asks you about a product that’s unavailable, make sure you have a better response than “sorry”. Always be ready to recommend an alternative so that you don’t miss out on the sale.

You could also offer to deliver an item from another location or channel, this could be from another store, your warehouse or your online store, then if appropriate deliver it to the customer for free or let them know when it is in store for collection.

4. Make a connection with customers
Make the checkout process as pleasant as you can by making an effort to greet and connect with the customer. Doing so could be just the thing that keeps you top of mind and gets them to come back.

Even if it’s just a brief encounter such as making a reference to something that you both like can make a connection with the customer. The effort to do so doesn’t take much, but it goes a long way as far as customer service goes. Why? Because so few people do it.

How can you do this?
Be on the lookout for commonalities and find a way to connect with customers through things you have in common. You can use those commonalities and local knowledge to start conversations.

Even though this is the stage that the customer is paying, it is still worth making an effort to connect with them. This is not about chatting to a customer because you want to make a sale, you are doing it to build a relationship.

5. Take time with customers
Earlier this year, I swung by the Sunglass Hut location in SoHo, as I needed a new pair of sunglasses. The associate manning the store was super friendly and offered to help after noticing that I was unsure of what to buy.

Take the time to find out what the customer needs and what their preferences are and then walk through the options with them, this enables the customer to easily compare the different products. This will ensure a great experience for the customer and they will appreciate the employee’s sincerity and effort.

How can I do this?
Work with customers to find the right product, provide more effort to those customers who really need it. This could mean different things, for example, you could accompany a shopper to the shelf location instead of just directing them to it, or you could bring out different products to help the customer to compare items.

But be sure to read your customers properly, not every customer needs you to show them around the store. Some shoppers want to be left alone, in which case you shouldn’t bother them. But for those customers who do need assistance, you should do your very best to help them find what they need.

6. Put product knowledge to good use
Product knowledge is an absolutely essential part of customer service, so you and your team must be on top of merchandise information at all times. This is especially important when talking about your bestsellers, discussing the features and benefits of various items and even teaching shoppers how to use a product.

This is a reminder of just how powerful in-store customer service can be.

How can I do this?
Know the Features, Advantages and Benefits of a product, this will help you and your team to easily remember what each product is all about.

Basically, features are the components or characteristics of a product while its advantages relate to what the features can do. The benefit is the most important part, it is what the customer can get out of the product and its features, you should always match the benefit to the unique needs of the individual customer.

Know your top-sellers, make sure that you are familiar with your product trends and bestsellers so you always have items to recommend. To make things easier, choose a Retail Management System that has robust product reporting capabilities, the best systems provide you with insights that you can incorporate into your sales, marketing and customer service activity.

7. Be sincere with an apology
Things don’t always go you or your customer’s way and it’s during times like this that your customer service is tested to the limit. Whilst dealing with any unpleasant situation does depend on the circumstances, very often you’ll fare much better if you apologise and try to compensate for what has happened and nip the problem in the bud.

How can you do this?
You should have an apology ready, even if the situation isn’t necessarily your fault, saying sorry when a customer is having difficulties can go a long way.

Make it up to the customer, if there was an error at your end, do your best to own up to the mistake and make it up to the customer. Look at if there is a way to reverse the error and if not can you offer a discount instead.

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