As Christmas approaches once again, more and more customers will inevitably begin shopping outside of their usual haunts as they search for that perfect gift for friends and family. For retailers, this means opportunities to attract, and potentially keep, new customers who may not have shopped with them in the past. However, making sure first-time customers return again in the future isn’t as easy as simply offering a great Christmas product range or enticing them in with few extra-special deals. The real test is how well you deliver that all-important ‘customer experience’.
Brand Switchers are great, as long as they’re not leaving you for someone else!
Consumers continue to be fickle and shopper loyalty is becoming harder to retain, even when you are delivering a great service. To add further salt to the wound, we’ve uncovered stats which show that 89% of consumers switched brands once or twice over the past year – showing that whilst there’s growing opportunities for retailers to gain more custom in 2017 as a direct result of a first time shopping experience with them this Christmas, it’s not so good if you are the retailer they’ve switched from!
A Customer for life, even in the bad times
Did you know that businesses in the UK lose around £12 billion every year just as a result of poor customer service? This is a massive hit to the industry, and one that can be avoided just by ensuring customers are taken care of, whether it’s their first visit or their last, in the good times and the bad.
Many articles and blogs focus on how you should be ‘enhancing’ your customer experience, but equal attention should be given to how you manage a bad customer experience too. Do you provide your customers with multiple ways to contact you if there is a problem? Are these channels effective? Are they joined up so that customers don’t have to tell the problem five times over before they get the help they need (a common pet peeve of 89% of consumers)? Customers aren’t automatically lost simply because they had a bad experience, it is how you as a retailer handle the entire process and resolution to ensure that the customer is not only satisfied with how their issue was handled, but will also go on to champion you to others for doing such a good job.
IT Downtime is an unnecessary complication
While IT downtime can be an annoyance to retailers, the effect it has on customer satisfaction and loyalty can regularly be overlooked. Customers should plan ahead and ensure all systems are reviewed and working properly prior to the busy Christmas season. Research has shown that 1 in 3 customers will leave a queue if they have to wait more than 5 minutes, and 50% of customers will avoid a retailer in the future after experiencing a wait of more than 5 minutes – as the festive season approaches, and before you decide upon future IT management contacts, consider how just a few minutes downtime will affect your sales and the reputation of your business.
Retailers often put the majority of their focus on the larger stores, but it’s actually the smaller stores that require greater attention – the impact of one EPOS going down will be felt by a store with three tills much more than a store with twenty tills. Retailers must look at their entire estate and decide what IT requirements are necessary at store level, rather than applying one blanket approach to cover all outlets. IT service providers can offer variable service level agreements for different stores or at different times of the year, ensuring minimal downtime at the times that matter and in the stores where the impact will be felt the most.
Tis the season to train your temporary staff
It’s a little concerning to think that those staff responsible for meeting, greeting and serving an array of potential new customers are probably your newest temporary staff members! Obviously this is a common and unavoidable situation, as increased demand over the festive period requires more staff, but it does just highlight the importance of properly training temporary seasonal staff, as for many they will be at the frontline of customer interactions from November until the New Year. This includes ensuring all staff members are proficient in using the tills and other technical equipment; a simple mistake such as installing a printer roll incorrectly could be costly if it brings the whole till down until it is repaired! As well as a basic technical knowledge, they should also have a good understanding of your range of products and services or the ability to seamlessly transfer an enquiry to a more knowledgeable member of staff. Customers can easily be put off if their initial experience is filled with preventable mistakes, especially when they are likely to be feeling the strain of shopping over the busy festive period!
So in summary, Christmas is the perfect time to win over new customers and potentially create loyal custom for the months ahead, but only if you take steps to ensure that their experience is a positive one. Inevitably, things happen which could lead to a poor experience, but how you manage that problem will ultimately affect whether the overall outcome is good or bad. IT shouldn’t be the area that lets you down, so review and plan accordingly to prevent avoidable issues. And finally, keep all your staff aligned in the way they handle customer enquiries. By taking care of both first-time and existing customers over the busiest shopping season of the year, across face-to-face, online and telephone interactions, retailers can increase the likelihood that they will return to make further purchases in the New Year.