One lesson every retailer learned in 2020 surrounds the retail customer experience. We’ve written about how online customer experiences changed for furniture stores and how to increase sales online. But the lessons in premium retail customer service during a global pandemic? Those were the hardest fought lessons in the retail store. There are plenty of customer service lessons that have gained prominence in 2020. If you work in customer service, what have you gleaned from 2020? Now that the year is almost over, let’s take a moment to reflect. It’s the perfect time to take inventory of what’s been learned this year, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches. Many businesses have continued to thrive in 2020 and will in 2021 as well. What can we learn from their successful customer service approaches? How can the retail customer experience be improved?
Communicating with Customers
Communication has always been key for success in retail customer experience settings, but it’s been even more fundamental in 2020. With restrictions coming and going for furniture retail shops, communication was a lifeline for business. These furniture retail businesses must communicate their safety protocols regarding Covid-19. This is particularly the case if they want people to physically come into their store. Retail customer experience in the furniture store relies on critical data:
- What is the mask requirement?
- How is the store cleaned?
- What are the hours?
- How many people will be allowed in at a time?
- Are in-store appointments required?
Retailers need to post and advertise updated hours, particularly during reopening times. Make it clear that your business is open if you want foot traffic. Being open regular hours is no longer a given these days. Enhance the retail customer experience with clear communication of safety policies, hours, and other key policies.
Supply Chain Impact on Retail Shoppers
Shipment delays have been all too common in 2020, particularly in the time we’re facing now. Many vendors have stopped working with new customers and retailers need more inventory to stay alive. Inventory and shipment details are critical to good customer service. Letting customers know when their packages will be late prevents needless frustration. It also saves the company time and effort when they don’t have to deal with lots of customer calls. There are often unavoidable bumps in the retail customer experience, but communicating about them prevents unnecessary frustration. Inventory changes have also marked 2020. It can be extra hard for businesses to keep certain items in stock. Empathy and clear messages from the company can help smooth the waters when inevitable delays, stock issues, and other problems arise in the retail customer experience.
How Chat Helps Customer Service
When customers feel that their needs are important, minor inconveniences are easier to deal with in the retail customer experience. The pandemic has brought a lot of changes. In the customer service sector, people have much higher expectations. An automated reply—”hang tight, your package will be there within 1-7 business days”—simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Customers need more personalized care now. Businesses are called upon to be more responsive and communicative. AI certainly still has its place, but it’s not very effective in many retail customer experience situations.
Fast Response for Customer Support
During the height of the pandemic, reaching customer service virtually was even more important than usual. Many people only left their homes for essential tasks, so everything had to be handled virtually. LiveChat enabled and continues to enable people to reach customer service from anywhere at a time that’s convenient for them. It’s particularly effective for boosting customer service satisfaction rates. For instance, when a potential customer is deciding between 2 similar pairs of boots, chatting with a salesperson can help clinch the sale. Left on their own, many people never make a decision and don’t make a purchase at all.
Similarly, it’s also great for after-sale customer service needs. It’s so awesome when a customer has an issue, is able to reach someone on LiveChat right away, and reaches a resolution in minutes. Gone are the days when customers had to wait on hold for hours to get a refund, replacement, or another solution. Customer service is much more nimble now to address needs efficiently. Customers’ expectations have risen and savvy businesses have adapted. If businesses want to continue to be successful in the coming years, they must prioritize fast, virtual, effective retail customer experience service.
Using Empathy in Retail Customer Service
Everyone appreciates feeling important. Are you treating your retail customers as a high priority? One of the keys to customer satisfaction is making sure customers feel heard. Retail customer service staff must be patient and diligent about listening closely. Temperatures can easily arise when a customer experiences a problem. It’s the customer service professional’s responsibility to hone in on the specific issue and efficiently resolve it. This can be especially difficult when a customer’s temper is flaring. But tapping into empathy enables the agent to remain calm and work towards a peaceful resolution. This can mean that the customer continues to patronize the business, even if a problem arose at some point. Retaining customers well is the key to excellent customer service.
Creating Meaningful Messaging
Automated messages do not express empathy at all. If they attempt to, it often doesn’t feel very authentic or genuine. Companies that invest in real people to address customers’ issues have more overhead, of course. Hourly rates and salaries for actual people aren’t cheap! But businesses that enlist real people to maintain customer satisfaction often find that it’s well worth the cost. Customers will be much happier and continue to purchase items or services from the business. Repeat customers frequently lead to increased profits and company growth. Real people are able to listen and problem-solve for each unique customer. A more personalized experience results in greater customer satisfaction. It’s the little things that make a tremendous difference in the retail customer experience.
Flexibility and Agility are Differentiators
Local retail continues to prosper alongside the big corporate stores. How can that happen? Flexibility and agility are key factors distinguishing the local furniture store from the Amazon-type competitors.
Local retailers are able to more quickly adapt to ever-fluctuating conditions than big-box sellers. For instance, BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up in Store) is quickly becoming standard in stores throughout the country. Local furniture stores can meet these needs quickly without layers of red tape. Larger stores, on the other hand, aren’t able to adapt as efficiently.
Click to Collect Strategy
Another example is the curbside pickup strategy or click to collect. Before the pandemic, logistics for a Click to Collect process were lacking. But now, of course, almost every restaurant and retailer offers curbside pickup. It’s a smart policy so that people can conveniently drop by, pop their trunk, and limit all non-essential contact with others. People who are high risk, or who are caregivers for high-risk individuals, especially appreciate the curbside pickup option. It’s also great for folks with small children! It’s so much easier than parents having to bargain with them to keep their masks on the whole time inside the store. To build a sustainable retail customer experience in this shifting climate, you need flexibility. It’s pretty easy for businesses to implement. Now, thanks to Covid-19, it’s available at almost every restaurant and store.
Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond
What will customer service professionals glean from 2020, and what new initiatives will arise in 2021? Anything is possible as businesses continue to innovate. Communication, empathy, flexibility, and agility will never go out of style. Personalization will likely continue to become more and more important.
Customer expectations have risen a lot in 2020 and may continue to rise in 2021. How will you make your business stand out from the crowd? There’s so much competition in every industry. Investing in having real people answer customer service inquiries is a wise choice going forward, at least until AI technology becomes a lot more convincing.
Customers are savvy and can frequently discern when they are receiving automated messages. Responding with genuine concern and empathy goes a long way for boosting customer satisfaction. Now is the time to strategize how your company will survive and thrive in 2021 and beyond. Focusing on worthwhile retail customer service initiatives is always a wise place to start. If you’re looking for help with retail experience in the store or online, contact MicroD’s retail website expert team today.