The Social Age has changed the way many consumers shop, and compare prices. Competition is heightening, and companies need to step up their game in order to compete. Now more than ever the service a customer receives in a store will determine whether they will walk through your doors. Online competitors like Amazon are dominating and changing the way customers shop.
In comes the concept of showrooming:
“Showrooming is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store or other offline setting, and then buying it online, sometimes at a lower price”
A company now doesn’t only have other brick and mortar retailers to compete with, but online competitors as well. Showrooming has gained traction over the past five to ten years, changing the industry forever. With many people carrying their smartphones with them, they have the tools they need to compare prices at their fingertips.
Now customers aren’t using your company to buy your product, but using your store to see their desired item in person before making their purchase online. No longer does the customer have to deal with in person interactions, when they can just hop on their phone, compare prices, and purchase. With this change in technology and consumer buying behavior comes many company policy changes. Numerous companies have changed policies and introduced “price matching” in order to restore their customer loyalty.
Price matching is just one of many ways companies can combat showrooming. Here are some other strategies that companies can use that Rhonda Abrams listed in her article for USA Today:
- Offer benefits
- Hold events
- Create a membership program
- Engage with customers on social media
- Provide great service
Providing great service is more important than ever. If a customer has a negative experience in your store, then they are much more likely to turn to online retailers. Providing an excellent customer experience is what will keep a customer loyal, and offering things like memberships, price matching, and events will keep your customers coming back for more.
How likely are you to use the showrooming technique? What kinds of items are you more likely to compare prices on; electronics, clothing, home goods? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Photo: Showrooming Cartoon
Photo: Price Match Guarantee
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Holidays are always a reason for many consumers to head out to stores or restaurants to find exactly what they need for their celebration. With this boost in customer traffic, stores should be prepared in advance to create the optimal customer experience. Not preparing for this extra traffic will only lead to poor results, and unhappy consumers. With the holidays in mind I want to share some staggering facts about customer service.
In “75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes, & Statistics,” HelpScout lists some crucial statistics pertaining to this topic. Here are just a few of the statistics they present in their article:
- 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction because of a poor service experience.
- It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
- News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as a positive experience.
- It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.
- 3 in 5 Americans would try a new brand or company for a better experience.
If these statistics surprise you, they should! The impact of a negative customer experience is proven to be detrimental for a company. Companies have to put in extra time, effort, and money to gain new customers. So optimizing your customers’ experience is key. HelpScout discusses some of the positive impacts for a company who has exceeded the customers’ expectations:
- On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
- There is a 60-70% probability of selling to an existing happy customer.
- 78% of happy customers attribute this to competent customer service representatives.
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
- Customers overwhelmingly show appreciation for great service by purchasing your products.
Companies can acquire the benefits of taking the time to ensure they are providing the best customer experience possible. So why not take that extra time to ensure this experience is exceeded on holidays. Retail Customer Experience discussed some statistics showing that this St. Patrick’s Day, spending will break records. According to the National Retail Federation’s St. Patrick’s Day survey, this years shopping will amount to $5.3 billion for companies, which is an increase from $4.4 billion in 2016. This is huge, not to mention for many students and families this is the kick off to spring break. Companies who utilize holidays like today will benefit from the time and effort they put into creating a memorable moment for their guests.
Are you planning on heading to your nearest store to pick up some St. Patrick’s Day gear? How about heading to the local restaurant or bar for some festivities? To what degree will the customer service you receive affect your experience? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Everyone knows that every retailer has a return policy, and these policies change from store to store. The days of 30 day returns with a receipt are over, with many companies giving you up to a year to return an item for any reason. These amazing return policies not only grow sales, but also increase customer loyalty. There are many retailers that are dominating “Top 10” lists, and a few of these companies stood out. Here are some of the retailers known for their great return policies:
- Nordstrom: Being one of the initial companies to create lenient return policies, they have set the standard for the industry and many companies are following. Their policy on returning items with or without a receipt has set them apart by significantly increasing the customer’s satisfaction.
- L.L.Bean: Another dominating company in the return policy spectrum, they have a lifetime guarantee on their items. The company states, “we make pieces that last,” and if you are not satisfied don’t worry just return your item (even if it has been a few years).
- Athleta: The sportswear industry is booming, but also is sometimes difficult to find the right size, especially when purchasing online. Not to worry with Athleta’s “Give-it-a-workout-guarantee” you can buy and try out the product, and if it doesn’t work for you just return it.
- Kohl’s: “Your satisfaction is our priority” is what this company stands by. With extended holiday return policies, no receipt returns, gift purchase returns, and others they are making it easy for their customer to return any item.
- Target: Another company known for great customer service, they have slightly different policies depending on the item. However, again they support the no receipt return policy like many others. They also have extended policies for their Target Owned Brands as well as for REDcard holders.
These are just a few of the company’s with amazing return policies, leading the industry for customer experience. Consumers are likely to be more loyal to brands that understand what the customer needs. Building brand loyalty starts with increasing customer satisfaction, and following these companies with their open return policies is a good place to start.
However, not all companies are keeping up with the industry standard. Some companies seem to continuously be updating their policies, while not necessarily communicating it to their customers effectively. This can lead directly to a negative customer experience. With so many companies promoting great return policies, other companies should follow their lead to increase their customer satisfaction.
Policies differ from store to store, and can be very detailed. Next time you are online surfing the internet for your next outfit, check out their return policies. Does your favorite company hold up to the five companies listed above? Check it out and you may also find extra deals you did not know your favorite company offered!
Photo: Return Policy
Providing an amazing customer experience is the goal for many companies. Empowering employees to make the right decisions regarding this matter is also crucial. However, everyone can remember a time they were dissatisfied with their experience and were probably more likely to fill out that survey on the bottom of your receipt. I admit I have done it as well. Consumers are much more likely to voice their opinion when they have a poor experience, versus when their experience is amazing.
The Social Age plays into this idea by making it extremely easy for a customer to voice their opinion on many different social media platforms including; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and many more. Rebecca Grant writes about some staggering statistics regarding social media retaliation in her article. Here is a section from her article:
“Turns out 85 percent of consumers will retaliate against a company if their customer service needs are not met. 49 percent of all consumers will stop doing business with that company, and 18-34 year olds are three times as likely to vent their frustrations on social media.” (Grant)
I am a millennial currently living in the Social Age, and working in customer service on and off throughout college I completely agree with her statement. With the ease and accessibility of social media platforms it is extremely easy to go onto your smartphone’s app and write a bad review if you were less than satisfied with your experience. Social media also allows the reach of a customer’s opinion to go much farther. In “How Social Media Has Changed The Customer Experience Forever,” Ross Beard states that this reach has increased by 25 times.
There are customers who will not be satisfied regardless of what the company does. However, many times a customer just wants to feel that their complaint was heard. Daniel Newman lists some great steps in order to achieve this in his article, “Social Media Is No Longer A Marketing Channel, It’s A Customer Experience Channel.” Here is a quick list of some of his recommendations:
With the many social media outlets available to customers it is essential to allow them to feel heard and following up is crucial in the Social Age. The quicker response the customer receives the more likely they are to not head to social media to blast your company in a negative way. This is a new challenge for many companies going forward with more people with access to smartphones and social media platforms.
Are you more likely to fill out a survey if you are happy or angry? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Photo: Like, Dislike
Everyone has heard the phrase “The Customer is Always Right.” Whether you have been the employee or the customer you have dealt with this. However, over time the meaning behind this has changed, especially in the Social Age. Many companies have used this motto as a way to make sales and as a line of defense against poor survey results. The impact on the store’s reputation of being customer centric is in part due to these surveys and also gaining competitive advantage in the market.
However, is the customer actually always right? An article by Julie Forman discusses this question and expands on, “The Dark Side of “The Customer is Always Right”.” If a company focuses on this practice too heavily then you can get into a bad strategy of the customer ultimately deciding your business practices for you. If the customer comes in knowing that if they complain enough then the price will be dropped, they will never expect to pay full price on anything. Ultimately this will put a dent in the amount of profits your company will earn.
Jayson DeMers in his article, “No, The Customer Is Not Always Right,” brings up another great point. If a company continually focuses on the customer always being right, then you set employees up for a battle against the customer. If an employee has to please every customer demand then they will continually feel beat down. This lowers the employee morale in your company, which in turn affects the overall experience for your customer. If you missed it my previous post on morale discusses these implications.
Another great article, “3 Reasons Why the Customer Is Always Right… Is Wrong,” by Bubba Page makes a great point that the “customer is not an expert.” When a customer comes into your store they may think they know more about your policies and procedures, but in reality they do not necessarily. Your employees are trained on all policies, and new rollouts, which the customer may not be aware of. Empower your employees to be able to make a decision in that moment, even if it means not allowing the customer to be right. Yes, some complaints are absolutely valid, but empowering your employees allows them to make a decision where they are the expert. Making a great moment for a guest does not mean giving away everything in your store at a discount.
Do you think the customer is always right? This can be a controversial topic. Let me know your thoughts on this by leaving a comment!
Increasing customer satisfaction is a key element for many companies. Making sure your customer walks away with a great experience many times comes down to their interaction with the employees. If employees are unhappy then most likely they will not be engaged with creating a great customer experience. Increasing employee morale will lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Not only does increasing employee morale help with customer engagement, but also leads to lower levels of turnover and more loyalty within your company. A happy and engaged employee is more willing to come to work with a positive customer service attitude, versus the employee who is there and counting down the minutes until they can clock out. If an employee has this attitude, you can guarantee they are not going to go above and beyond for a customer’s request.
Increasing employee morale comes in many different forms. For many companies just properly training your employees can be great start. In “High Employee Morale = High Customer Satisfaction,” Meredith Estepon Thu lists some great ideas. Some of these include; empowerment, rewards, and leading by example. Leading by example is crucial to success. If the management team in a company is not showing their employees how to properly engage with a customer, then how can they expect their employees to know what is expected.
Having a strong focus on the customer experience is many times one of the company’s key strategies. However, this sometimes can come at the employees’ expense. In “How Employee Morale Impacts Customer Satisfaction,” Michel Miller states that, “there is a motto that the customer comes first.” This is a very important strategy for the management team, but if you are not empowering your employees and making them feel valued with recognition, they will not fulfill the companies goals in making this happen. Employees are the front line when it comes to customer satisfaction, and if you want your customer to be satisfied, then you should make sure your employee is satisfied as well.
How likely would you be to return to a store if your first few trips consisted of negative interactions with the employees? Let me know how an employee can impact your overall experience by leaving a comment!
Photo: I Love My Job
Companies are utilizing all different forms of technology and social media in the quest to increase the customer experience. However, one of the main lines of defense when it comes to consumer satisfaction is still the interaction between the customer and the employee. These face to face interactions are essential in maintaining an authentic customer experience. Technology, websites, and social media are all amazing ways to innovate the field of customer service, but making sure employees are properly trained and empowered is still a solid foundation.
Employees are often the only point of contact for a customer while they are shopping. If the customer has a negative interaction with this employee they are more likely to write a poor review, which means lowering the customer experience. Not only is it essential for employees to be present, but also friendly and well informed. Companies need to let their employees have a certain degree of power, to create a positive experience for the customer.
To some extent this all boils down to employee empowerment. When a company empowers their employee to make decisions pertaining to their position, this is one step closer to ensuring the customer has a great experience. Customers would like a quick answer, and empowerment is the way to achieve this. In “8 Tips for Empowering Employees,” Kevin Daum lists great recommendations for encouraging empowerment among employees. His list includes ideas about communication, independence, and effort.
Empowerment comes in many forms, including access to technology. The Social Age has opened communication and increased the amount of information available to customers and employees. “5 Essentials for Successful Retail Employee Empowerment,” by Cheryl Johnson explores some of these ideas. Allowing your employee access to technology, whether that is a company provided device or smartphone use, can increase the employee’s access to the requested information. This also goes hand in hand with making your customer aware of your mobile apps or website. If an employee can share this information on the spot the consumer will be more satisfied.
How would you feel about an employee taking out their smartphone to answer your question about a products location or availability? Let me know your thoughts on this by leaving a comment!