Why customer service is retail’s biggest challenge - K3

Keeping the customer happy has always presented a major challenge for retailers, but now, meeting their demands also involves juggling a whole host of channels.

Once upon a time, if customers had a query or were unhappy with their service they would visit a store or pick up a phone, which enabled retailers to discretely address their concerns. While this is still an important part of a successful business, companies now also have to process feedback delivered by new methods such as text, email, internet forums, online chat and primarily, social media.

Some shoppers actually prefer to engage with retailers via remote channels as opposed to directly in-store or on the phone. A recent survey revealed that customers aged 18-34 would rather deal with retailers and service providers by text or social media than phoning a customer support line.

Part of this desire comes from their frustrations with poor customer service; more than half had spent at least an hour on hold to a customer service helpline at some point during their shopping lifetime.

Efficiency is a pressing issue when it comes to delivering effective customer service. Consumers crave immediate satisfaction, so sluggish responses can turn a straightforward query into a negative engagement, which may harm retailers’ long-term relationships with customers.

The fact that consumers now have a plethora of public platforms through which to vent their frustrations makes potential side effects even greater. At the very least their friends and family might be put off shopping with you. At worst, the complaint could go viral on social networks, as has been seen on a number of occasions.

With real-time responses a growing concern, it is easy to forget that it’s not just the speed of response – it’s also the quality. Staff must be friendly to even the rudest, most disgruntled caller, texter, tweeter or store visitor, and provide a knowledgeable answer. Blaming the customer or being unable to supply decent information is a quick-fire relationship sourer.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however: positive encounters can deepen consumers’ faith in a brand. According to the Institute of Customer Service, 63% of people who have a good customer experience with a member of staff would purchase again from the same organisation. Get customer service right, and you could gain a competitive advantage.

Find out how to maximise the shopping experience for your customers, across all channels, at the K3 Conference.