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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Stores Evolution – Where are the humans in this place?

The WEF 2017 report says we will see 15% of stores close in the next decade. Last year saw the highest retail closure numbers in the USA and 2019 is tipped to follow suit. Australia has a significant amount of retail space per capita and this trend seems destined to head our way. But fear not, according to Cowan and company there’s no cause to think that stores are no longer relevant, we’re seeing a shift in focus, “retailers continue to invest in top malls in the top metro areas at the expense of lower performing malls.” As retailers focus on optimising the performance of their investment in space and inventory, in this evolution of stores, I wonder, where is the human element going to fit in? No doubt about it, stores are evolving. What are customers looking for in stores? A store is now a place where you can pick up an order that you’ve bought online, try on/check the item before taking it home, return or exchange it for something that has already been delivered. It’s a place where you can have a bit of fun, some light entertainment that has you engage with the emotional story of the brand, touch and try the products before you commit. It’s a place of immediate gratification, and maybe that’s why it remains enduring and powerful as a place to (potentially) lift the spirits. A recent trip to the gorgeous space that Mecca has in the Strand Arcade would certainly support this! [caption id="attachment_6156" align="alignnone" width="300"] Mecca Strand Arcade, beautiful in-store experience[/caption] As the store evolves further it could soon become even more It could be a place that recognises you as a customer when returning to it and surface helpful information. A place that reduces the purchase friction or assists with after sales service. It could be a place where the shopping experience is not necessarily facilitated by humans. It’s not new news that allowing customers to grab and go without queues has great appeal.  The introduction of Amazon Go, and other variations on the theme, like scan and go Apps has me wondering where the human element of shopping will end up. Will stores evolve to a point where we need no humans at all? Customers just love convenience, and they are willing to give their information away (most of the time) if it means a more convenient experience. Grocery shopping is a weekly necessity and the online version has not been as successful for me as the in-store experience (I like to select my fresh produce). Thinking about cashier-less aisles and stores, they work well when it’s a quick transaction, buying a few top-up items or a quick lunch purchase. A full trolley with the family weekly shop is not compatible with the DIY checkout.  It will be interesting to see how far the cashier-less stores like Bingo Box go and whether this type of purchase process works for more complex purchases. My favourite store interactions are still dominated by a friendly and helpful human that knows the product in their store and where to find it. I see the juggle first hand working with retailers that are constantly evolving to stay relevant, using the technology that is available to them and getting their stores to evolve. The pressure is on not only to deliver quickly but at the same time to remain, customer focused. Create a curated selection that your customer is interested in. It's a very exciting and interesting time that we're living through.  I believe retailers that keep a focus on the human element (particularly for that emotional purchase) will succeed.

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Use customer data for efficacy (‘experience’ not required)

Data will be the biggest driver for retailers in 2019, as stores become more astute at knowing who their consumers really are. The Future Forecast 2019 Report goes on to talk about how smart retailers who use data to provide thought-provoking cultural experiences will prosper in this future. We can see that the evolution of experience retailing is becoming more pervasive all the time with the introduction to stores of smart mirrors, skin scans, recommendation engines and geofenced VIP access. All exciting uses of data that lead to (potentially) improved experiences for customers. This information that we share, whether consciously or not, allows businesses greater insights into our preferences. It (potentially) lifts the bar! Which means that, every time an experience is improved, it becomes the new ‘bar’ by which we measure the next one. When the experience doesn’t match the expectations, we are, as customers, left feeling flat. I have spent the last couple of weekends in pursuit of laptop and microwave replacements (they both broke down in the same week). Two replacement purchases, so I was just looking to continue as I had always. In both experiences, I walked away from the incredibly helpful salesperson feeling buoyed and looked after, but the interactions after that left me with a blah kind of disappointment. In one case, the third party repair/replace service was nothing like what the salesperson in-store explained, and in the other case - I had to wait in another in a queue to pay for my purchase whilst four (yes FOUR) people behind the counter did ‘non-serving customer’ activities. In a ‘helpful use of my data’ moment, the store had my details from the last purchase. It was not, helpful to have to step through multiple ‘steps’ to complete the purchase. Standing in a queue to put my credit card on the payment device is rather tedious! And it gave me time to count the number of people behind the counter not serving customers. Whilst the cashier-less experience has arrived in Amazon stores, we have not yet refined the completion of the sales transaction into one easy interaction at the local Good Guys. If it was possible to pay in the moment and go and pick up my microwave, I would have left the store with that (still) fresh feeling of ‘helpful service’. The basics of dealing with the person in front of you first and foremost are stopping store experiences from being productive and pleasant. A replacement purchase like a microwave doesn’t really need to be an ‘experience’; there’s a bit of product comparison but no real need to entertain me. I don’t need coffee, donuts, styling advice or a free set of steak knives. A helpful salesperson and an efficient way to pay and get out of there would be most helpful to me!

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Customer service done well is a lot of little things

Anyone else NOT want to call customer service? It’s a battle that goes on inside me… I cannot solve the problem by myself, but I know that if I do call I’m going to have to go through a series of selecting numbers from a menu and then be put on hold multiple times whilst they transfer me around the organisation in search of that special person who can solve the problem. I have had so many awful experiences with one service provider (not mentioning any names Telstra) that I now go to the re-seller and get them to do it, rather than having to go direct. It’s a buffer, the ‘one step removed’ position allows me to commiserate with the person in JB Hi-Fi whilst I shop for headphones, movies or music. I find it more tolerable. When I got locked out of my bank account on Saturday morning it meant I would have to call customer service. There are too many stories of fraudulent experiences online for me to put this one off. I did all my number selecting only to get to the recorded voice that told me there was ‘unexpectedly high number of calls,’ thankfully, rather than making me wait (and build the frustration level) there was a callback option. I took it. About 10 mins later I got the callback. I waited for the customer service person to arrive on the line. Alexis (no idea if that’s her real name) introduced herself and I had to STOP myself from commenting on the fact that: (a) the line was A.MAZING; it was like I was talking to someone over a phone line in Australia, and (b) I had no trouble understanding her (i.e. lack of obsequious formalities) as she spoke in plain English (no jargon). She understood the problem and said she would unlock the account. Did I remember my code? Yes, I did and I didn’t understand how I came to be locked out. She explained that if someone else with a similar member code had inadvertently used my code they could unintentionally lock me out of my account. She waited on the line whilst I checked my account login and confirmed that all was OK and then wished me a good day. The whole thing took less than 4 minutes! I was, I admit, in a bit of shock! Where was the usual frustration that I had steeled myself for? That was easy, pleasant and explained why I had experienced the problem to start with. WOAH!! So, what did they do well? I think it helps that my expectations are incredibly low. For this, you can say thank you to Australian banks, government agencies, telcos and insurance providers who, over the years, have conditioned me to expect nothing less than the horrific waste of my time trying to navigate their internal workings to get what I need. Reflecting on the experience, I can see these things that made the whole thing smooth and painless from the customer perspective: They didn’t make me wait online (frustration builds while people wait for you to attend to them) and they gave me a call when it was my turn. That way I could get on with watching my kid’s hockey game until they were ready. The communication fundamentals worked, a clear phone line (not VOIP offshore) meant that there were no “Pardon, can you repeat that?” moments. Reducing the friction of communication is essential both inside and outside organisations. She spoke like one human to another - no jargon, no ma’ams, just the essentials to sort out the issue. it was an easy conversation with a grown up! She checked that I could now log into my account and was happy to wait the additional 45 seconds on the line whilst I confirmed that the problem was solved. There’s a lot of back-office work that goes into making frictionless customer service work, we've talked about it a lot, and it's not easy but I think from this experience we can all agree that the basics are achievable. The same things done well here can also apply to all business interactions (maybe even project meetings!).

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Insurance Dis-trust makes customers feel like criminals

Everyone cheats a little bit, says behavioural economist Dan Ariely. Insurance companies know this too, so they have processes in place to assess the validity of claims. From a business perspective, I get this, it’s a very sensible move and one that hopefully weeds out fraudulent claims. My recent experience on the customer side of lodging an insurance claim has left me wanting to take a broom to insurance processes and really clean the place out! (Read more)

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Returns Pain Reduction 3 Retail Basics to apply

Two recent experiences have highlighted that there are retailers who are still struggling with the returns process. It’s worth revisiting this subject to consider how to get ahead of the returns pain. We can start by reducing the number of returns. As with many things in life, returns pain may need ongoing experimental treatment before it completely recedes. 1.     Give the most possible information that you can about your product 37% of returns pain comes from the product not fitting or the customer not liking it (ref, KPMG Omnichannel survey 2016).  We can try to close this gap by providing greater detail about the product. The more detailed your product information the more confident a customer can feel about the original purchase. So, details like dimensions, materials, weight, how to install it/ use it/ the obvious benefits/ the unexpected benefits of the product. Product images are incredibly important, most retailers understand that customers want to see the product from multiple angles, take it another step. Customers also want the capacity to get close-up and personal and look at the fine detail of stitching or get an idea of context so, for fashion and footwear on body or maybe a virtual dressing room, for appliances installed, for homewares in a room. Consider what additional information customers might want to know, how to care for the product, what it goes well with, what doesn't work with it. Consider too, what will it be like after 'x' period of time? A good time to highlight trade-in offers or after sales care and service too. Social proof also really helps support customers making good decisions online. Others that have bought the product describing their experience, seeing products used and in use in a variety of different ways gives greater confidence in the choice. Encouraging those who have already bought to leave ratings and reviews on products builds out the depth of information on your product, some retailers offer a $/% off for a referral or for customers to earn points by sharing their experiences. 2.     Fix returns pain by fixing returns reporting Whether there is an online store or not in your business there is no reason to be reporting returns against the returning store rather than the originating store. If store A has aggressive selling techniques and pushes customers to buy or over-buy then that store is likely to have a higher rate of return. It is also likely that customers will not want to go back to a store that has this kind of practice and so returns will go back to other stores in the network. If you are not reporting returns against the original sale store, it hides the problem.  What’s the point of reporting anything if you don’t get some useful insight or actionable correction from it? In the same way when we refund we go back to the original transaction and use that payment type, we must go back to the originating store and allocate the return against that stores sales. 3.     Encourage customers to go back to store If the customer bought online and can go into store then it’s a better potential outcome for both customer and retailer. For the retailer because it reduces the cost of return freight, although many retailers are reconsidering free returns policies after customer abuse. A face to face interaction has a greater chance of being able to solve the customer’s problem, if something is not working as expected or doesn’t quite look like it did online hopefully store teams can resolve and keep the sale.  If not, and the process in store is ‘easy’ then the customer will likely keep that retailer on their long-term shopping list. If the customer has deliberately over ordered or it is your policy to encourage customers to buy two and return one then make it easy for the customer by putting the returns label into the parcel with the delivery. 95% of customers do not purchase again after a BAD returns experience. If you are struggling to make the returns process work, get in touch, we would love to work with you to make this a key selling point in your business. Image Credit Mike Petrucci

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Rowing Retail: Planning helps keep captive customers

There we are, a group of loyal, crazy parents who stand on the riverbank cheering our girls (who claim to be unable to hear us from the boats). Rowing is a tough sport, it’s a team sport like no other and I’m not going to wax on about it because only rowers are interested, but the summary is, that it takes a certain kind of determination to stick at rowing and just get the boat over the line. (Read more)

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