We recently moved to a new neighbourhood, and the weeks following the move involved the requisite trips to the local lumber, hardware, appliance, furniture, and grocery stores, as well as numerous stops at local eateries. During this accelerated shopping period we were struck by how friendly, courteous, and downright helpful staff were at each stop. Without fail, every single establishment we entered provided a very high level of customer service. Given that my wife and I both have jobs that revolve around retail, our radar is always on for outstanding retail service, and we noticed a significant improvement over what we had been accustomed to in our old neighbourhood.
How did we end up in this oasis of outstanding customer service?
I believe that more and more, brick-and-mortar retailers are realizing that the best way to compete with the growing onslaught of online retail sales is by providing an outstanding customer experience. Consumer surveys show that over 80% of customers are willing to pay up to 25% more for an item simply to ensure a better customer service experience.
I remember the days when customer service was offered at a desk at the back of a department store, next to the appliance section, and the person behind the counter was never happy to see you.
In today’s connected world, customer service is a whole lot more than just a help desk agent at the back of the store. It’s grown to encompass every interaction that a customer has with a brand. It includes phone, email, chat, web forms, and social communications, as well as self-service support sites. And it happens before, during, and after a sale.
In fact, it’s reached a tipping point, where mobile coupons are now redeemed 10 times more often than traditional coupons. With the advent of social media, the connection between customers and business has never been closer.
In a world where jobbers need to do more than just sell products, customer service is a key part of the promise that you make to a customer. It’s more than just providing answers. It’s helping customers even when they don’t know they need help. It’s teaching them how to do more with your products. It starts with a smile and a friendly word, and finishes with sharing your expertise – even when it has nothing at all to do with your products. Customer service is your secret weapon.
The latest J.D. Power 2015 Canadian Customer Service Index Long-term Study shows that outstanding customer service will generate higher levels of customer retention and unlock significant revenue potential. (See my interview with J.D. Ney, author of the report, on page 16 of this issue.) The study measures the service experience, satisfaction, and intended loyalty among owners of vehicles that are four to 12 years old.
The past few years have seen explosive growth in social networks. More than 75% of online users interact on social networking sites. Their friends are there and they expect their favourite brands to be too. As a result, services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ have become popular support channels. Not only do customers ask for help on social channels, but they also share their opinions on the products they buy and the level of service they receive with friends and family. It’s critical that today’s jobbers participate in multi-channel customer support across email, phone, and social networks, so they can offer help, solicit customer feedback, and participate in conversations about the brands they carry. Customer service has certainly come a long way from that counter hidden behind boxes of stock at the back of the store.
— Steve Pawlett, Editor,