There are so many aspects of Customer Service in this day and age but it is not difficult or complicated if the business is truly customer focused.
To think that Customer Service is just an issue for retailers is a fallacy. Every business must have a customer centric business model in order to ensure longevity. Businesses can learn a lot from retail and how the customer interacts with the stores and brands they love to learn how to develop their business to be more customer focused.
To become a business your customers love, and to stay that way, requires a new attitude, focus, strategy, behaviour and language.
Customer Care vs Customer Service
Martin Bulter, retail expert and author, told me that he no longer says ‘customer service’ anymore but ‘customer care’, and this is something I have adopted. Think about it, it changes how you think and ultimately how you act.
If you care about something rather than serve it your actions are more genuine and considerate.
The Customer is the centre of our business because they have so much choice, a voice and a community which make them more powerful than ever before.
I started my customer care life in Grace Bros Department Store, where the customer was King! We were taught never to say no and to understand that we are the problem solvers. I would exhaust ALL avenues before I told a customer I couldn’t supply the product they needed. I rang suppliers, other stores, would check if a competitor had it and buy it there or suggest an alternative. My first response was never, “we are out of stock, it’s discontinued, I’m new, I don’t know.”
I remembered customers’ names and preferences (with the help of my trusty exercise book). I treated customers like a welcome guest, not an unwanted interruption, so the customer felt comfortable and was happy to be there.
These practices have set me in good stead my entire working life, not just on the shop floor. When customers are happy, feel like they are valued they share it with their friends, once only face to face (or voice to ear) but now digitally as well. Word spreads quickly online, at the flick of a switch, so businesses must ensure that the word being spread about them is positive and anything negative is nipped in the butt!
Notice I haven’t mentioned technology yet?? This is because technology is the facilitator not the magic wand or the enemy!
Businesses need sound fundamentals that are customer centric and then add the building blocks that are integrated to the main strategy to get the results. Create a great business first then add the layers.
Technology is the mechanism and a business tool
I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by technology but we have to learn, use and adopt it, because it is here to stay!
In order to figure out which technology to use, businesses and retailers need to think about what problem the technology will solve; i.e. wanting to collect customers’ details, wanting to capture sales on a computer, allowing staff to access product info or the website while serving customers, being able to access information from any device in any location, etc.
Once the function of the technology is known, then the best option can be researched and found.
Adopt a slow roll out. Don’t feel the pressure to automate EVERYTHING at once – unless the business can adopt and integrate quickly. Initially a combination of manual + digital may be able to be applied – so that it looks like the technology is doing all of the work.
Technology makes everything easier, more efficient and increases productivity, when the right match is found. Of course there may be training needed and on going support. The more you use it, the more you learn.
All business practices must be integrated and work together. Technology doesn’t change that it simply is another factor that needs to be considered. Businesses must train their staff and update their processes to understand and use the technology. Some people may need more training than others but it will pay off.
Customers Love Businesses When
There is no one particular thing that results in long-lived Customer Love for a business, many things need to be done correctly.
At the moment the whole level of customer experience must be elevated in business and in retail so customer expectations are reasonably low. In the next few years, however, the expectation will be higher and businesses and retailers will be expected to meet it; fully integrated digital solutions and exceptional customer care in-store or in the business.
There are some basics that have to be addressed in the meantime.
Let’s investigate some of the things the customer expects in exchange for customer love:
- Customers use technology and are therefore comfortable with businesses who do as well
- The Customer expects the business to know more than they do and find the answer to any question they have – so businesses must curate
- Staff must be informed, skilled and have a professional / comfortable manner. They mustn’t ‘dump’ on the customer and over-share – it’s all about the customer!
- Customers like to shop and research online as part of their shopping experience – so businesses must have detailed up to date websites
- Customer like to easily share information and pictures – so sharing tools are important on websites
- Customers like to engage on many platforms / sites, online and off: the store, the site, social media sites – so businesses need to be there as well
- Customers use many devices – so businesses must ensure their sites are responsive
- Customers don’t like to hear the word ‘No’ so take it out of the staff’s vocab. Encourage processes and procedures that ensure solutions are simple to facilitate
- Customers like ambiance and atmosphere, ensure all 5 senses are stimulated when the customer is in your business
- The product is important as it is the reason the customer will come to the business, at least initially. Build strong relationships with suppliers and ensure access to many options / choices
- Personalised experience comes in many forms; if the business doesn’t have access to full scale systems, they can start by personalizing newsletters and offers based on the basic information they can collect and go from there.
The important thing to consider is that it is time to update thinking and start making changes NOW. Leaving it too long will make the business seem out of date and irrelevant to the customer!
Connect with Nancy on Twitter @NancyGeorges, LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/NancyGeorges or visit the Magnolia Solutions website at www.magnoliasolutions.com.au. All views expressed are the author's own.
If you want to find out more about Customer Experience read the Optus Business Future of Business Report 2014.