Let’s admit it—
Getting someone to buy from you is way harder than making them pop into your store to see what you’re offering.
So, how do you get people to shop around?
Retail customer service is the name of the game. And it’s true for both brick-and-mortar as well as online stores.
And you’re about to learn how this works.
In this article:
- What is retail customer service?
- Examples of good & bad customer service
- A list of desirable skills
- Tips on how to provide excellent service
- What to look out for in the future
Have a look at some other articles if retail customer service is not exactly what you were looking for:
The art of retailing: customer service
So what is retail customer service?
Retail customer service is the help and assistance provided to a shopper in a store. It’s the one-on-one that the assistant has with the customer that adds to the overall shopping experience. And when done right, retail customer service will lead to happier and more satisfied shoppers.
As a retailer, you can provide customer service in various ways. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can ensure top-quality person-to-person interactions. Additionally, you can provide call center assistance or support through your website.
Whichever way you choose, ensure that the level of service you provide is consistent and your teams meet the customers’ needs.
Nowadays, a lot of the process is automated, so if you have a retail business online, make sure to look into chatbots and live chat to implement into your website. Your customers will get support quickly and your representatives’ will gain time to handle more complex issues.
The importance of customer service in retail
Customer service in the retail business matters because your profit depends on how much your clients spend with you. And having a great product just isn’t enough anymore.
The overall customer shopping experience needs to be on point if you want your brand to succeed.
Let’s look at the numbers:
- Customer service affects the choice of brand for 96% of shoppers.
- If you provide a positive experience, 91% of customers will be more likely to make a repeat purchase with you.
- You can even get more money out of good customer service. A study shows that 86% of consumers would pay more for a better experience.
- Consumers may come to your store for one thing and leave empty-handed, or they can leave with an additional item on top of their intended purchase. With good customer service in retail, about 86% of clients will buy more.
- But if you don’t get it right and provide a bad customer experience, 96% of consumers will leave you.
Find out more on why customer service is important for your business.
Three examples of good customer service in retail
Good customer service in retail refers to meeting consumers’ needs and expectations.
Easier said than done?
Once you see several examples of what excellent retail customer service looks like, you’ll have a solid starting point.
Appliance store in the U.S.
The first example comes from an appliance store representative who went the extra mile to delight their customer:
A man on Reddit describes how a representative saved him $700 by taking him to the back of the store to show almost exactly the same product he was originally looking at.
Why “almost the same?”
Well, there were two differences. Production year and the price. As it turned out, the previous year’s model offered similar functionalities for $700 less.
The man bought the cheaper stove and also purchased a TV, tablet, and an entertainment center.
Good retail service pays off!
If you put the customer first, the sales will follow. That’s the point of exceptional customer service in retail.
Another example is the clothing retailer eShakti. They presented the best retail customer service by saving the day and supporting their buyer:
A girl shared her story from the time she found the perfect item of clothing for her brother’s wedding, but when she decided to buy it, it had gone out of stock.
She contacted the brand and “poured her heart out” in an email explaining her situation.
In response, she got a note saying that the customer service representative who read her email contacted the factory overseas, and they made the clothing item to her exact measurements.
She got the shipping free of charge, and the package arrived just in time for her brother’s wedding.
Solve the customer issues, ensure they reach customer success, and they will become your loyal customers. They will advocate and stay with you.
It might not take much on your side, but the effects of these actions make your customers feel special and appreciated.
The last example comes from a FedEx customer service representative who spent some extra time educating the client.
A man shared his story about a time when he contacted FedEx to update his delivery options.
He expected a quick call, getting his query solved, and moving on.
But a pleasant surprise was ahead for him.
The representative took the time to guide the client through different options, discounts, and procedures. The man learned what the rep could do for him and what he could do himself.
The man left the conversation happy and appreciative with the knowledge he could use for future orders.
All despite the fact he had to stay about 15 minutes on hold to get through.
As you can see, it’s the small gestures that make all the difference.
Ensure your customer service team listens and cares about your customer’s issues and experiences. Do it right, and you’ll get extra sales and returning clients in no time.
If you’re wondering how to train your representatives so they do it right, then scroll to the section on employee training right away.
Okay, let’s look at what bad customer service looks like in retail.
Three bad customer service examples in retail
Now on the flip side—
The bad retail customer service examples below illustrate what you need to avoid.
The first example of bad customer service in retail comes from Walmart employees who tried to keep the sales high instead of ensuring customer satisfaction.
Safe to say, they failed at both.
A man shared his story when Walmart employees cracked his new TV, claimed it was okay, and then refused to replace the product when he complained.
After over an hour of arguing, the client demanded to see the security footage from the time one of Walmart’s employees dropped his TV.
That’s when the manager changed his tune.
The shopper got the replacement, but he could hear the employees insulting him as he was leaving the store.
How do you think that client felt? Probably very angry and frustrated.
Do you think they went back to that store? No, we don’t think they did either.
The retailer lost a shopper and any future profit he might have spent with them. All because of the bad customer service in the retail store.
Another example of bad customer service is this company that doesn’t keep a record of their customers and their issues.
This causes the shoppers to repeat themselves every time they speak to a different representative.
Having to repeat the information multiple times is the most frustrating aspect of poor customer service for 21% of consumers.
But you can prevent that.
Install a system at your store to keep client’s information for whenever they contact you.
The last bad retail customer service example we’ll mention here is trying to educate your clients in the wrong way.
Sephora’s representative destroyed this woman’s self-esteem during her visit to the store.
The woman needed some advice, but when she went into the store, the assistant called out all of her flaws and told her she “must feel so ugly.”
So was the client. She wanted to treat herself but ended up walking out of the store with tears in her eyes.
Don’t let your employees ever talk down and make your customer feel poorly. They will leave your store and never come back.
What’s more, incidents like this might cost your company its reputation, and you don’t want that to happen.
But what if the customer behaves in a rude or difficult manner?
Some customer service agents say that a genuine smile and kindness are enough to turn the situation around.
So, stay cheerful, and don’t let them ruin your day!
Part of customer service in retail is not taking what consumers say personally. You are not the reason they are frustrated and therefore come out rude. But, you have a great opportunity to brighten up their day and help out with their issue.
Other retail customer service reps say that confronting the shopper helped them handle the situation.
If they make you uncomfortable, let them know.
Often, people’s emotions get the better of them, and they might not realize that they’re being unpleasant.
If that doesn’t help, let your colleagues or manager know about what’s happening. They’ll always help you out.
Whatever you do, don’t lose your temper with the client.
Getting angry won’t help the situation and is likely to escalate it. You don’t want to have a shouting match in the middle of the store, do you? Then keep your cool and don’t take the buyer’s words personally.
Find out more about angry customers and how to handle them.
Retail customer service: skills you need to nail it
Here’s the thing—
There are some customer service skills that are important in any customer service job, and there are skills specific to retail work.
Starting from the general, ending on more specific, let’s look at skills your employees need to be successful in a customer service job.
This skill is essential in any job that involves communication with others. Whether it’s clients or coworkers, your employees need to be able to actively listen and speak clearly. They have to understand the consumer’s issue and communicate a solution in an easy-to-understand way.
It’s pretty straightforward.
If you can’t talk to people effectively, how would you be able to help them? You wouldn’t.
So make sure your customer service associates have good communication skills and use them to their best advantage.
In addition to these skills, having a robust VoIP call center can greatly enhance communication with customers and provide efficient support.
Learn 14 ways to improve your communication skills from this article.
2. Product knowledge
Who likes to hear “I don’t know” as the answer to their questions?
So be sure that it is never the answer your employees give to a shopper’s inquiry. Train your employees and give them the materials they can refer to if they need a quick check.
Provide product training and an internal knowledge base. These are the best options to ensure your customer service associates know the products and services you provide inside and out.
Don’t you hate it when you have a complaint about a company’s product, but their customer service simply doesn’t seem to care?
You’re not alone.
People seek empathy when they’re unhappy with the business. They want to know that they are being listened to and understood.
So make sure the people you’re employing have empathetic skills and care about your clients. This skill is the best way for you to ensure a good relationship with shoppers.
Discover how to be more empathetic with this article.
4. Basic math and money handling skills
Here’s the deal:
Your employees don’t need to be math geniuses.
What they do need is the ability to calculate how much a product will cost after you apply the discount. The client is at the point of sale (POS), and you want to help them go that extra step and complete the transaction.
With modern technology, your cash register can probably tell your store assistant results to different equations. But they need to know how to find that answer. That’s all.
Make sure all your staff members can work the cash register and handle cash.
In case of an emergency, you don’t want to have to close your store because the only people trained in cash handling are on sick leave.
5. Attention to detail
This skill will help your employees keep the store organized and your products visually appealing.
Attention to detail is more important in retail stores’ customer service than other types. That’s because your displays need to attract shoppers and your products need to be easy to find on the shelves.
When your store is appealing to the eye, more people will come in. This gives your customer service reps a chance to engage customers and create a relationship with them.
Attention to detail is the first and longest-lasting step in gaining a buyer in a brick-and-mortar store.
Look into some other customer service skills everyone needs.
Five retailing customer service tips
How to provide excellent customer service in retail?
Train your employees, listen to your customers, and make the communication with buyers seamless.
Do you think you got those checked? Let’s learn how to improve customer service in retail one by one.
Train your customer service associates
Training should be a vital part of the employee onboarding process.
So, don’t let your company lose clients because of a neglected product and business training.
Provide product training, so your brand representatives know how to help with various problems shoppers may encounter.
Give your employees customer service training to ensure their interactions with clients are up to your company standards. This would include handling different types of customers, the company policies, and a little background of the company and its values.
Treat Customers as the ‘Boss.’ Instill a new perspective in your employees: they are the president of a professional services firm. They are self-employed. You are simply their first and most valuable client. The ability of an employee to boost customer satisfaction is linked to his or her performance in his or her organization.
Some of the courses on retail customer service you might want to consider include:
- LinkedIn Retail Customer Service
- The University of Pennsylvania Introduction to Marketing
- Alison Diploma in Retail Management
Be proactive in your customer service
Don’t just stick to the service you give at the POS. Make sure you reach out, keep your consumers informed, and predict future issues to prevent them from happening.
Nearly 70% of shoppers have a more favorable view of retailers that offer proactive customer service. So, even if you fall short of their expectations, your clients are more likely to forgive you after you actively reached out to them in the past.
If you’re unsure what proactive customer service is, check out our article on what proactive customer service is.
Personalize the customer experience
You might feel like the personalization of experience for each client is time and money-consuming. It takes a lot of effort, and you might not see it as something worth doing.
But here’s the kicker:
You can even sell products that the client initially wasn’t going to go for. In fact, 49% of consumers purchased a product they didn’t initially intend to after a personalized recommendation.
So yes, it is worth the effort.
It helps you differentiate yourself from the competition and increases your chances of gaining customer loyalty. Even a small detail, a thank you for your order note with their name, or a customized recommendation can make a person feel special.
Check out this article if you want to know a little more about personalizing the customer experience.
Provide easy access to information for your customers and staff
Create an omnichannel presence of your brand to your shoppers. Whether they are browsing your website, looking through social media, or want to call you about a product failure.
You need to be present for them wherever they are.
Each customer is different and has their own preferences on the channel they would like to find you. But no matter where they are looking, your employees need to present excellent product knowledge and service.
A knowledge base and product training for your employees is useful in providing information to your clients.
Make sure your employees know your products and services inside out. Also, give them a platform for the times when they need to double-check some facts.
Provide a self-service portal for your clients. About 74% of buyers use them, and they lift some weight off your representatives—a win-win situation.
Use chatbots and live chat
If you run an eCommerce website, you’ll benefit from implementing a chatbot on it.
Chatbots are effective in solving shopper’s issues 87% of the time. This means that your clients will get their answers quickly, and your customer service reps can focus on solving the most complex issues.
And using live chat provides the customer with an additional method to contact you. Since 74% of consumers use multiple channels to contact a business before making a transaction, this is a great addition to your omnichannel presence.
Check out this article to discover more about delivering great customer service.
How is retail customer service changing?
Technological advancements will shape the future of customer service in retail.
The University of Maryland claims that companies that use technology to understand their clients better and focus on being “customer-centric” will thrive in the near future.
As more and more consumers move online, technology is a big factor deciding on the brand’s survival.
Digital is taking over, but physical stores are still important
Online shopping is here to stay.
In fact, it’s likely to grow.
The pandemic forced some brands to become present online and some shoppers to change their buying habits. This trend is likely to stick, but we can’t completely dismiss the importance of brick-and-mortar stores.
Physical retailers give an advantage and are important for clients to learn about the products and test them out before purchasing.
Colorado State University found that by encouraging consumers to purchase products that need more inspection in physical stores (e.g., perfumes or shoes), retailers were able to increase:
- Average spending by 40%
- Long-term retail sales by 20%
- Profitability by 22%
What does this mean in practice?
Make sure the in-store and online shopping experiences complement each other.
Provide consistently great retail customer service that engages buyers and teaches them about your product. This way, you’ll create a favorable view of your brand.
That puts a lot of pressure on the customer service in retail.
Do you employ more representatives to be able to handle the online and offline demand? You can. But you should also look into automating some of the tasks.
Companies automate services
This software can help you with the demand for customer support, improve your relationship with shoppers, and give more time for your reps to handle more complex customer issues.
Check out some of the benefits of using Tidio live chat and chatbots on your website.
And if you want to find out more about it, check out this webinar about the future of AI-Driven Customer Service.
Retailing customer service is just as important, if not more important, than any other customer service. A few things to remember:
- Make sure your representatives have the skills needed to provide an excellent experience for your clients
- Train your employees on your products and how to provide great customer service in retail
- Provide a personalized experience for your consumers
- Be proactive in reaching out to your shoppers
- Remember and take into consideration changes that are happening for the customer service in retail stores
The shopping experience is evolving. Stay on top of the changes, continue being customer-centric, and look at your business growing.