In retail, customers are back! And according to research from the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), consumers are looking forward to a generous holiday retail season, despite lockdowns of more than half of the Australian population.

In good news for retailers, 79% of Australians say they’ll spend the same or more than they did last year. 

Which means, retailers need to step up their customer service at every stage of the purchasing journey if they are to stand out from their competition. 

To do this retailers will need to listen with empathy, know their customers’ needs, go the extra mile and more. The retail space has a unique combination of customer service needs revolving around:

  • Product quality and availability
  • Shipping
  • Returns and exchanges
  • Online and offline sales management

12 ways to delight your customers before and after they buy

With a somewhat unique holiday season approaching, we are bringing retailers 12 ways to offer excellent customer experience in your retail business – online or in person. Small business owners can find new ways to improve their marketing.

Everyone loves a before and after story. So here are six ways to attract customers before they purchase, and six ways to keep them coming back.

To offer top-notch customer service along the customer journey, consider these ideas.

Here goes, start your favourite jingle in the background…

BEFORE: 6 ways to offer customer service to retail shoppers before they buy

Before your customers are making their shopping lists, you want to make the most of your social media presence, products on your website and the buying experience online.

1. Create landing pages that work with your social media ads

Customer service starts from the moment you are live on social media

Make it easy for your customers by creating a landing page that captures all the right information, and makes it easy to purchase.

Use a mixture of advertising techniques from banner ads to social media, and be sure to target specific buyer personas. Include a clear call to action that leads to a landing page to help viewers quickly and easily convert. For example, when you post an ad for a product on Instagram, make sure the ad takes the visitor to a landing page tied to that ad campaign to make the transaction as effortless as possible.

2. Showcase products clearly so customers know exactly what they’re buying

Your goal is to guide customers’ expectations and ensure they get what they expect. Customers want to trust that they are purchasing what they want or need. Include precise product descriptions, sizing specifications, product dimensions, colour-match assistance, photos, videos of the product in action, in-person demos or samples, and other educational content. 

These efforts help your company in three important ways:

  • Reduce returns
  • Reduce confusion
  • Increase customer trust

3. Make it clear when items are out of stock and, if possible, when you will restock them

Both online and in a retail store, customers get frustrated when items are out of stock. Scarcity can drive a sense of urgency and increase demand, but it may strike customers as poor planning. Use ecommerce software or another tracking method to accurately manage your stock levels. Be honest with customers when your supply is low or out and try to provide accurate answers when they ask when you will restock it.
 

4. Maintain a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your website

Create and consistently update the FAQ page on your website to answer common customer questions. FAQ pages let customers find answers for themselves instead of reaching out to a customer service agent. Build your page with questions you’ve collected from sales and customer service reps, forums, social media posts, and other sources.

5. Use precise language

Be clear in how you describe your products. If your customers understand your products well before they purchase, they’ll be less likely to reach out to customer service later. For example, take a retailer that sells tents. Instead of saying a model is perfect for warm weather, it should give the tent’s temperature rating. That way, customers will know if they can take the tent to Queensland in the summer.

6. Offer samples or testers when appropriate

Who doesn’t love a tester? Make that moment more memorable by offering your customers the opportunity to try a product before they commit. It gives them a better idea of what they’re buying, which cuts down on returns or unexpected results. It also increases customer satisfaction and can lead to increased sales.

AFTER: 6 ways to provide the best customer service after purchase

Now that your customers have ordered their products, you want to take them on a journey to keep the thrill alive. These are six clever ways you can bring delight to your customers.

1. Update customers on their orders

This is one of the easiest ways to build anticipation for the arrival of your product. Keep customers posted on their orders, either via SMS messaging or an email drip campaign. At the minimum, online shoppers expect an order confirmation and a shipping notification. You can also go the extra mile with shipment delivery notifications, refill reminders, and any other useful messages for your customers.

2. Show consideration with your packing and shipping

This holiday season, a little care goes a long way. When customers spend money on a product, they want to receive it in the as-promised condition. Handle items in your store with care and ship items in appropriate packaging. Customers appreciate your efforts to pack their purchases respectfully, whether they’re in a bag or a box.

3. Reduce unnecessary packaging

Customers notice when you do the right thing by the environment. Excessive packaging is often unnecessary. Consumers appreciate when brands think about packaging and use recyclable materials. In fact, 45% of consumers avoid the use of plastic whenever possible. Keep your customers’ packaging needs and expectations in mind. Retailers have many eco- and budget-conscious options when it comes to packaging and shipping products, which makes it easier to do the right thing for your customers and the environment.

4. Offer frequent customers a VIP program or exclusive access

Everyone wants to feel like a VIP. Make your customers feel important, and that they have unlocked exclusive offers. You could treat customers as VIPs once they make a certain number of purchases or when they’ve achieved a specific customer lifetime value. Reward your best customers in ways that benefit them: with samples, gifts, special sales, free shipping, and more. You can offer a voluntary loyalty program or automatically sort customers into loyalty levels.
 

5. Get involved in the community

Giving back to the community is where customer service goes above and beyond. This gives you and your community all the feel good factor. Find ways to get involved in your local area. You could help your community in various ways. Your company could:

  • Sponsor the uniforms for a local kids’ sports team
  • Give 10% of your quarterly revenue to a local food pantry
  • Give your employees paid time off to volunteer how they see fit
  • Donate unsold or unneeded items to organisations or people who will benefit from them

Many customers want to know that the businesses they frequent make their communities and the world better. In fact, 72% of consumers say the reason they want to buy from local suppliers is to support their local communities.

6. If you have an app, build it with the user in mind

Make your customers’ lives easier. An app is an excellent way to connect with customers and earn more data that can help you serve them even more effectively. While you can build a proprietary app with those benefits in mind, your customers will only realise those benefits if they use the app. It should do everything the customer expects, which may include helping them through their entire journey with your company.

Find out what your customers need from your app. They may want to pay for a product on the go, check the status of an order, communicate with customer service, or learn how to use your products. Use this knowledge to build an app to serve your customers.

Customer service is about the experience

For successful retailers, customer service is about every single way you provide services or interact with your customers. These ideas are about improving the customer experience for your retail store. No matter what you choose to do, your customers will appreciate your efforts to bring delight to their lives.

Looking for more on customer service? Get your copy of the latest report on the State of Service.