When was the last time you experienced customer service that really made you feel something? As in...you felt inspired, educated, intrigued, cared about? Let me guess, errrr ages ago, maybe never?
The customer service crisis has been around for ages and it's only getting worse.
Well, it all starts with people doesn't it. recruiting the right people who simply love to serve and learn about guests-clients-customers.
If the people recruited into your retail business have no interest in this, theeeeeeeen maybe re-think that hiring process.
Other reasons why customers are facing dreadful experiences are a lack of training from management - corporate support.
Attitudes towards service have shifted massively since the rise of in-store technology and self service
Teams in-stores are starting to feel unvalued because the customer can self-serve online or head over to self-checkout.
Store teams are starting to feel redundant and being in that headspace is no fun for anyone
Let's delve into the world of customer service and its profound impact on the overall success of your business.
In this article, we'll explore the importance of employee soft skills and provide you with real-life examples of exceptional customer service.
Get ready to discover the secret ingredients that make customers fall in love with your brand and inspire them to come back for more...meaning greater LTV (lifetime value) and increased NPS (net promoter scores).
Customer service is one of the most important aspects of any business, and it can have a significant impact on a company's overall success.
Soft skills are essential to customer service, as they help employees connect with customers on a personal level and create a positive experience for them.
Soft skills create authentic connection which leads to trust and likability.
Don't get me wrong, you don't need to know someones moral compass to trust them in selling you a pair of jeans.
But you do need to trust that they give you correct advice, tailored to you and do not push their own agenda of the 'add-on belt' if you never wear belts - because that's not cool and it breaks trust.
You get me? Cool.
Let's dive deeper into the importance of customer service and how soft skills can make a huge difference in the day to day work of a retail team (or anyone in service).
If you have recently enjoyed brilliant customer service you probably remember it well and can immediately think about how you felt and may even be a repeat customer of that company.
On the other hand, if you've had a negative experience, you may have vowed never to do business with that company again.
I have stopped shopping with several brands this year alone because the service is what I call criminal...it's not even poor or average, it's literally the lowest of the low.
As choice amongst brands and products have increased, it seems the passion to service a customer well has dwindled into a low priority.
It simply isn't good enough.
The brands who pay attention to service and what we call 'the circle of care' are the ones who will enjoy long-term success
Customer service plays a vital role in the success of any business.
In fact, a survey conducted by American Express found that 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
That's a staggeringly high percentage!
So, what makes an outstanding customer service experience?
It all comes down to soft skills.
Let us walk you through the fundamentals here and what your retail team can start to master straight away!
Soft skills are a set of interpersonal skills that allow people to effectively communicate, collaborate, and connect with others. Including customers, team mates, head office support functions.
Internal customers and external customers.
In customer service, these skills are crucial to creating a positive experience for customers and of course, amongst your team mates.
1. The Role of Customer Service in Business Success.
There is a huge misunderstanding that customer service is a role or a department; when in fact, it's the heart and soul of a business.
Positive customer experiences can lead to customer loyalty, increased sales, and positive word-of-mouth referrals. Not to mention raving public reviews on Google Maps!
The ripple effect of customer service echoes throughout your company culture and forms your overall reputation and perceived value.
2. Employee Soft Skills.
The Building Blocks of Great Service. Communication is the cornerstone success factor in any business.
The importance of effective communication, both verbal and non-verbal creates the feeling about your environment and brand.
Examples of excellent non-verbal communication include a poised, open stance, a good amount of eye contact, nodding at the appropriate moments and smiling.
Look, the retail store is a stage, it's a performance. Your brand presented to the public via your employees. Are your people there to fill displays or there to create a community of brand fans?
You don't need to monetise every single square foot...but you do need to make sure every customers leaves feeling good about your brand, and this is achieved through small meaningful interactions at various touch-points throughout the floor.
Do you coach on body language at your retail stores? If not you are missing out on some core skills that will move KPI's.
Instore teams must practice what active listening skills are. A simple way to do this is to initiate an activity called 'pass it on' (formerly known as Chinese whispers).
The person facilitating the activity should whisper into someones ear a typical customer communication, something like "I'm training for my 4th marathon and this year my My Mum is going to join me. I've always used the (XX) model but found that my foot has gotten flatter so it's uncomfortable now. I do really like the colour though. I think my size is 41"
Now ask the person to pass on the message to the next team member and it goes all the way down the line until the last person.
The final team member should tell the story to everyone.
How many details were correct?
What new parts have been added?
What important parts were taken away?
Enjoy this softskill activity!
Hard skills may get you the job but it's soft-skills that build lasting relationships
So what businesses can we look to who are leading the way?
Zappos, they became renowned for outstanding customer service by going above and beyond customer expectations, including their famous 365-day return policy.
Disney stores always feel welcoming, fun and engaging. Sure the brand plays into our childhood memories but they also entertain customers and do simple service really well.
Ritz-Carlton has a long established legendary service culture, focusing on their "wow" moments and personalised attention to detail that create lasting memories for guests.
And we can't forget the biggest online player; Amazon! They have established a customer-centric approach, with features like one-click ordering and hassle-free returns, has revolutionised the online shopping experience.
The simplest way to harness a culture of care is to invest in your people who are the face of your brand.
Training and Development is often viewed as a nice to have department - which I think is utter nonsense given the fact that the tools they provide significantly shift peoples competence.
Ongoing training programs should be well formed to enhance employees' soft skills, ensuring they are equipped to deliver exceptional service as a standard practise!
Here at The International Retail Academy we offer intensive workshops and ongoing coaching to ensure a softskill, service mindset is ingrained into the DNA of the person. We are not a 'one and done' type of business, because lasting change takes effort and commitment.
Feedback and continuous improvement are other important factors in developing softskills. Leaders should highlight the significance of customer feedback in identifying areas for improvement and fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth.
Invite all the team in for a breakfast meeting and get comfortable talking about the latest NPS scores, deep-dive into what your real customers are saying on Google Maps, Trustpilot etc.
If you want to improve service, you have to face all of the feedback which includes the good, the bad, the ugly and the criminal!
Sure we can pat each other on the back when a service award is paid for (ooops, sorry I mean rewarded)! And we can hide behind a huge brand name...!
But what you can't fake is a vibe.
Customers switch on to that faster than a leopard catching it's prey!
The mindset of your employees matters hugely as this shows up as behaviour and actions.
Softskills that are actually keyskills in the service industry:
1. Empathy: Being able to put yourself in the customer's shoes and understand their perspective is key to providing excellent customer service. When a customer feels heard and understood, they are more likely to have a positive experience.
2. Active Listening: Listening to customers is another essential soft skill. It involves giving your full attention to the customer and understanding their needs and concerns.
3. Patience: Sometimes customers can be frustrated or upset, and it's important to remain calm and patient in these situations. This requires the ability to manage emotions and stay focused on finding a solution to the problem.
4. Communication: Clear and effective communication is critical in customer service. Being able to explain things clearly and concisely helps customers feel more confident in their interactions with your company.
Customer service is the foundation of any successful business, and employee soft skills play a pivotal role in delivering exceptional experiences.
By cultivating empathy, effective communication, problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and patience, your business can create a customer service culture that sets you apart from the sea of sameness.
Customers are making decisions based on marginal points - such as price, location in proximity to their favourite coffee place or where the better service is.
If you want to maximise your potential in the service arena, get in touch with us today.
The International Retail Academy was founded to help retailers master the art of service. To help inspire and retain talent.
We have partnered with iconic globals brands such as Gap, Rituals, Tommy Hilfiger and Skechers. We also facilitate local workshops here in The Netherlands for independent businesses who are growing their customer base.
You can hire us for medium-long term projects, workshop facilitation, leadership coaching and customer experience design.
It's our honour to serve you.
Thank you for reading this article, have a beautiful day.
Kayleigh and team TIRA