Providing customer service has been around since people started doing business together. The challenge for retailers in the Omni-channel digital age is evolving at the speed of the customer.
In particular it’s around the expectations of service levels and there’s no blueprint to getting it right, but one thing is certain, customers have more say when it comes to the classic marketing “P’s” being product, price, place and promotion and people.
Here are some of the visible customer trends that stand to impact customer service in retailing;
1. “I need it now”
Customer have come to expect availability to be known by retailers whether it be published online or asked of a sales representative in store. Technology has provided the framework for up to the minute information and customers are more aware of this and have come to expect no less than the facts.
2. “Tell me why you”
With so much quality and variety on offer, simply making product available is only a small component to the offering. Customers are looking for a story, experience or value proposition that matches their sensibilities. Look at retailers such as Lorna Jane who provide a holistic exercise experience, focusing less on their core business while is ultimately about selling you clothing.
3. “I can deal with it”
Customers are more self-sufficient then we give them credit for. They like to search, research and purchase on their own terms. Technology has provided this platform and drive. We need to work within their environment and provide messages that are either tailor made to them or clearly defined.
4. “I’m a 24/7 customer”
Surveys have shown that the average mobile user is active on their phone at least 100 minutes per day. That’s 1 minute here 3 minutes there and so on. The figures shows that they use their phones morning, noon and night. Be there when they are and if they use social media reach out when they least expect it to be different.
5. “I expect service from the company I purchased from”.
This is regardless of purchase method. Speaking to a number of retailers managing bricks and mortar, ecommerce, gift cards and franchise structures across multiple platforms is a real challenge when it comes to customer service. It involves technology and clear business processes to support those initiatives. Many customers feel they are expected to compensate for lack of structure.
6. “No free shipping?”
How many times have you spoken to people who are turned off because shipping isn’t free? It’s one of the first things online customers look up prior to committing their time on an ecommerce site. Should it be free? Well I guess that’s up to the businesses, but there better be a compelling reason, especially if the competition offers it. Maybe it’s worth doing the survey to make an informed decision. Many retailers I speak to just go on gut feel, maybe that’s OK too?
7. “I speak to you in many voices”
The number of people I speak to using social media to raise issues and promote positive experiences is staggering. Remember that saying “the customer is always right?” We’ll guess what, now they know they have a louder voice due to social media platforms, so don’t worry they’ll make sure you don’t forget they’re “always right.” That means that there’s an expectation if a customer is reaching out they wish to be heard and hope we’re listening. Are we in control of the message to market or do our customers now have a say over it? Challenging one.
This strengthens the necessity for retailers to define what Omni-channel means to them. As long as customers are in a position to drive service levels, retailers will be expected to respond accordingly. It’s safe to say that customers don’t understand the Omni-channel buzz word nor appreciate the efforts retailers are putting into making their experience effortless. It does though empower retailers to differentiate themselves by providing service levels that excel expectations and that has to be a good thing.