UK retailers can learn about customer service from their counterparts in the US, where there is more of a focus on discovering what is important to customers before they invest in marketing.
That is the view of Jeremy Michael, Managing Director of customer insight firm SMG UK, who thinks there are more examples of the customer voice affecting business decisions on the other side of the Atlantic.
His comments were made last week at a roundtable event, organised by SMG and attended by a number of retail-related professionals such as Pets at Home Retail Operations Manager Dave Poole and Caffé Nero customer service consultant Clive Nicolaou.
With the rapid rise of online comparison sites and the expansion of the internet as shopping platform, as well as the growing inclination of consumers to choose the best deals rather than be loyal to retailers, there is an argument that brand loyalty is dying.
Nicolaou, who is also Managing Director of customer experience expert Plumsource, commented: “Shoppers are savvier and they have set the expectation bar higher, which means it’s harder for retailers to gain a complete understanding of their customer base and develop emotional brand loyalty.
“In addition, with the discount economy, retailers have to work even harder to increase basket revenue and therefore need to get more people through the door.”
However, others present at last week’s meeting suggested that the way staff act in store can still have a hugely positive impact on encouraging customers to return to the brand.
“Brand loyalty isn’t dying,” asserted Michael. “What is concerning though is that retailers still don’t fully understand the customer experience.”
Pets at Home’s Poole indicated that online retail will never replace bricks and mortar stores due to the personal touch customers benefit from when they visit a shop, but he admitted that the web is a powerful tool for retailers.
“Online is a huge beast and a number of businesses are frightened of it, but they shouldn’t be afraid,” he explained.
“The web will never replace the in-store experience, you just have to make sure it matches the knowledge and interaction you get in-store.”