A few decades ago, when retail was a quaint interaction between a salesperson and a passing shopper, customer service did not require going out of one's way to produce it. A salesperson could show a customer around the shop and deduce the customer’s needs through their knowledge of the products.
Now, instead of going to their favorite store and locating a sales pro to help, consumers now prefer to do research and, effectively, window-shop in the comfort of their home. Consumers will readily spend hours reading reviews, finding the cheapest prices, deciding whether they want a new, used, or refurbished item, and determining the quickest way to get the item.
Since so much of shopping is done online through research or through a click-and-collect option, many retailers have wisely put their money into technology, but the mistake to avoid is paying too much attention to that technology and putting little effort into customer care.
Follow Jeff Bezos’ Lead
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos thinks of customers’ needs all the time – he coddles them to find answers to problems that many retailers would find petty. His concern is on such a high level that he places an empty chair at the table in every meeting to show attendees that the customer occupies that seat as they are "the most important person in the room".
There is a reason why Forbes recently listed Bezos as the world’s wealthiest retailer; he took the notion that "the customer is always right" into the 21st Century, cracking the code for what customers want and making those specific insights pay off in monumental sales. He makes it clear that he thinks about his customers all the time.
Don’t Let Technology Override Good, Old-fashioned Customer Service
When customers arrive at retail outlets to pick up their goods, they can be offended if they receive an icy reception akin to the cold technology they ordered through. There needs to be a payoff when they arrive because if the customer experience is not put first, there is a solid chance they will find an alternative outlet next time.
Therefore, to assure future success, and to meet all the expectations of today’s consumer, all conscientious retailers must find a middle road. This avenue should maintain, or fix broken, customer service while providing tools to operate in the current high-tech arena of retail.
Create a Personal Relationship with Your Customers
Once technology has attracted customers, retailers must then provide them with a personal touch to get them to the point where prospects become paying and repeat customers. Each customer participates in their own journey with their retailer, who must hold their hand and guide them through.
This special touch begins with data that includes details like demographics, consumer clicks and other analytics to steer shoppers to the places they need to go to find customized offerings of products and services. In addition, if they do not get the best experience, it is crucial for retailers to figure out why and fix that specific problem as fixing it will likely rectify a bigger problem that negatively impacts other customers.
More than ever, shoppers are paying close attention to how businesses treat them; this notion should shape the retailers’ behaviors across all channels. In fact, a recent study by the customer intelligence firm, Walker, reports that by 2020, successful businesses will shift from "customer focus" to "customer committed". Simply put, retailers must look from the outside in because the individual customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important measure for repeat patronage.
Shoppers need a reason to buy from you, not your competitor, and those reasons are unique to each individual. Don’t think of your customers as an entity; instead, regard each of the them as a singular responsibility, thinking about them "all the time," to truly know their needs and glean deep insight to understand them on a personal level.
Having too many personal customer relationships is a good problem. Cultivating them is necessary to hold onto a consumer base that is growing fickle and distrustful with a data overload that they do not find relative or personal, and does little for their life experience.