Service and value versus growth and revenue
Though customers and businesses are closely linked, they often have conflicting needs.
◾to receive excellent service
◾to be treated consistently and feel as if they are known
◾problems resolved in a timely fashion
◾the best products and services
◾to feel like they're valued by the business
◾a great and, if possible, unique shopping experience
◾choices on how, when and where they buy.
◾growth and revenue
◾to be efficient and reduce costs
◾to increase the lifetime value of their customer.
These needs may seem diametrically opposed, but businesses can fulfil customers' needs while satisfying their own. In order to deliver great personalised customer experiences, retailers must understand their customers: who they are, why they buy, what they buy, when they buy and how they make contact.
The old retail landscape is disappearing rapidly. Nowadays, customers are informed, tech-savvy and their expectations for service have changed dramatically. The generational shift, as baby boomers move into retirement and Generations X and Y become the major force in the economy, is apparent in the use of technology. Smartphones, tablets and social media have changed the face of customer service and increased the customer's ability to engage in public conversation with business.
So in this new environment, how can businesses strike this balance?
1) Make it easy for your customer to do business with you
It's all about embracing and integrating new and existing channels of communication for your business and brand, which can be converted into sales.
Today's customer is time poor and wants choice on how and when to shop. You should embrace as many delivery channels as are suited to your business. Not every retail business must have an online store, but every business can use an online presence to provide information. This could be through channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ or, for professional services, LinkedIn.
Statistics show that potential customers prefer to use businesses and brands they know, including these online channels. If your business is not in these spaces,
customers may go elsewhere.
2) Customer relationship management
Know your customer: their age, where they're from, how often they buy from you and their average spend. Know what brand and products they prefer.
A good point of sale will provide all this information. There are plenty of affordable cloud-based platforms that have excellent customer relationship management tools. Some also provide valuable management reporting tools and integrate with various e-commerce and accounting platforms. This can save time, resources and money.
3) Invest in your people
They are your brand ambassadors. Arm them with the product knowledge and sales skills to identify customer's needs and appropriate solutions. Give constructive feedback and reward outstanding results. Allow them to be part of the solution and make it easy for them to engage with customers.
In the past, the cost of training and upskilling frontline staff was prohibitive for some, but in a digital world there are no excuses. Businesses and their staff now have affordable and time-efficient access to online training tools for all things retail, sales and service.
Customer experience is a key factor determining how much customers spend and how loyal they are to a brand. We all know from experience that the quality of a single contact with a business can shape perception of that business and its brand forever.
For retailers to remain competitive, it's more important than ever to consistently provide a unique customer experience, both in-store and online.
◾get in people's consciousness
◾give them a reason to buy, now
◾make it easy for them
◾give them a reason to come back
◾provide them with the tools, in-store and online.
We'd like to thank Julie Foster for writing this article for Digital Ready. Julie is a director in her family retail business, Passport Surf, in Devonport. She also has her own consulting business and can be contacted at email@example.com