Want to Know How to Improve Your Customer Experience?

With all that is happening in the Australian retail market, the signs are very obvious that retailers have to get better at offering consistent levels of customer service which is one part of the customer’s entire experience. The most common comment I see from retail experts on Amazon’s impending arrival is, don’t shy away from being a bricks and mortar store but use the opportunity that physical stores have to really engage and connect with your customers. I couldn’t agree more – we have to give the customer a positive experience particularly when they have made the effort to come and see us.

Unfortunately, we have some way to go to consistently offer great experiences, based on what I see and hear from colleagues. We all have many examples of poor service we can think of and the ones that stand out are few and far between. I believe retailers have a great opportunity to improve in this essential area and they will need to before Amazon arrives.

I was prompted to write this blog, based on an article I read recently from Amanda Forshew who was maligning the fact that customer experience in the UK is far worse than that in the US. Having traveled and worked in both countries I would tend to agree and what concerns me is the areas she identified as being weak in the UK are the same issues we have here in Australia. I’m certainly not saying the US is the holy grail of customer experience, there is still are a large number of retailers not doing it well as I have reported via Bob Phipps The Retail Doctor in the US.

Amanda reported that according to KPMG Nunwood research, customers in the US are 15 times more likely to have a great customer experience than the UK – that is a terrible result. As I said, where do we fit in here? Are we better than the UK, I certainly hope so, but sometimes I have doubts about that!!

Here are some of the areas that UK retailers fell down on compared to their US counterparts:

  • they are less structured around the customer and tend to be more siloed in culture and operation
  • they are less focused on how employees interact with customers, the type of behaviours they use and the service levels they aspire to
  • they focus less on getting the basics right
  • they are less consistent, systematic and ruthless in their execution
  • they do not understand as well as their US peers how to manage resolution in the right way and how to turn bad interactions into great ones

Wow, this is pretty basic stuff that every retailer should be getting right every time.

Based on the above, here are some simple steps that you can implement or reinforce to improve your customer’s experience:

  • Point number 1) every department in your business needs to have the in-store customer as their focus. Operations teams need to help make things easy for the store team to execute a great experience. This covers rostering for busy times, stock deliveries and unpacking, stock availability (how easy is for staff to check for a customer), having managers trained to be great role models and coaches etc.
  • Points 2 and 3) your expectations of how to serve (and provide a great experience) need to be made very clear to every team member. Most retailers have these standards but they are hidden inside a manual and only used during induction. Store managers should be doing regular refreshers with their team on these key standards.
  • Point 4) store managers have to follow up and assess to see if their team is putting in place the standards with customers. No, follow up means massive inconsistencies.
  • Point 5) retailers must have a policy of how to deal with returns, complaints etc. Please err on the side of the customer and make it easy for them to complain. Delegate responsibility for all team members to handle these issues.

It is the ruthless focus on getting all of these steps right time and time again that will ensure you are successful and your customer experiences will be consistently high.

Let’s make sure we are 15 times better than the US in our customer experiences!

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.