Give Your Customers Amazing Customer Service or Say Goodbye

7/1/2014
It's easy to attract new customers, but if you then leave them disappointed due to poorly performing technology, be that online or in store, you'll soon have them searching elsewhere.

According to RetailCustomerExperience and Cradlepoint, every minute of POS downtime costs a retailer $4,700 and one in three customers will abandon a queue if they have to wait more than five minutes. Even more alarming, 50 percent of customers will avoid or abandon a retailer in the future if they were kept waiting more than those crucial five minutes. So what can fashion retailers do to keep customer service at an all time high?

Alan Watson, managing director of Barron McCann, reveals his thoughts.

Having spent the past three decades working with large and smaller retailers, I've witnessed the many peaks and troughs that are so common to this sector.  I've also seen the impact these have had on the way the media has portrayed the state of the retail scene and I think that more often than not, the hysteria and panic created by scare stories about the "death of the high street" have not been entirely representative of the experiences of many fashion retailers.

I appreciate that these stories are based on actual figures and so whilst they do provide an indication of the overall health of the sector, I do think they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is always so much focus on performance compared to previous years, but fashion retailers know better than anyone how they are performing in store or online. I know from our work with large and small retailers that customer service and satisfaction are often of more importance to their overall performance than foot traffic or unit sales, which fluctuate all the time.

But how often do we hear about other measures like customer satisfaction? Rather than worrying whether one retailer has outperformed another this week or whether this time last year sales were higher, what is more important is that customer satisfaction has remained constant and ideally, has actually improved. A rise in customer satisfaction is in my opinion, a much clearer indicator of how a retailer is performing than a snapshot of sales at a particular moment in time.

So as a fashion retailer, how do you ensure that you keep hold of your customers year after year, even when the competition is hitting them hard with discounts and promotions? Do you really understand your customer needs and motivations? Is your technology helping or hindering your service levels? And what impact is this having on your customers?

Understand how they buy
Do you really know how your customers are choosing to buy from you? A new report from Juniper Research has found that the value of global payments via mobile devices will reach around $507 billion this year, a rise of nearly 40 percent year-on-year.?The report, Mobile Payment Strategies: Remote, Contactless & Money Transfer 2014-2018, found that growth would continue to be driven by purchases of physical goods via mobile devices. It revealed that the average transaction sizes over tablets are already exceeding those via desktop PCs in many markets. It also observed that while spend via smartphones was increasing sharply, their primary function in retail was as search and discovery devices, with the final purchase being made on the tablet.?

Don't make important decisions purely on a "me, too" basis
Don't implement new technology or systems simply because your competitors have done so but because they serve a real need for your customers and will enhance their shopping experience.

If you aren't sure what you need, find a supplier who will actively advise and support you in coming to the right decision for your business. Often, an independent specialist is better than dealing directly with a vendor as they won't be biased to a particular brand or solution. Constantly review your customer journey to ensure you are able to maintain your service levels and reduce the likelihood of a negative customer experience. 

This is a time for ensuring that you deliver a service that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of your customers.  High levels of customer service, consistent EPOS performance and streamlined multichannel experiences are the order of the day. As a fashion retailer, it's not as much about staying ahead of the game as it is about ensuring you remain a key player in today's game.


Alan Watson is managing director of Barron McCann, an independent IT service provider, specialising in secure installation and support of distributed IT systems.
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