Peter Sheppard

What does the customer think, and does it really matter?

In today’s retail world the buzzword for being successful within bricks-and-mortar stores is ‘experience’.

Every retail executive’s answer to the challenge posed by the growth of online retail; and suggested defence by bricks-and-mortar, is to provide the customer with a better experience.

This might be the answer, however how many retailers are measuring their current offer and making customer care a definitive strategy?

While walking through a ‘big gun’ shopping centre recently, I entered numerous retail stores and informally reviewed each offer before me .

It appeared to me that service and customer care were nowhere near acceptable. Some of the stores had good visual impact, but the vast majority did not have the personnel to create a memorable experience where the impression was good enough for me to note.

Overall, out of a dozen or so stores I entered and engaged with sales and service staff, only one would be given a tick in response to how they handled my request and interest in their offer with any degree of ‘care’.

So what do the majority of retail business need to do to start fighting back with their brick-and-mortar stores?

With more and more informed customers, with more and more choice, exceptional customer care is one of the options used to create a noticeable point of difference.

It seems to me that a good place to start for a retailer, would be to measure what is currently happening in their business.

It would seem that only a minority of retailers are doing any form of mystery shopping to establish the standards of customer care that are taking place, thereby measuring the experience factor.

Surely, if retailers are doing more than paying lip service to providing a memorable experience, it should become a measurable KPI. And a KPI that sees consequences of both great service and poor service. Without consequences it does not carry much importance.

When I was running a multinational chain of stores, by swapping a great manager into a poor performing store, we often saw a 20 per cent increase in sales over the first three months of that changeover.

That proved that customers are more likely to respond with their purchasing decisions if the service was above their expectation. That was even before the challenges facing retail stores today, making it even more critical to have better service than the customer expects.

And nothing has really changed in 40 years in the strategies of two of the worlds best retail companies.

“It is our goal to be the Earth’s most customer centric company.” – Jeff Bezos

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton

However, for customer service to be a point of difference in retail, it needs to be part of the company DNA.

It cannot be measured just on various occasions. It needs to be focused on every day and become a retail leader’s main mission.

Without that it is merely a dream and will not be achieved.

When was the last time you measured your customer service? Make this your battleground.


First published in InsideRetail on 18 July 2018.