With 23,000 shops expected to close in 2019, according to research by real estate advisers Altus Group, positive customer experience is essential to entice shoppers instore and away from online shopping.
Here’s the thing: when making a purchase, 64 percent of people find customer experience more important than price (source: Gartner); Millennials are willing to spend up to 21 percent more to get great customer service (source: American Express).
Lessons must be learned from tough trading conditions to take action now, in 2019 – the Year of the Customer:-.
1. Use Feedback Channels to Understand Customers
Make sure your TripAdvisor, Google Business and other online feedback channels are up to the job. Is the information about your business up to date? At the local store level? Do you check customer comments daily and then acknowledge and respond? To thank the positive ones and reassure the complainers?
Critically though, it is face-to-face feedback that will enable you to really understand what customers want and how they want it, and what they don’t like.
Mystery shopping is still an essential channel to get this information. It provides invaluable data that fuels customer service and training programmes, logistics and store layout – in fact, every aspect of the retail operation. You can then review the mystery shopping analysis with your departmental teams and convert the recommendations into action.
2. Don’t Discount
Don’t be like the retailer that sent out an email recently saying in the subject line “The question is…what’s NOT on sale”. If pretty much everything is discounted most of the time, then the impact on margins is not good, to put it mildly.
After a time, customers become trained to expect low prices from your brand – they discount the discounts, as it were, in their perception of your organisation and its offer.
Discounting is fine if it is part of a clearly thought-out strategic programme – but not as a desperate measure to hang onto customers. At any price.
Customers want value, not just cheap prices. Does your team understand the value you deliver – and how you can supercharge it in 2019?
3. Understand the Customer ‘TouchPoints’ – Make More
From entering a retail park and visiting your store, to selecting goods and services, and asking for help from staff, to making payment – there are many ‘touchpoints’ within the customer journey.
Retailers must ensure every step is pleasurable – or at least that any potential frustration or disappointment is identified, thought through and resolved.
Unnecessary delays, the absence of clear instructions, the physical discomfort caused by the environment – these are the type of issues that can detract from the experience and the value you deliver.
More touchpoints can help to boost the customer experience: such as additional instore information and staff, to direct customers, or a helpline. These represent additional costs – but could they offer new revenue opportunities?
4. Decide How You Will Wow Them
The dull and routine get overlooked. Even great service gets taken for granted. People expect it. Over time, they get used it from any individual retailer. So you need to stand out if your retail offering is to be memorable, and if you want people to come back for more and tell their friends.
So, how can you add the ‘wow’ factor to your offering and the retail experience? This requires some brainstorming and knowledge of what others in the industry – and in entirely different sectors – are doing to achieve success.
One solution is to combine a range of experiences: Golf and cocktails, Bingo and clubbing, Museums and parties. When you combine your current customer experience with something new and novel, great things can happen.
Constantly renew: there is a shelf life for every great idea. Competitors copy you, public taste moves on. So you need to be ready to review the impact of your current programme, to measure the results, before planning your next campaign.
5. Make it Easy to Buy from You
The Theory of Constraints (TOC) should be taught to everyone in store planning, retail logistics and customer experience management.
It states that: any managed system is limited in achieving its goals by a very small number of constraints. There is always at least one constraint, and TOC uses a focusing process to identify the constraint and restructure the rest of the organisation around it.
Put simply: “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link”. This means that processes are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or at least adversely affect the outcome.
So you need to regularly review the total buyer experience, from visiting your store or web site, through to finding and selecting and making a purchase; and returning goods and getting a refund.
You have to take into account the key factors of ease, convenience, speed and reliability. Can your processes and written material be understood by a 14-year-old? This is a benchmark that experienced copywriters use when checking the language that they are using.
6. Make it Easy to Complain – and then Get a Resolution
Welcome complaints. Or at least make sure you have a reliable channel to get feedback from customers, to understand what they dislike and what they want more of.
This means ensuring that you have a number of communication channels for feedback: instore, on your web site, by telephone and email and mystery shopping of course.
Some retailers used to have a complaints desk or a complaints telephone number to call. Today, many businesses would be somewhat fearful of inviting negative comments, or feel they are not resourced to deal with the volume of communication that they might receive.
However, when you consider the impact on the business of unhappy customers: how they tell anywhere between five and ten friends and family of their unhappiness, then surely it is essential to get feedback fast so that you can deal with it?
OK so the resolution of any problem could be in an area that incurs an expense, perhaps major investment. But from experience, often it will involve only low-cost communication or training remedy that proves transformative.
Too often we hear of a failed retailer or entertainment venue that realised, too late, that they suffered from a reputation for poor service, or that their offering fell out of fashion for example. How is yours shaping up?
7. Get Referrals
Following up from the last point, conversely, you want customers to publicly endorse you and tell their friends and contacts about what a great organisation you are to buy from.
It goes without saying that active social media channels are a must. You need to be monitoring Facebook and other media, responding to comments, providing news and promotional updates and other content. It is an opportunity to thank people too.
The best way to get referrals is to provide great customer experience, one that customers talk about. So this is yet another reason why mystery shopping is so essential, to understand how your delivery of products and services matches your promise.
8. Put Customer Experience on the Boardroom Agenda
Is it already there? It certainly should be. With all our major clients at React CX, we meet regularly with C-level management to report on measurement and analysis of the customer experience, based on the results from mystery shopping.
From this analysis, we can help the Board and managers to identify any trouble spots fast, and to plan the departmental actions required to further improve performance.
This can have wide-ranging implications, requiring the senior-level authority to change systems and processes.
For example, there may be a need for new training in customer service, sales or other functions. Perhaps store staffing levels need attention in key operations – or you may want to change some aspects of store layout to improve customer flows or increase opportunities to buy premium goods.
A regular quarterly – or at least twice yearly – customer experience review and discussion is essential, with the key decision-makers present. React CX not only presents the results from mystery shopping research but also provides timely input derived from experience in working with many types of retail and entertainment operations.
It provides you with the reassurance that all aspects of the business are meeting pre-agreed benchmarks.
9. Get Help from Mystery Shopping Experts
In summary, you really have to know what your customers want, what they expect from you – and what you have to do to keep them. And win more customers.
Without this information, your business is at risk.
The problem is, many retail and entertainment businesses rely on data that is misleading and frankly dangerous.
They use low-cost surveys – delivering equally low-value results. Because how will you know what questions to ask, and which elements are most important to focus on? Perhaps problems with a customer experience that are not covered by your surveys.
Also, the response to these surveys varies hugely according to when and where let alone who or what you ask. They’re a subjective measure that won’t pinpoint what went wrong, or how it can be put right.
React CX is experienced in planning a mystery shopping programme that asks all the right questions. To enable you to understand how the customer experience you have designed compares to the one that your frontline staff are delivering.
So you get the answers you need to cut the risks and costs to your business. React tells you what you’re doing well, and what needs improving. And explains how you compare with your competitors and more.
You get a stream of key CX data and analysis that business managers need – to help them perform better and more consistently and boost the bottom line. Data for:
- Creating your customer experience
- Defining service standards
- Sales and service training content
- Layout, venue and systems planning
- Marketing and promotions support
So you know what’s working and what needs to change.
For more information contact www.reactcx.com