Employer Content – Is Customer Service Lost? Insights and Strategies from a Retail Expert

Employer Content - Is Customer Service Lost? Insights and Strategies from a Retail Expert - Style Nine to Five

In an era where online shopping and automation are on the rise, the value of genuine human interaction in customer service cannot be overstated. You might think your team already offers amazing customer service, confident it’s top-notch. Use this as a friendly reminder to ensure you’re truly delivering the best experience possible! Despite the convenience of digital transactions, many consumers still yearn for the personal touch that only in-person customer service can provide. However, in recent years, it seems that the once fundamental concept of customer service has been gradually fading away. The decline is particularly noticeable in large retail chains, but it’s a trend that has permeated almost every kind of establishment, from banks and restaurants to smaller stores. The question is, why has this happened?

Consider these experiences shared by customers:

• “I feel like I’m bothering them, yet I’m in their store?”

• “All the staff were on their phones, and not one greeted me.”

• “There were five staff members on duty, yet not one acknowledged me the entire time I was in the store!”

• “I witnessed a staff member argue with a customer over a return, eventually throwing the item back at the customer and telling them to leave the store.”

• “I saw two staff members get into a heated argument over who should get credit for a sale, right in front of customers, creating an uncomfortable shopping experience.”

To help us navigate this, we present a blog post written for Style Nine to Five by Fatima Hughes, past owner/founder of TSOQ (The Store on Queen) and a successful retail leader with 20+ years of experience. She calls herself the “Gordon Ramsay of Retail – but nicer” and brings invaluable insights into revitalizing customer service in today’s retail environment.

When was the last time your purchasing decision or reason to go back to a store was impacted by your store experience and the service you received? When was the last time you felt valued by a company or even said, “I love it here”?

The Roots of the Problem

Some big box brands really started this trend of zero service in the retail world, but why? Is it because they’re so busy and high traffic that they can’t manage a consistent customer journey through the store? Is the staff trained to be irrelevant because the clothing and price-point sell themselves? What is it?

It’s not just massive corporations either; it’s almost every establishment like a bank, restaurant, and store of any kind that I walk into. There is a lack of warmth and acknowledgment, ambiance, efficiency and speed, basic product knowledge, and professionalism. It’s almost as if a customer is a burden by simply walking in or asking a question.

Technology Over Personal Touch: Many companies have increasingly relied on technology to manage customer interactions. While automation can enhance efficiency, it often replaces the personal touch that customers crave. Automated phone systems, chatbots, and self-checkout stations, though convenient, can make customers feel undervalued and frustrated when they want human help!

Understaffing and High Turnover: Retailers often face challenges with understaffing and high employee turnover, which can severely impact the quality of customer service. Frequent turnover means less experienced staff who are not as well-versed in the company’s service standards.

Inadequate Training: Many establishments do not invest enough in comprehensive customer service training. Employees may not be equipped with the skills and knowledge to handle diverse customer needs, leading to a lack of confidence and competence in providing exceptional service.

Cost-Cutting Measures: In efforts to cut costs, some companies reduce investment in customer service initiatives. This can include lowering staffing levels, reducing training budgets, and neglecting customer service infrastructure. While these measures may save money in the short term, they can lead to long-term losses due to decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Cultural Shift: There has been a cultural shift in the way businesses view customer service. The focus has shifted from building relationships with customers to maximizing efficiency and profit. This shift can create an environment where the importance of customer service is diminished, and the customer experience suffers as a result.

Lack of Accountability: Without clear accountability measures in place, employees may not feel responsible for providing high-quality customer service. A lack of incentives or consequences for poor service can result in a decline in the overall customer experience.

Disconnected Leadership: Leadership teams that are disconnected from the front-line experience may not fully understand the challenges faced by customer service staff. This disconnect can lead to unrealistic expectations, inadequate support, and policies that do not align with the realities of day-to-day customer interactions.

The Cost of Poor Service

Many products and services will sell themselves, and a company may thrive, but that is not the case for most. Billions of dollars are lost due to negative service issues.

For consumers, the frustration of poor customer service can lead to a loss of trust and loyalty. HubSpot’s report reveals that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service, while 33% would consider switching companies after just one instance of poor service.

The Importance of Holistic Customer Service

Customer service is not just about the employee on the floor. It encompasses everything from the sounds, smells, and cleanliness of the store to the processes, policies, interpersonal skills, and overall commitment of the staff. Imagine someone has left their home to enter an establishment and potentially spend their hard-earned money. Shouldn’t the store be open when advertised? Shouldn’t the restroom be clean? Shouldn’t it be inviting, with friendly staff who are happy to see you and are respectful of you, the company they are working for, and the products they sell?

Is it too much to ask that a customer-facing business present consistency and have people that represent the brand’s ethos and core beliefs? It all starts from the top and trickles down to the responsibilities of those put in position to uphold such standards.

Strategies for Improvement

Here’s what you can do to improve the service that your company provides:

Establish What Service Means to You: Clearly define what exceptional customer service looks like for your brand, or hire someone who can.

Create Literature with All the Details: Document every aspect of the service you aim to provide in a format that can be used for training.

Make Service Your Priority: Set customer service as a primary expectation for your team, and hold them accountable.

Set Tools to Measure Success: Implement metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your customer service

Train Your Team Thoroughly: Equip your team with the knowledge and skills needed for success.

Lead by Example: Demonstrate the standards you expect through your actions. Inspire those around you.

Observe, Support, and Communicate: Continuously monitor, assist, and communicate with your team.

Be Persistent and Consistent: Follow up regularly and hold the team accountable.

The Bottom Line

As consumers, our voices matter. By voicing our experiences and expectations, we can encourage retailers to prioritize excellent customer service, ensuring a more satisfying and enjoyable shopping experience for all. As leaders, it’s our job. By implementing strategic improvements and committing to a holistic approach to customer service, businesses can not only meet but exceed customer expectations, creating lasting impressions and loyal customers. The time to revive and prioritize customer service is now – for the benefit of consumers, employees, and businesses alike.

If you’re struggling with your store’s customer service, reach out to Fatima Hughes She can provide the expertise and guidance needed to transform your customer service into an exceptional experience. She will help you work efficiently, achieve a higher ROI, gain team buy-in, and increase customer retention. Make an impact by making the change.