Multi-channel retailing has been the buzzword of the retail industry for the last 5-10 years. Retailers are always on the search for ways to incorporate innovative technologies to help broaden the customer journey. It helps brands to connect with customers across different touch points. It boosts engagement with the brand.
Whilst all of this is true, I have a (slightly old-fashioned?) view that at the heart of the customer journey is a key component that is sometimes overlooked in the quest to innovate. Good old fashioned customer service. In a week which sees the 10th edition of the World Retail Congress in Dubai, it is timely to talk about what is at the heart of customer service.
THE EFFECT OF AN ENGAGED MEMBER OF STAFF
When a customer sets aside their smart phone and actually looks for a person they can talk to in order to find a product, solve a problem, answer a question, that is when brands have the greatest opportunity to engage. Technology simply cannot provide that level of engagement.
Retailers need to ask themselves if their customers are getting the kind of customer experience in-store that will persuade them to make a purchase. Will it persuade them to return? Will it persuade them to advocate?
INFORMATION IS POWER
In the retail world, I think technology can sometimes be a disruptive influence on a customer’s buying experience. In many ways this is positive for the customer. Being able to price check, or see where the nearest competitor is, or download vouchers in-store, or pay for their shopping through mobile wallet are all great uses of technology. Free WiFi in-store provides a faster connection to these tools for the ‘always connected customer’. It gives the customer more options and more power over where they spend their money. However, technology does change the dynamic between staff and customer dramatically.
With so much information at the customer’s fingertips, staff need to be well-informed. Staff need to know more than a cursory search on Google can tell a customer. Perhaps it is a big ask for retailers, but it is one in which investment should be a priority.
I recently visited the London Camera Exchange for some advice on buying a new bag for my camera. The level of personal knowledge that the staff shared with me on which bags were suitable for differing needs impressed me so much. I was reminded that, despite the ability to search online and have access to a wide catalogue of options, receiving good and honest advice from a member of staff goes a long way.
THE ROLE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE RESEARCH
Customer Experience programmes of research are critical to a retailer’s success. To lose sight of how customers are engaging with your brand, with your staff, with your in-store experience, is a risk that retailers cannot afford. The best Customer Experience research will take into account experiences that the customer has across different channels and combine them to paint an overall picture of your customer.
Satisfaction amongst customers who have had a staff interaction SHOULD be higher than customers who haven’t spoken to a member of staff. See below:
If it isn’t, you have to ask your customers why. Is it because the staff did not handle the enquiry well ? Is it because the enquiry was a complaint? Is it because the staff did not have the (right) answer for that customer? Is it because there is a problem with how the staff are engaging with customers? If explored, any problems can be eliminated and therefore satisfaction improves.
Whatever the channel, at the heart of positive Customer Experience is staff.
Amy Nichols is a Research Director in the retail team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited and loves working with retailers large and small to understand ways to improve customer experience
This article originally featured on Marketing Week Live’s Blog . Marketing Sciences Unlimited will be holding a stand in the Tech Zone at the Marketing Week Live Show at London Olympia in April 2016Subscribe