I’m a Customer – Get Me Outta Here


The pressure is mounting for retailers to deliver increasingly outstanding and personalised customer service. Making plans now to make it easier, more enjoyable, and faster to buy from you is a pretty solid strategy. It has only one small flaw.

Shoppers are a daily occurrence. They’re there right now – in your shops. They’re either having a ball, or not. They’re about to speak well of you, or not. Your business will fare well in the face of fierce competition from retailers who have grabbed the CX bull by the horns, or you’ll get trampled, tousled and tossed aside.

Customer experience is an essential ‘now’ strategy, not an optional consideration. Just last year Gartner reported that fewer than half the companies it surveyed viewed their customer experience as exceptional at the time, but two-thirds expected it to be so in two years. It’s going to be make or break in the race for customer advocacy in 2016. Successful strategies will be propelled by innovative technologies that put data at the heart of the personalised journey – observing and acting upon customer behaviours to anticipate needs and provide helpful advice.

Here are the top five factors that will help your customers decide whether you’ve got it right or not in the watershed months to come:

Keep them waiting
I love the dynamism in the phrase ‘queue busting’; it’s full of action and positive-sounding undertones. The flip side – I guess we could call it ‘queue nurturing’, or the good old-fashioned ‘keeping the customers waiting’ – has a deep and negative impact on business. Customers will leave a store if they feel they’re not being taken care of.

A survey conducted by EE last year estimated that British retailers “stand to lose £1.04bn a year because of long queues at the check-out”. Visa Europe suggests that British shoppers spend around 18 hours a year queueing.

If you want to get your customers out of the store fast there are two ways to do it. You can either let them queue and then they’ll get out quick (89% of customers surveyed by Visa left a store due to queues and 65% went straight to the nearest competitor store to make their intended purchase) or you can invest in technologies to manage the experience, attend to their needs, consider mobile payment and expedite their visit in the most positive way possible. Either way will have a lasting impact on your business.

Make choice a problem, rather than a benefit
Hot news from Amazon, as it opens its first physical store. The Guardian suggests that the online giant will be challenged to offer the sort of experience in the retail environment that shoppers value – primarily because they can’t get it online. Amazon has long been the supreme master of using technology and data to predict shopping habits. Charting the customer journey in-store is less tech-driven at the moment, but it can certainly be tech-aided.

Store staff who haven’t got a clue about how to help with customer queries, or how to guide them through overwhelming choices, can alienate customers. The customer journey can, however, become consistent, engaging and interactive when staff are enabled with the right sort of tech; the hand-held device that connects them to vast repositories of information and gives them the ability to keep the customer satisfied – pinpoint accuracy in the relevance of the advice they offer – and keep the customer coming back.

Focus on your lead deal, not their inane desires

In the ever-present discussions around CX it’s sometimes easy to forget that actually selling stuff is important. Warm glows, deep interactions, lasting impressions are all well and good but retail is about shifting product. Always has been. There’s absolutely no reason why commercial objectives can’t be totally aligned with customer desires. In fact, there’s every reason why they should be, and technology in abundance to help make sure they are.

From the shopper perspective, retail is now only partly about buying; and there’s a subtle shift in emphasis here that is sending a ripple effect across the retail industry. Whether online or in-store, customers don’t want to be assaulted with just the latest deal or most popular item, but want help locating products/services that actually fit their requirements.

Shoppers who just want shopping convenience have a tendency to go online. They can browse and buy from their connected device any time they fancy. They can multi-task; shop on the train, in the park, in Starbucks, or in the comfort of their own homes. Shoppers who want an experience beyond speed, and convenience, hit the high street. If they’re faced with aggressive selling techniques or clear evidence of promo lines being pushed then they might buy, but they won’t take away a lasting impression. That means there’s a pretty good chance they won’t come back.

Assume they can work it out for themselves
True customer experience isn’t just about well-planned and smartly accompanied customer journeys, it’s about offering helpful advice. Constructive suggestions do not always necessarily come easy to staff who might not be up to date with products, their functions and features, benefits and options and so on. Customers don’t respond well if they ask an associate a question and he/she then picks up the product and reads the details with them. They like to feel they are talking to people who know.

The trick for retailers is to make sure that every salesperson becomes as good as the best. This is possible through hand-held devices delivering guided selling aids that put entire inventories and product catalogues at the store associate’s command and also provide an impressive engagement platform, when associate and customer browse the options together – voyages of discovery sowing the seeds for customer advocacy.

Make the sale the most important thing

Selling is sooo yesterday. We’re in a connected society where personalised experiences characterise the retail environment, and customers have come into their own. They appreciate their own value and understand their freedom and agility. The sale is no longer the important thing. The lasting connection that defines business sustainability is the future.

That future starts now; ramping that customer service excellence up to full speed, max power and optimum engagement levels. Customers aren’t going to wait around to be impressed. They aren’t going to wait around for anything. Do you think you’re keeping pace? Are you planning or doing?