Why We Need to Up the Ante on Customer Service Right Now!

I’ve had numerous discussions with colleagues and retailers about the Australasian attitude to customer service. The consensus is we don’t seem to be very good at it! One opinion that comes through, is our attitude seems to be that serving is a bit beneath us.

I hear so many times people talk about how good the service is in the US. Having been there a few times, I would agree in some circumstances that it is way better than ours. This is very true when tips are involved. If you are on a very low hourly rate and reliant on tips to top your weekly wages up, you’ll be very service focused. I certainly experienced this, however, sometimes I felt the service was a bit fake and put on for my benefit.

I also saw the other side, where the staff was paid a higher hourly rate and weren’t reliant on tips. Their service was often as bad as it is here. If you had to survive on providing excellent service to earn a livable wage then this would certainly be your focus.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), we don’t have retail team members relying on a tipping culture to survive. We have to rely on recruiting the right people, clearly explaining our expectations, training them to be able to meet these expectations and constantly follow up. All key areas I have covered many times before.

However retail is becoming so much more competitive, shoppers face a multitude of options when it comes to buying most products, so why would they shop and hopefully stay with you? Retailers have to seriously lift their game when it comes to service or face the facts that their customers will simply move elsewhere.

Firstly you have to make sure that all your staff is getting the basics right, acknowledging customers when they first come in, greeting and smiling. Then it’s on to finding out why they are there and how you can help them to solve their problem. Getting these steps right gives you permission to go to the next level and invite them to join your loyalty program and offer additional products and services.

If you succeed in getting all these steps right, the customer is likely to buy and probably want to come back. US customer service guru, Micah Solomon, calls this reactive service. The type of service customers expects to receive. The problem here is it’s just what they expect. As Micah says, it’s a lot better than negative service (and some stores can’t even get the above right!!) but it does leave your business in the commodity zone, where you are interchangeable in the minds of the customer.

Commodity service won’t stop your customers going elsewhere if they see your products or services at a more convenient location, at a cheaper price, or for whatever reason your competition has come up with to attract their attention. The level you need to move up to is anticipatory customer service. Here are a few examples:

  • Your local café knows your name and your order – just the way you love your coffee
  • You get recognised when you visit a store and they ask about your last purchase
  • Your local store rings you after your purchase to check if the products or service is meeting your needs
  • You never encounter someone saying that’s not my job or department they just help you out

I’m sure there are many other examples of awesome customer service and I’d challenge every retailer to discuss with their team and come up with ideas on how they can offer anticipatory service that will blow your competition away.

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.