Retail has undergone an incredible transformation over the past few years. Today, modern day shoppers are subject to targeted mobile ads and push notifications, digital signage, and seamless multi-channel experiences every time they shop – and this is a good thing! However, businesses recognise digital technologies cannot replace good old-fashioned customer service. Technology needs to enhance the customer experience, not drive it entirely; this is a key factor in the experiential retail service puzzle.
A recent Sage survey showed that 89 percent of customers who have a bad customer experience with a brand are more likely to switch to a competitor. Furthermore, at least 20 percent of dissatisfied customers will use social media to air their grievances. The ever-growing reach and influence of social media also means that peer-to-peer brand reviews hold more weight. In this age, brands’ reputations are vulnerable to the click of a mouse.
Brands recognise the relationship between customer service and their bottom line – turn a bad experience into a good one; convert an unhappy customer into delighted fan. This was a motivating factor behind STUDIO XFINITY, Comcast’s new concept retail store. After a couple of poor customer service incidents surfaced, Comcast was facing quite a bit of backlash from the general public. The new store leverages innovative customer service features and technology to put the customer experience first and foremost.
While a brand new concept retail store might not be the go-to solution for every brand or retailer, it’s moves like this that go a long way in the court of public opinion. And Sage statistics agree, when a problem or issue is handled favourably, nearly 22 percent of customers will post a positive review online – possessing the agility to quickly manage a negative customer experience in the short term, can yield long-term results like brand loyalty, reduced churn rates and increased profitability.
Creating an army of ‘brandites’ not only helps businesses retain their existing customer base and acquire new ones, but also serves as a differentiator from their competitors. An American Express Survey found 70 percent of customers are willing to spend 13 percent more on average with companies they feel provide exceptional customer service.
When it comes to understanding the implications of customer service and the bottom line, luxury retail brands know best. Fashion retailer, Burberry, arms its staff with iPads to assist with service delivery and drive sales. Store associates have access to key customer information like purchase history, preferences, as well as important product information. And if an item is out of stock, customers can order the product they want directly from the tablets and have it delivered to them at their convenience.
Timberland is taking a different approach in its New York City Herald Square store, improving customer service with self-service. Collaborating with CloudTags and its data platform, Timberland launched its first completely digitally connected retail store. Using tablets for self-service, customers can look up product information, related products and recommendations, as well as adding items to a wish list and emailing the selections to themselves later. “This is perfect for people who may not want to talk to a sales associate or don’t want to commit to an app,” said Kate Kibler, VP of direct to consumer at Timberland.
Building on new and existing relationships with exceptional customer experience and service delivery, retailers can drive more business through traditional, cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Subsequently, retention rates improve, as relationships between brand and consumer grow. The holy trinity of the retail experience is the pre-sale, purchase and post-sale service experience; the brands that recognise and address this are the ones set to see long-term success.
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