Stephen Ball of Aspect Software discusses the heightened importance of good customer service during these busy times of the year.
It’s no secret that the retail sector has suffered a sustained period of difficulty in recent times, with the high street losing some well-known and well-loved brands in 2018 and further brands dramatically downsizing. Alongside this has been uncertainty from consumers, and these factors coupled together have caused an increase in popularity in promotional events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Chinese ‘singles’ day’ is another promotional event increasingly making its way over to western retailers.
But while it’s important that retailers take part in these promotional events to remain competitive, it’s even more crucial that they focus on providing a great customer experience as well as great deals during these periods.
Aspect Software recently conducted research which found that almost half of consumers (49%) expect to see at least some improvement in customer service during a busy promotional shopping period, with this figure rising to 69% for those aged 16-24, and 61% for those aged 25-34.
The survey, which polled 2,000 consumers from across the UK, found that just over two in ten consumers (22%) believe that customer service should improve slightly during promotional events, with over a quarter (27%) expecting a significant improvement. While 42% of respondents expect there to be no change in the quality of the service they receive, this drops to just 21% for those aged between 16 and 24, and 29% for shoppers aged between 25 and 34.
This shows how important it is for retailers to avoid complacency from a customer service perspective, even during a period where consumers are prepared to spend money. The success of promotional events shows how strong an appetite UK consumers have for a bargain deal, so a surge in shopper numbers is to be expected.
However, a sharp influx in shop visitors or website traffic shouldn’t be an excuse to start slacking when it comes to providing a positive customer experience. After all, there will be winners and losers during these promotional times, so being able to differentiate by raising the bar from a customer service perspective can be instrumental in making sure a retailer ends up in the ‘winners’ category.
Given that the millennial generation is likely to make up a large proportion of those taking advantage of these promotions both in-store and online, it’s also vital that retailers pay close attention to their expectations. They have high standards when it comes to customer service, so being able to demonstrate a passion for satisfying their needs will pay dividends.
Making a success of promotional periods is about empowering staff to do their jobs as effectively as possible, whether they are working on the shop floor or as an agent in a telephone-based or online contact centre. At the same time, having self-service options in place also enables shoppers to have their queries answered rapidly. Technology is a great enabler here, so making the most of the workforce optimisation and customer engagement software that retailers have at the back end of the business is key.
It’s also crucial that any successes or failures are analysed and evaluated in detail. As an example, retailers should now have data on the performance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday which they can assess in order to take steps to enhance their customer service capabilities and increase technology adoption well ahead of next year’s events. With younger shoppers likely to become even more discerning in future, this should be a priority for any retailer worth its salt.