National Customer Service Week is upon us. It serves as a reminder of the importance of appreciating those employees that deliver your brand experience directly to your customers, and how important it is to invest in them. With this in mind, during the ramp up to Customer Service Week, we have been particularly focused on evaluating the in-store customer service experience.
Of course, looking at a total customer experience includes many facets. However, for this instance of the Customer Service Index, we focused on the subset of elements that relate to the interactions of the in-store employees that are there assisting customers and meeting their needs before, during and after a sale.
Unfortunately, while so many brands claim that customer service is their number 1 priority, sadly, with even the best of intentions, this becomes little more than lip service when you actually look at the customer interactions in their store. Therefore, it is also a good idea to use Customer Service Week's focus as a reminder of what you should be doing with frequency - spending time reflecting on how your customer service is doing, how you can better enable these employees, and how you can make your customer service one that people remember and talk about for the right reasons.
Customer service has always been important, but now, with an increased level of connectedness and social media, news of bad service travels quickly and far. Customer expectations have also grown. We live in an ultra-competitive marketplace, where the competition is not just other stores, but online as well. It's no secret that traditional brick and mortar stores have been experiencing several industry challenges as a result of different customer needs and the ease of this online marketplace.
However, a large way that differentiates the shopfront situation from the online is the experience that the physical environment affords and the employees that customers interact with; your people play a huge role in the experience that a customer might have. As a result, there are several skills that employees in these roles need to help them through the myriad of situations they may find themselves in whilst at work. There are also several ways that they need to interact with people, several things that are good to avoid, and several things to implement that can all make a huge difference to the customer and the emotions that are evoked. Important to keep top-of-mind is the fact that the service the customer receives during their time in the store will weigh heavily, as it is this feeling that will be remembered long after they have left the store.
While researching our Index to determine the success factors that should be looked at to create an optimal environment for in-store customer service excellence, we found that there were several factors which determined how the customer service impacted the overall feeling the customer had after they left the store, including:
- Communication - How the attitude, communication style, and response impacts the way the customer feels.
Over the past few weeks, we have looked at several in-store brands, using carefully crafted scenarios to evaluate the complex many-to-many relationship between a representative's actions and their behaviors as a component of the overall in-store experience and the feeling that the customer is left with. Many commonalities came up in the experiences we had, so here are 3 things to be aware of when thinking about your in-store customer service experience.
There are several moments where expectations might differ for a customer. These can include the time of day, the anticipation of general etiquette, or how many employees are perceived in comparison to how busy the store is.
A couple of examples we saw come up several times included:
- Making eye contact and then not acknowledging the customer. If an employee makes eye contact with you, there is a general expectation of at least a smile or a greeting. Making eye contact then doing nothing or looking away can feel very dismissive or cold.
- A high ratio of employees increases the expectation that there should be assistance when you need it. There is also the chance that the customer will expect a higher level of attentiveness as there is a perceived capacity to be able to provide this. If this situation occurs accompanied by no real feeling of awareness during the moments when a customer needs help, it can leave them feeling negative, underappreciated or disappointed.
2. Contextual Awareness
Helping employees understand how to use context and clues to determine how best to act can help your experience feel just right. You do not need a sweeping rule forcing employees to say hello to every customer or to offer help to them every second they are in the store. However, building the ability to notice when the time is right for the right kind of interaction helps an experience to feel balanced.
Some examples that we came across included:
- If a customer has a lot in their hands then see if you can assist to either find a basket or start a fitting room - depending on the context, of course.
- If an employee is busy doing something that cannot be interrupted, but see's a customer looking confused or in need of assistance, at least acknowledging them and seeing what help they need will make all the difference. Then you can see if there is someone else to help them or let them know you will be right back after you've finished what you're doing.
3. Back End Operations, Policies, and Employee Enablement
Employees themselves cannot deliver the experience alone. They have to be enabled with policy, process and the underlying systems and technology to allow them to meet the customer needs.
We saw several examples where operational elements and better digital strategy could have enabled a much better level of service. Examples included:
- Efficiently enabling employees to assist customers wherever they are. For example, mobile information, stock-checking, price-checking and payment.
- Customer facing technology for contextual experience enhancers. For example, in-store navigation to find what is needed, see ideas that are personalized, find the items on preplanned lists, and post engagement interactions.
- Hiring to get a good "Rockstar Ratio". For example, if you have a 20% chance of getting someone who will make the interaction awesome and an 80% chance of a person who might not or who might even detract from a positive experience, then the chances are that the whole feel of your experience is off. If you hire for and develop a better "Rockstar Ratio", it will pick up the overall experience feel.
- Enabling employees to understand what excellent service is and then using their judgment and context of the situation to act in a way that demonstrates this meaning. For example, providing practical or experiential training so that employees themselves can feel the difference in the experience. There should also be rewards related to the customer service experience so that employees are incentivized and aligned to its outcome.
Remember, the way your customers feel is what they will remember long after they leave the store. You should make sure to appreciate your employees and to ask yourself, are your customer service representatives enabled to be the best they can be in delivering a level of service that lives up to your brand and your customer's needs?
At EffectUX we specialize in quantifying human Experience in actionable ways. We help our clients discover the exact factors and attributes that enable the successful achievement of their vision, across their business, their customers, their users and those that work to deliver the experience.
Contact us today to see how we can help you with your Experience strategy.