Consumers don’t make retailers’ lives easy; they can be fickle, inconsistent with their buying habits and often operate on a ‘one strike and you’re out’ mentality, before shopping elsewhere. For some time now, retailers have been keen to forge more personal relationships with their customers in a bid to better understand their individual needs and expectations, so that they can closer align offerings to maintain brand loyalty, and repeat custom.

The industry, in response to this need, has seen a surge in Chief Customer Officers and Customer Experience Directors being appointed to ensure that the customer remains the focal point of strategy and process decisions. Because, ultimately, with no happy customers, there will be no business.

But adopting a customer-centric business isn’t as simple as recognising who your customers are. For it to work, companies will need to become far more agile and offer a more personal service to their shoppers. For example, if dwell time is known to be minimal in stores, indicating that shoppers want quick and convenient levels of service, rather than browse, then an efficient, frictionless mobile POS system can enable queue busting so shoppers can leisurely complete transactions quickly, without long wait times that may lead to basket abandonment.

In addition, retailers need to utilise data available to understand aspects, such as their customers’ previous shopping history at each potential touch point – be it in-store, online or via a customer service phone call – and then use these insights to inform a customised service for that individual going forwards. This may be in the form of in-store staff being able to recommend complimentary items, based on past purchases when using in-store technology devices, or perhaps, rewarding a customer’s loyalty with an ‘on the spot’ promotion.

This level of customer service delivery is something that consumers have been both wanted and expected for a while now. To delve into exactly what consumers want, we surveyed 1,000 UK shoppers to find out their current attitudes towards customer service levels and where they felt service delivery can be improved.

Steve Powell, Director of Sales – EMEA at PCMS

The research found that the most popular customer service channels for queries were a website’s FAQs section (56%), followed by ‘asking staff in-store’ (51%), then ‘emailing the contact centre’ (34%). This highlights how consumers need – and demand – access to information via various channels, depending on the particular stage of their purchase journey they are at. Enabling customers to quickly and easily find answers to common queries online via a FAQs page, for example, can free up store staff to dedicate more focus on helping those customers with more complex queries or showcasing supplementary products to drive conversions in-store. 

The findings also showed that when customers were looking to solve a specific problem, consumers were more comfortable ‘asking in-store staff’ (58%), followed by ‘emailing the contact centre’ (38%), and then ‘telephoning the contact centre’ (30%). This stresses the point that staff need to be equipped to answer any issues that customers may approach them with, at any time. Information, such as product availability, also needs to be accessible across all channels, to ensure that queries can be solved and answered immediately and consistently, allowing the shopper to continue their purchasing journey uninterrupted.

To maintain high levels of customer experience, retailers need to recognise exactly how their shoppers want to communicate with them and ensure that those options are not only provided, but are optimised for maximum satisfaction. Getting this right is crucial; if customers feel let down by the level of service offered, they are unlikely to return.

The impact of making the wrong interaction with a customer at any point in their journey could be serious – whether it’s that their email goes unanswered, they can’t get through to the customer service line or the in-store staff can’t help them. Investment in ensuring that customer service and experience is paramount will pay off as customer loyalty and advocacy strengthens and profits soar.