In the last few years, UK retailers have invested money, time and energy to respond to the changing needs and wants of consumers. But despite their efforts, almost 75% of consumers are dissatisfied with some aspect of the shopping experience, according to Webloyalty’s latest report, The Unfaithful Consumer. It seems that in their quest to multiply channels and touch-points, many retailers have forgotten the most important aspect of all: good customer service.
Service is weakest link in the loyalty chain
Today’s consumers “take a more considered and thoughtful approach to shopping,” says the report. They “research, think and explore more options before committing to buying items.” This level of intense scrutiny is also applied to a retailer’s customer service. Unfortunately, more than half of UK consumers (53%) say they’re unhappy with the service they receive from their retailers putting a strain on their loyalty.
There’s no doubt that today’s consumers are spoilt for choice and they won’t hesitate to punish retailers who don’t meet their expectations. The report found that almost 60% of consumers put “rudeness from staff members” as the top factor that would lead them to abandon a retailer. Considering a majority of customers are unsatisfied with service means retailers should be concerned especially since almost 60% of consumers say it’s easy or very easy to switch retailers.
Another source of worry for retailers is the fact that almost 60% of consumers rely heavily on word of mouth from friends and over 50% on personal experience to make purchase decisions. If they’re unhappy with the service they receive, chances are they’ll tell others about it compounding the effect of bad customer service.
In order to avoid disappointing increasingly demanding shoppers, Sarah Taylor, a senior director at Oracle Retail, suggests empowering store “assistants with the right insight, whether this is access to real-time stock availability, loyalty programme data or the fastest way of sourcing that must-have item.”
Good service drives loyalty
UK consumers reward businesses that make an effort to assist them during the customer journey according to a study by Market Force Information. The survey shows that UK fashion retailers who had assistants able “to create a look or offer support and advice on products,” scored highest on the satisfaction scale. Additionally, shoppers who were “very satisfied/delighted with their experience” were “twice as likely to recommend the retailer/brand to their friend or colleague.”
That’s because today’s consumers expect high levels of service in exchange for their loyalty, according to The Unfaithful Consumer report. “For many retailers this means a transition away from a business model dominated by the buying function to one which is much more customer centric and much more consumer sensitive.”
When things go wrong
Investing in service means more than simply raising service levels, warns the report. It “also means having clear procedures and ways of dealing with problems when things go wrong – especially on channels like social media.”
Take Apple, for example. People constantly question the higher cost of their products and the reason behind their popularity. According to a 2015 Consumer Report, the answer is simple: “if you want quality, reliable tech support for your computer, get a Mac.” In fact, Apple has been at the top of the list since 2007, when the survey was first produced.
“Every time I go to the Apple store, I find a friendly face willing to help me,” says Forbes’ Greg Satell. They never make me feel rushed or stupid or that they don’t value my business.” Or as Ron Johnson, the company’s former Retail Chief explains, when “you really look at what happens at an Apple store,” you’ll see it’s all about connections. “It’s a genius with a person trying to solve a problem. It’s someone getting personal training. It’s someone getting their products set up before they leave the store.”
Anyone who’s had a problem with an Apple device also knows that the company will exchange it on the spot if it’s still on warranty. They have a clear path set out to resolve issues. It’s this kind of customer service that inspires undying loyalty.
In the end, “getting the fundamentals of service right is about prioritising the business around what the customer prefers,” says Taylor. In a world where customers are firmly in the driver’s seat, retailers must give service the attention it deserves if they want to capture and retain customer loyalty.