As scores of customers are heading to the high street in search of great deals, InMoment’s Gary Topiol looks at how retailers can ensure that in all the festive mayhem, they continue to provide the amazing customer service experience that will keep shoppers coming back after the holidays are over.
What has always been renowned as a busy time of year has developed into an eruption of crazy promotions and huge sales numbers. For many retailers, this is the “make or break” time of year, accounting for up to 70% of their annual sales. Last year, UK retailers raked in over £35 billion in sales in the month of December alone. But value isn’t all festive shoppers are looking for. Across the board, consumers are also hoping to find great customer experiences that allow them to shop on their terms, using the newest technologies to drive their choices.
The point often missed is that while a 30-day shopping window determines survival, the ability to deliver first-rate customer experiences is what brings customers back and determines longer term success.
There is clearly an imperative for exceptional customer experiences at this time of year. Today’s customers have increasingly high service expectations. And despite challenges on the brand side, sometimes those expectations are even higher during the Christmas rush. The last thing you want to do is let your customer service slip during the most important time of the year. Since the festive season represents many consumers’ first interaction with your brand, your ability to bring seasonal buyers back after Christmas hinges on the quality of your customers’ experiences this month. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this may be your only time to create a positive impression.
But relatively few brands emphasise the delivery of high quality customer experiences in the Christmas rush. Far too often, customer service takes a backseat to moving as much product as possible with little regard to the experience surrounding it. Although it may be necessary to staff up stores with inexperienced, seasonal workers, temporary staffing without adequate training and a clear sense of company mission to deliver a great retail experience presents a serious threat to the brand.
Alongside an investment in customer experience training, it’s critical to provide near real time customer feedback in order to stay on track and keep serving up great experiences as a top of mind activity for all staff. Here are a few simple ways to do so:
Empower Local Managers. The worst thing you can to do to local store managers is to funnel massive amounts of unanalysed data and undifferentiated feedback to them and expect them to convert it into meaningful actions, especially during the year’s busiest shopping season. Rather than overwhelming managers with information that really isn’t useful, respect that they need to spend the vast majority of their time on the shop floor. Empower them with real-time customer insights that make clear in just a few moments what their local store issues are and what they should work on to provide great experiences.
Provide Actionable “Right Now” Strategies. Complex retail reporting tools are in abundance but they don’t always make clear today’s winning moves. Providing actionable, data-based strategies that can be acted upon “right now” is essential. Store managers need to be freed up as local leaders to focus on the rapid implementation and execution of plans to improve the quality of the customer experience throughout the Christmas shopping season.
Leverage Social Learning. It takes time for store managers to learn how to intuitively respond to customers’ concerns. But collectively, your brands’ store managers have a vast base of knowledge about specific strategies and actions that can improve the customer experience during the Christmas season. Consider leveraging virtual knowledge sharing and other technologies that enable social learning across the brand.
In many ways, Voice of the Customer (VoC) tools are your brands’ best resources for improving local customer experiences during the festive season. By implementing the right technologies, you can significantly increase your ability to provide location managers with the real-time, actionable insights they need to truly delight Christmas shoppers and keep them coming back throughout 2015 – and that should add up to a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!