How To Provide Excellent Retail Customer Service
⏱ Reading Time: 10 minutes
In retail, sales are everything. And while it’s important to sell your products, what’s even more crucial is how you treat your customers. Nowadays, customer experience is the determining factor in your customers’ decision to remain loyal or simply move on to the competition.
- customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator
- 86% of people will pay more for a better customer experience
So, obviously everything revolves around customer experience. Well-trained, sympathetic employees with great communication skills inevitably lead to satisfactory customer experience.
In this article, you can expect some great tips on how to provide excellent retail customer service, completed with some amazing examples!
What Is Retail Customer Service?
Retail customer service is all about providing a seamless customer experience at every touchpoint. That includes immediately answering their questions and helping them solve any issues they may face.
The goal is to reassure the customer that you care about more than just closing the deal – you also want to make sure they are satisfied with their purchase.
11 Retail Customer Service Tips to Help Provide Excellent Customer Service
1. Train Your Employees
To provide amazing retail customer service, you need well-trained staff. As previously mentioned, skilled employees with great communication skills can definitely improve the overall customer experience.
By training your employees in new ways of providing customer service, there’s more interaction between your sales personnel and your customers. It also improves your chances of winning positive reviews and achieving customer loyalty.
Train All your Employees
You’re probably wondering why anyone not directly involved in sales or customer service would need to understand customer relations. Well, there’s a very specific reason for it. Let’s start with an example.
How many times would you need help in a store and reach out to the first employee you could find, only to be told it was “not their job”? How often would they try to help by pointing you to the right person? Most likely not too often. That’s exactly why customers leave. They feel you ignored them and failed to provide them with the help they need.
Make sure all your employees understand and appreciate the importance of customer care. They need to understand that even when something is “not their job”, the least they can do is to point the customer in the right direction. This leads us to the next retail customer service tip – trying to put yourself in customer’s shoes.
Picture 1. Training programs
2. Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes
Try to imagine yourself in the customer’s position in every situation, it will help you understand their wishes and demands. After all, you’re a customer as well, and you wouldn’t want a negative shopping experience, would you? Especially because people tend to focus on negative experiences more than positive ones. Try to apply this sympathetic strategy in order to achieve the best retail customer experience imaginable.
Is the customer searching for something for a special occasion? Or maybe something for everyday use? Any recommendations you can give them will definitely be helpful! That’s why great communication skills play a big role in customer service. Because the more you relate to your customers and their emotional needs, the better experience they’ll have.
3. Use Open-ended Questions
Turn ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions into more constructive, open-ended questions. Instead of asking the customer ‘Can I help you today?’, try asking: “How can I help you today?” It will get you more valuable information and make it harder to shut you down with a simple “yes” or “no” reply.
It will show that you are more interested in customers and that you will not immediately give up after they say no. While “no” really means “no” for some customers, others are not even sure what they are looking for. And by leading them to a more helpful answer you will get:
- a satisfied customer
- a returning customer
- a loyal customer
- great sales + even greater future sale
Picture 2. Open-ended question examples
4. Don’t Be Too Pushy
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, for some customers “no” really means “no”. Don’t force a conversation on an uninterested person. Don’t follow them around the store either, keep your distance. Customers in need of help they will certainly ask for it, but nobody likes being stalked, distracted or pressured. Especially when they are in a rush and know exactly what they need. For a good example on how to avoid these types of situations, stick around till the end, when we’ll share a story from Sephora.
5. Don’t Turn Your Back on an Approaching Customer
If there is a customer who has clearly chosen you to solve their problem and is on the way towars you ready to ask you something, don’t try to ignore it. Whether you were going to the restroom or for a lunch break, wait for a couple of more minutes and do it after you answer the customers’ question or request. If you really need to leave, then make sure that there is somebody around you can point them to.
6. Reduce Waiting Times
This part is closely linked to putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Do you like waiting in line? And how long would you stand in a line stretching out the door? According to a survey by Timetrade, businesses reported that they lost 75% due to long waiting times. Long waiting times and unpleasant checkout experiences are definitely something to avoid. Why? Because they inevitably lead to customer churn, which can have a significant impact on your business. They lead to customers leaving. And customers who leave can highly affect your business.
Picture 3. Reduce waiting times
Qminder, queue management system, came up with a few great ways businesses can reduce waiting times:
- Use digital signage, such as HDTVs with entertaining programs or the latest offers to distract customers.
- Form the line along checkout aisles, with products suitable for a last-minute impulse purchase.
- Request customer feedback: ask customers to share their experiences on social media, in an online or a physical survey.
Qminder is also one of the most helpful tools to reduce waiting times. It offers great tools to improve both the efficiency of queues and customer experience.
7. Avoid Saying “I Don’t Know”
What customers really hear when you say “I don’t know” is “I don’t care”. That’s something no customer service employee should ever say. It should be in your company’s best interest to help people, not push them away. Instead, try saying something like “Let me take a look, I’ll be right back”, and then do your best to follow through. If you find it difficult to resolve an issue, find a colleague who knows how to help.
8. Always Say Thank You
Thanking customers after they’ve made a purchase is a must. But thanking them after a huge purchase, for example, is something most businesses forget. If a customer is willing to make a big purchase at your store, it means they’re very likely to return. And that’s the type of client you definitely want to keep. Try sending them a personalized email, a thank you note, possibly with a special discount. They will appreciate the gesture and eventually become loyal customers.
Finally, don’t forget to show your appreciation to everyone who visits your store, whether or not they make a purchase.
9. Be Friendly and Smile
Emotions play a big role in the overall customer experience. Businesses that lose sight of that fact tend to lose customers. Bear in mind that people know when you’re putting on a fake smile when you’re grumpy or upset. It will impact them, which is why those emotions should be avoided at all costs.
Becoming more sympathetic will help your staff create a more welcoming atmosphere for your customers. So make smiling a priority in your retail store!
Picture 4. Always smile and be friendly
10. Learn How to Say NO
In every field, there are less pleasant situations but you can learn how to diffuse any tense situation (and be the bigger man).
The customer isn’t always right but you should always be respectful and keep your cool, even if the customer is doing just the opposite. You can, of course, set boundaries in conversation with few phrases that work!
11. Be Polite If a Customer’s Credit Card Is Rejected
Here’s the perfect chance to implement the principles of putting yourself in other’s shoes – it’s a situation familiar to most retail workers worldwide: “your credit card has been declined”. Try to remain mindful and calm, and do your best to soothe your customer. We’ve all been there at some point, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.
Try to see it from your clients’ perspective – the last thing they’d want it for someone to draw extra attention to the situation. Calmly inform them there’s been an issue with their card, and that it can happen sometimes. If it’s declined more than once, offer them a different payment method. This gives you the chance to employ empathy to achieve an exceptional level of customer service.
3 Best Retail Customer Service Examples
In a world where physical retail is constantly competing with the onslaught of online webshops, an unconventional retail floor experience can make a huge difference.
Sephora, one of the largest beauty store chains, is a great example of how you can tend to your customers’ needs. Sometimes they require a lot of help, other times they prefer to be left alone, especially if they’re in a rush and know exactly what they’re looking for.
Sephora recognized this and decided to create differentiated experiences for their customers. The store included two types of shopping baskets – a black and a red one. Red baskets are for customers in need of assistance, while the black one lets Sephora employees know that a customer prefers to shop alone.
Picture 5. Sephora’s shopping baskets
This simple color-coded system saves customers time and makes Sephora employees aware of those in need of help. More importantly, for many customers, it leads to a relaxed shopping experience.
2. T-We Tea
T-WE TEA is a tea maker from San Francisco. Customer delight is part of their retail customer service strategy. They decided to surprise their customers with a small token of appreciation.
Francesca Nicasio, Vend’s Retail Expert and Content Strategist said she frequently buys products from T-We Tea. With her last purchase, she got a surprise note, shown on the photo below:
Picture 6. T-We Tea thank you note
This is a perfect example of how to keep customers and increase their loyalty. Because we all know how hard it can be to acquire new customers. Plus it is a lot more expensive than to retain the existing ones.
She also said that for her, it was a lovely gesture that she didn’t get from other retail shops, where she also buys regularly. This simple act of kindness made T-We Tea one of her favorite tea places.
The last example is from the second largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom – Sainsbury’s. This heartwarming story is about product advice from three-year-old Lily Robinson.
She was confused by one of Sainsbury’s products called “tiger bread” and insisted on renaming it into “giraffe bread”. So her mom helped her write a letter to Sainsbury’s.
Picture 7. Lily’s letter and Sainsbury’s reply
This little anecdote went viral on Facebook, with over 150,000 likes and more than 48,000 shares.
Many companies would probably ignore this type of feedback and consider it irrelevant. They probably wouldn’t appreciate that simple advice from a toddler can make a difference. But Chris King, customer support manager from Sainsbury’s, decided to answer her concern and accept the suggestion.
And now, “tiger bread” has officially been renamed into “giraffe bread”. Chris also said: “It’s a lovely gesture. I feel great for Lily, imagine being that age and learning to read then seeing how big an impact your letter has made. I’m sure her family is very proud and I’m delighted to be a small part of it.”
Picture 8. New bread name
So it is no surprise that Sainsbury’s will do anything for their customers. To conclude, Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s Group Chief Executive said it perfectly: “Customers are at the heart of our business and our success and future growth is based on being able to anticipate and then deliver what they need.”
Retail Customer Service Wrap-Up
It’s important to realize that while some products can initially attract customers, in order to keep them, you must consistently offer a personalized retail customer service. Since customers can choose to shop anywhere they like, make sure it’s with you!
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