There is nothing new about this news: retail stores are finding it hard to compete with the online world. More and more, customers browse locally, but buy online. Companies that used to be giants in the retail world, like Best Buy, have begun to scale back, and some smaller brands are being bought by larger companies. The retail store has to change in order to compete in the world of virtual stores. The main way to combat against a radical change is to turn a major focus on the CSR team function. Providing excellent customer service can be the difference between surviving and folding.
A recent Forbes article by Pam Goodfellow discusses five areas that should be of key importance to a company and their CSR team, with one end goal in mind: “A delighted customer.” She continues, “Delighted customers revel in positive retailer interactions, form a bond of trust between themselves and the retailer, and can communicate their satisfaction to others. And they return for more.” Here are the five areas that every company should spend some time focusing on:
"Uninvested Employees": When it comes to assisting customers, there is a fine line between being too pushy and irritating to a customer, and being too distant. A well-trained CSR team knows the difference. The goal of any CSR is to cater to the customer, which requires flexibility and empathy. It is a fairly common practice to have all check-out reps ask the customer if they found everything okay. 99% of the time, the answer from the customer is probably “yes” – but what are they going to do when they get a “no” instead? CSRs should be well aware of the importance of that one percent. It's easy for anyone to handle happy customers, but it takes well-trained and quality CSRs to deal with unhappy customers. Make sure training goes beyond knowing what to ask, so a CSR is able to also deliver when needed.
"Draining Atmosphere": A store’s layout and functionality are key areas of concern. Having a store that is always crowded can be a blessing (if they are all purchasing something of course), but it could be a major deterrent for some customers. Look around and see if anything can be done to help the crowding factor, and be sure to investigate how to avoid the issues of lacking desired products and useless customer service.
"Inconsistency": All CSRs should offer consistent information, and all avenues of advertising should align with each other. “Inconsistent messaging, internal communication failures, and a lack of continuity between a retailers’ multiple incarnations (in-store, online, mobile, over-the-phone, print, etc.) leads to frustration – and the breakdown of trust – between a store and its shoppers,” Goodfellow states. Work hard to avoid customer complaints about lack of communication between employees and a lack of consistency and fluidity when customers are purchasing items.
"Hassle-full Return Policies": I know there are plenty of people out there who seek to abuse the system, returning things they have used or things not purchased at the store. Sadly, that can make many places a bit more cautious and a tad more scrutinizing when it comes to returns. That can translate into it being too hard for honest people seeking to engage in a legitimate return. Do not let this become a bad service issue. Don’t make it feel like every sale is final. It is fine to have certain policies in place that help to thwart the abusers, but be sure they do not create too many unnecessary hoops for the honest customer to jump through.
"Perceived Ego: Too Big to Care": Generally speaking, smaller businesses are more concerned with each individual customer, for obvious reasons. The bigger the organization, the larger the vision when it comes to individual customers. Often, the bigger the company, the more pans they have in the fire, and the less time they can spend on what they may perceive as little issues. This needs to be avoided. Customer loyalty is a key objective, and cannot be obtained without keeping the customer as king in the scheme of things. One aggravated customer, armed with the modern social media world, can cause more trouble than you think. Goodfellow puts it quite well when she states:
"Having an issue go unresolved or a question unanswered makes a shopper feel unimportant and undervalued, which is quite the conundrum when the customer is king, right? While retailers both large and small have likely let a few customers slip through the cracks unintentionally, it’s the bigger retailers that tend to have to worry about perception – when the bottom line seems to eclipse customer service: “…their profit potential always takes precedence over individual customer concerns.”
Again, in this day and age of online versus brick-and-mortar retail, customer service has to be better than ever, and a new improved line of thinking must be employed over the business as usual mentality. Many large companies are starting to feel it in their pocketbook, and can hopefully make adjustments to compensate. For those working within the CSR field, it is important to evaluate your own perception on these matters, and always remember the customer is king.
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