Innovating To Provide Better Customer Service In Retail

By: Brook

I am a complete shopaholic. Recession or boom, depression or celebration – one thing doesn’t wane…my enthusiasm to shop! So you can imagine my surprise when I was actually offered money to do it for a Brand XCV in response to a listing in a leading jobsite. The company, a premium clothing brand that is definitely outside my waitress’ budget was actually offering me money to go and shop. What’s more, I would also be reimbursed up to $50 of the cost of my shopping at that outlet. Now that’s what I call a dream job.

That was almost a year back. Since then I have enlisted as a freelance mystery shopper for several brands – with one thing in common. They all wanted to improve the customer purchase experience at their retail outlets. And when I say improve – I mean they were committed to offering the highest standards of customer service synonymous with their brand to ALL their customers CONSISTENTLY. So regardless of whether the sales assistant is having a bad day or the prospective buyer is not wearing the right kind of shoes, every customer will experience the same brand values and communication when he/she steps inside the store.

The inherent problem of internal checks is best explained by the philosophic equivalent of the Heisenberg Principle. Sometimes the very act of measurement triggers a change in the observation that you are attempting to make – altering the accuracy by a mile in the real world. So when the CEO or any senior manager walks into the store – their experience is vastly different from what you or I would encounter. A simple solution is employing mystery shoppers. Acting on behalf of the management, these people walk into stores posing as customers and get a chance to experience the sales efficiency, stock readiness and other relevant factors that affect customer service in a way in which any ordinary customer would experience them.

Each brand has slightly different points of concern or importance and therefore the brief about what the mystery shopper needs to look out for varies. It can serve to identify rude or unfriendly staff, a discourteous attitude in general or just regular cleanliness and display of merchandise. Mystery shoppers also help give reports on the brand’s performance vis a vis other comparable products in the market on identified parameters giving the company cues on what it can do to enhance its value proposition and consequently sales.

While mystery shoppers has been one interesting innovation in the never ending quest to improve customer service in the retail industry, another leap forward is being facilitated by the science of Analytics. Analytics is the practice of analyzing vast amounts of data to generate insights into the subject being studied. With advances in database management systems and computing systems, companies are able to look deeper into their customer data and come up with insights which allow them to customize their products to better suit their customers. A good example of this is companies studying customer buying behavior and the triggers influencing it. Does soft music make you buy more or do too many brand choices confuse you? Does green colored packaging on a particular product cause the buyer to buy the product or reject it?

For some companies, the analysis of past purchase patterns has revealed that not all customers are Kings. For some customers the return on investment is actually negative given complaint handling time and goods returned by them. In fact, more and more companies are striving to identify their top 20% customer base and customize their service offering to appeal to them. The value of goods expected to be sold to these key customers over a lifetime adds a lot more to the profitability of the company than trying to sell something to everybody.

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Customer service is an important of your business. One thing you need to make sure is that if your customer is happy, you business will face great success.

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