At a time when customers are more empowered than ever before, it is crucial that organisations are prepared and able to develop as providers of customer service. Speed and efficiency are key as 21st century drivers of success, but in a space where the consumer often now knows more about the product than their sales assistant, how do businesses set themselves up to provide a stellar customer service experience?
On Thursday 23rd June 2016, at the Lancaster Hotel in Central London, I visited Retail Week’s Customer Experience conference, to learn from an array of market leaders. What I discovered was a plethora of views, suggestions and ideas, many of which aligned with our approach to customer service.
Below are some key messages for you to consider when thinking about your customers’ experience.
1. Your customers’ view is the most important view in the room . . .
. . . so create a plan-on-a-page that aligns with that view. Consider your organisation’s ‘higher purpose’; if you are selling beds, your service should be aligned with the need to provide a fantastic night’s sleep. Likewise, if you’re selling to a first time mother, your service should have them feel comfortable and reassured that they are considering everything that is important as a parent. Whilst your organisation’s values are key, the way to bring them to life is by providing a service that matches the reason why customers are entering your store. Accomplish that and the rest will look after itself.
2. Keep it simple!
As you start to develop your plan-on-a-page and strategy for success, recognise that your organisation and the hierarchy within in it are a service to the customer, not vice versa. Keep your branding and messaging simple where possible (think Ronseal – ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’), and ensure that each facet of your customer service aligns. Rather than having customers complete a ‘Customer Service Feedback Form’, create a narrative and story that aligns with the higher purpose we discussed previously. For example, Dreams have ‘Pillow Talk’; Mamas and Papas have ‘Baby Talk’; and HMV have ‘Hear My Voice’.
3. Provide ‘love’ at every opportunity
As competition for custom grows, it is crucial that you understand the ‘Moments That Matter’ for your customers and provide ‘love’ at every stage of the journey. Creating an emotional attachment with your brand is key, and the only sure fire way to create loyalty. But bear in mind what you have ‘license’ to discuss; as a book retailer, there are certain things that your customer will trust you about – if it matters to them, it should matter to you. A customer’s ‘love’ allows for forgiveness when the service is not quite as they had expected or hoped. Whilst loyalty cards are emotive and offer us a sense of ownership and involvement within our experience, ultimately they create data, not loyalty, so be sure to use that data and ensure that your customers feel loved as a result.
4. Empower your workforce
Just as your customers must feel that they have ownership over their experience, so must your work force. It is crucial that they feel empowered and have a team mentality if they are to deliver fantastic customer service. It may be necessary for your Store Managers to circulate around neighbouring stores, as to ensure that their eyes remain open to alternative ways of working. Similarly, don’t be afraid to take action. Simple, cheap, quick wins can be important; for example, using WhatsApp on the shop floor may be a fantastic way of having your employees collaborate and ensure that customer complaints are resolved quickly. Alternatively, reinvention may be necessary, as demonstrated by Waterstones’ decision to insert bars in their major book shops.
5. Management by mirror
Once you have empowered your workforce, ensure that you listen to their voice and that of your customers. Whilst data is important and has a crucial part to play in your customer service, it is important that you make that data accessible and ‘human’. Consider individual journeys, as well as generic customer experiences. If you know that one of your Top 100 shoppers has just entered your store, guarantee that an assistant is there to provide them with the service that they favour. Once you have done that, ensure that any bonuses that you offer as an organisation are aligned with your desire to provide a stellar service.
6. Do what you say you’re going to do
As an organisation and leader within the company, it is crucial that you demonstrate integrity. By role-modelling any behaviour that you wish to see amongst your workforce, the ‘say-do gap’ between ‘ideal’ and ‘actual’ service is reduced, resulting in an organisation that has their noses pointing in the same direction. Feed your customers’ needs into every conversation, from the top-down. Employees need to be obsessive about service and working as one from the same customer compass.
7. Multi-channel service is the future
The future of customer service is neither ‘pure-clicks’ or ‘pure-bricks’. Customers want a seamless service that allows them to start shopping on their mobile, transfer over to their laptop when they get home, and click-and-collect in store the next day. This requires the ‘stitching’ of data and a link between virtual and reality. If you have emailed your loyalty customers an online discount, offer your instore customers the same offer. Each shopper has different preferences, but what is consistent is the need for reassurance that we are receiving an exceptional customer service experience.
8. Understand your differentiators and highlight them
As the marketplace continues to grow more and more competitive, service that was once differentiating becomes a given. Recognise what those ‘givens’ are and consider which of your differentiators may be diminishing. Once you have done this, you can recognise your remaining differentiators and ensure that potential customers are aware of the service that only you are capable of providing - hence having you stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
Do you need support creating your customer story? Does your workforce need engaging? Can we help you engage your customers? Would you like us to turn up the volume on your customers’ voice? Do you demonstrate organisational integrity?