In the realm of retail, where competition is fierce and consumer choices abound, one factor stands out as a game-changer: excellent customer service. Retail customer service has the power to forge lasting impressions that can either propel a business to success or condemn it to obscurity. Ahead, learn what great retail customer service looks like, plus tips for improving your own.
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What is retail customer service?
Retail customer service is the support and assistance provided to customers in a retail setting. It involves interactions between sales staff or customer service representatives and shoppers. This action can happen before, during, or after a purchase.
The retail customer service process can include addressing customer inquiries, resolving issues, providing product information, and ensuring a positive shopping experience. It applies to both online and offline channels, including phone calls, emails, live chats, social media, website, and in-person interactions in brick-and-mortar stores. Retail customer service aims to improve customer experiences and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Why you should prioritize customer service
Acquiring loyal customers is oftentimes crucial for company success. Frequent customers spend more and are more likely to advocate for your brand and recommend it to others through word of mouth and online reviews, which can significantly impact your brand’s reputation, attract new customers, and increase profits and revenue.
But how do you turn your existing customers into loyal customers? Customer service may be the key. Businesses that provide good customer service have higher customer satisfaction rates, and satisfied customers become loyal customers. In fact, the 2022 Gladly’s Customer Expectations Report found that 32% of customers fall in love with a brand because of great service, and 42% of customers stop buying from a brand after just two poor customer service experiences. Not only that, a 2022 Forbes leadership article reported that 58% of customers will pay more for excellent service.
What does good customer service look like?
Whether your business’s retail team interacts with retail customers at a brick-and-mortar store or an online store, they should be able to provide excellent customer service. Below are key elements of good customer service.
Provide quick responses to inquiries, efficient checkout experiences, and fast support when customers require help. Appropriate response and resolution times vary depending on the platform, your team’s bandwidth, and the request itself. Address in-person interactions, phone calls, and live chats immediately (at least during open hours), as customers expect timely resolutions. It’s best to respond to emails within 24 hours, and answer social media requisitions within a few hours.
Train sales staff and customer service reps so they are knowledgeable about products, services, company goals, and policies. They should be able to effectively communicate that knowledge about your retail business to customers in a way that is helpful, clear, and improves customer satisfaction.
Customer service reps that greet customers with a warm and friendly attitude and maintain a polite demeanor throughout each interaction build a rapport with shoppers that increases customer satisfaction. This is especially important in person, where a face-to-face interaction creates a greater opportunity for engagement. However, online support staff should also make an effort to convey a warm tone in virtual interactions and on phone or video calls.
Retail customer service representatives who exhibit professionalism can enhance the overall customer service experience—and in turn, strengthen your customer lifetime value. Reps should strive to maintain a polite and respectful demeanor, use appropriate language, and adhere to company customer services standards and protocols.
Patience is crucial for customer service reps, as it allows them to effectively handle challenging situations. By remaining calm and composed, reps can empathize with frustrated customers, actively listen to customer complaints, and provide appropriate solutions. Patient reps avoid rushing or interrupting customers, ensuring thorough understanding and resolution. Their patience promotes positive experiences, diffuses tension, and fosters customer satisfaction.
Incorporate problem-solving skills into your customer service training. Empower your customer service associates to resolve issues promptly and effectively, whether it involves addressing product defects, handling returns or exchanges, or finding creative solutions to other customer service needs.
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Retail customer service best practices
Many good customer service practices are applicable across channels. However, businesses can emphasize certain customer service tips as part of their service strategy to ensure customers have the best shopping experience possible throughout the customer journey.
Retail storefront best practices
One great benefit of working with customers at a brick-and-mortar store is the face-to-face interaction. Take advantage of it with these three tips:
- Listen. Without notes to refer back to or the paper trail most online interactions leave, it’s especially important that in-store customer service reps are empathetic and active listeners. The better you can understand a customer, the easier it is to assist them.
- Be adaptable. In an in-person setting, sales staff need to be ready to address any customer concerns and questions that arise and quickly propose a solution. For instance, while online customer service reps may specialize in specific queries, such as sales or refunds, employees at brick-and-mortar stores should be all-around knowledgeable and empowered—such as returning online sales in store, conducting price adjustments, and answering questions about special promos.
- Make a human connection. In-person interactions give you the opportunity to connect on a human level. Delight customers with friendly conversation, remember your regulars, and make everyone feel valued.
Ecommerce best practices
Many customers love the ease of shopping online. Lean into that by making the experience as efficient as possible, without losing the personal touch. Consider the following:
- Create a workflow. Customers expect their concerns to be addressed quickly, especially when shopping online. Create an efficient workflow by using ecommerce automation tools and setting up a system where multiple customer queries can be sorted by type and urgency.
- Offer self-service options. Unlike customers in a retail store, many online shoppers may want to avoid one-on-one interactions with a customer service rep, preferring to resolve issues on their own when possible. Give them the opportunity to do so with self-service options, which can include a simple FAQs page or an automated chatbot that can assist with returns or answer questions about products.
- Use customer data. You can create a more personalized retail customer experience by using customer data to create customer profiles, then analyze and predict customer interests and actions, such as browsing and purchase history. From there, use a centralized data system that collects and stores information, such as purchase history and demographics, across multiple platforms so it’s readily accessible by all customer service reps.
Omnichannel best practices
Some customer service principles apply across platforms. Here, a few tips to keep in mind throughout the customer journey:
- Train employees. Skilled sales staff and customer service representatives are key for delivering excellent customer service. But you can’t expect your employees to know your brand’s products, policies, and goals—or the best way to interact with customers—without training them. Invest in your team, so they’re empowered to address customer needs.
- Aim for consistency. Your loyal customers will likely interact with your business across multiple touchpoints, so aim to give them a consistent experience every time. Ensure that the tone, voice, and style of communication are aligned across channels to create a unified brand image. (Pro tip: You can use Shopify’s POS both online and in-store for a consistent and integrated checkout experience.)
- Listen to customer feedback. No matter the platform, embrace a customer-first approach to your business. Make a point of following up with prior customers who have made recent purchases, or those who have abandoned their carts. This can help you identify pain points, areas of improvement, and customer preferences. Consider using surveys, social media monitoring, and customer reviews to gauge customer satisfaction levels. You can use this data to make adjustments and improve customer experiences.
- Adopt an omnichannel strategy. If your brand includes an offline and online presence, or you’re planning to expand to a physical store, adopting a strategy that seamlessly integrates channels enables you to provide a cohesive brand experience, regardless of touchpoint.
Importantly, understand that many best practices are not siloed, so there are opportunities to leverage in more than one area of your business. For example, workflow automation is often used for the fulfillment and returns process in ecommerce stores. However, retailers are also using such technology in their physical locations to help with tasks such as automated self-service.
Retail customer service FAQ
What skills are required for customer service retail?
Retail customer service representatives should embody key skills such as being prompt, knowledgeable, professional, patient, friendly, and problem-solvers.
What are the responsibilities of retail customer service?
The customer service staff is responsible for customer satisfaction, which ultimately helps improve customer retention. They should provide an excellent customer experience by addressing customer complaints and questions timely and effectively.
What role does employee training play in delivering excellent customer service in retail?
Training should teach employees about your business’s products, goals, and policies, as well as offer advice for interacting with customers. This kind of knowledge empowers sales staff and customer service reps to deliver excellent customer service.