The importance of customer service

Customer Service Blog

Bad customer service - we’ve all been there. Whether it’s impatiently queuing for 15 minutes at the tills with just one check-out open, or an unhelpful member of store staff who quite frankly can’t be bothered to check when the latest “must have” juicer may be back in stock again.

We’ve all got a story to tell about a frustrating shopping experience; one which we’ll undoubtedly relay to anyone who’ll listen in true British grumbling style for years to come. It’s therefore no surprise to me that a whopping 78% of consumers in the UK have bailed on a shopping transaction due to a poor customer service experience*.

So, here’s my story, one which I have shared many a time with both friends and colleagues...

I was in a leading department store looking for an exercise bike. I had an idea of budget and the results I wanted to achieve, but as fitness novice, little more was considered. I looked aimlessly at a selection of bikes varying in price for a good 20 minutes, attempting to make sense from the limited information that was available to me. Frustratingly in the time I spent looking not one member of staff came to my rescue, so needless to say I left the store empty handed.

Thinking back, what I really required was someone informative, knowledgeable and trustworthy to listen to my needs, advise which the best exercise bike was for me, carry the box over to the cash desk and then hopefully to my car. This wasn’t necessarily a case of bad customer service, just a complete lack of it entirely!

In the current economic downturn where it’s proving increasingly problematic to encourage shoppers to part with their hard earned cash, brands can ill afford for their consumers to reject any transaction. Be it a £5 lip gloss, a £100 pair of jeans or a £350 coffee machine – a lost sale is still a lost customer. 

With some of the UK’s leading retailers such as Boots & John Lewis putting customer service at the forefront of their strategic offering, brands need to identify where else they can add value to these eager retailers which will ultimately enhance the shoppers experience in-store.

Many brands are therefore turning to agencies to select and train brand representatives for them at point of purchase. Whilst this is no new concept, as the retail landscape has become increasingly competitive, so too has the need for high calibre in-store demonstration agencies.

Brands should look to their agency to help them build tailored in-store product demonstration programmes which ensure that excellent customer service is at the pinnacle of each offering and consistent on a national level. Often brands and retailers alike focus their attentions to flagship stores, forgetting the smaller branches servicing many thousands more consumers across the country.

When selecting an in-store promotional staffing agency you need to be sure that they will not only recruit but also invest in the personal development of their demonstrators.

Purely sales focussed demonstrators, no matter how good they are, are unlikely to produce results due a complete lack of customer service. However there are also demonstrators who can eagerly discuss the product range but can’t actually close a sale. Training in product knowledge and sales skills is therefore paramount to achieving positive customer service and delivering results. If brand ambassadors can talk knowledgably and confidently about a products’ features and benefits, it naturally creates an engaging and positive experience for the customer.

This is why we’ve developed a nationwide series of recruitment and assessment days to select staff and profile them according to each brand’s target audience. It’s important that consumers are able to identify with a brand’s demonstrators, which in turn generates trust. When we trust, we are much more likely to part with our pounds.

In our Customer Service Academies, one of the first things we teach our staff about the world of sales is not to sell! Instead we focus on getting them to listen and understand the customers’ needs, identify the best product for them, feed them the relevant product information and, if done with enthusiasm and sincerity, the product will ultimately sell itself.  

And we’re not alone in the belief that customer service is essential at point of purchase. According to the Temkin Group (customer experience research specialists), 81% of customers claim they would be willing to pay more to receive superior service. Brands cannot continue to ignore their consumer’s needs and we believe the best way to deliver this is through strategic in-store demonstration programmes.

I’d love to hear about your experience of customer service in-store – have you had any great or terrible experiences that have affected your purchase decisions?

*According to American Express – Global Customer Service Survey. 9,000 consumers

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