Consumers are powerful. They choose where they spend their time and money, and they expect customer service to be a top priority for companies. Businesses need to treat them well during every part of their customer journey, from awareness to post-purchase.
As the owner of a small retail business, you must pay attention to customers’ expectations, or basic needs, for making purchases. Your company needs to meet these expectations, also known as purchase drivers, to best appeal to customers.
In a survey, consumers selected their top three drivers for their purchase decisions. The results included:
63 per cent of customers make a purchase based on the value for the money.
40 per cent of customers buy due to the ease of buying.
38 per cent of customers decide to buy because they trust the brand.
33 to 38 per cent of customers convert because of the “customer experience, quality, or range.”
Customer service encompasses these drivers. Companies need to provide a valuable product that customers can purchase easily, and they must offer good customer and product experiences.
Every business must satisfy general customer service needs. For instance, you need to listen with empathy, know the customer’s needs, go the extra mile, and more. Small retail businesses have even more work to do in order to offer leads and customers excellent service.
The retail space has a unique combination of customer service needs revolving around:
Product quality and availability
Returns and exchanges
Online and offline sales management
While retailers have an almost unlimited number of ways to offer customer service to their customers, the following 12 ways can help you get started.
To offer top-notch customer service throughout the customer journey, consider the following methods.
Customer service starts at the very beginning of your relationship with a customer. Target online advertising, from banner ads to social media ads and beyond, to 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 for the lead.
Your goal is to guide customers’ expectations and ensure they get what they expect. Customers want to trust they’re purchasing what they want or need. Include precise product descriptions, sizing specifications, product dimensions, color-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:
They reduce returns.
They reduce confusion.
They increase customer trust.
Both online and in a physical retail location, 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.
Create and consistently update an 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.
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 cold weather, it should give the tent’s temperature rating. That way, customers will know if they can take the tent to Banff in the winter.
Many customers appreciate 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.
Whether via SMS messaging or an email drip campaign, keep customers posted on their orders. 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.
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.
While packaging is important, excessive packaging is often unnecessary and pricey. Plus, environmentally conscious consumers appreciate when brands use recyclable materials. In fact, 45 per cent 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.
Some companies automatically treat some customers as VIPs after they make a certain number of purchases or when they’ve achieved a specific customer lifetime value. Whether you offer a voluntary loyalty program or automatically sort customers into loyalty levels, reward your best customers in ways that benefit them: with samples, gifts, special sales, free shipping, and more.
Part of customer service involves giving back. You could help your community in various ways. Your company could:
Sponsor the uniforms for a local kids’ sports team
Give 10 per cent 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 organizations or people who will benefit from them
Many customers want to know that the businesses they frequent make their communities and world better. In fact, 72 per cent of consumers say the reason they want to buy from local suppliers is to support their local communities.
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 realize 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.
For successful retailers, customer service encompasses more than post-purchase interactions with customers. It’s about every way you provide services or interact with your customers. Consider the above methods for providing customer service for your retail store. No matter what you choose to do, your customers will appreciate your efforts to serve them well.