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20 Jun

Modern Customers Need Modern Service

Young woman with tablet pc shopping in appliance store and talking to saleswoman.

Retailers have recognized that the game has changed, but are they focused on the new set of rules, or going off script?

Not too long ago a customer would have no choice but to visit a physical store when they had a need or a want. These visits would serve any or all parts of the buying cycle from awareness to research, to comparison and finally a purchase. Because the entire buying cycle often took place in store, there was an abundance of customer interactions with the employees who educated them, and ultimately sold them products that fit their needs.

How has the game changed?

Retail no longer has a buying cycle that is completed in one location or medium. Customers tend to research online first, compare in both online and in store, and make purchases at the point of greatest convenience and value; be it price, speed of delivery, proximity to their home, or any other metrics.

The online research and comparisons done by the customer has turned them into quasi product experts before ever physically interacting with the products themselves. This explains why customers so rarely engage with employees, as they are experts on the products, and better informed than the employees themselves.

According to “The Blog – Huffington Post” regarding in store customer experience

56% of customer just want the right answer, but 64% of customers do not trust the information.

The question is: how do retailers fix this phenomenon from occurring in their stores?

 What are Retailers doing about it?

Retailers are trying to keep brick and mortar stores relevant through improving their in-store experience.

Some of the new methods for improving the in-store experience are offering food services, customized products, as well as digital offerings like smart dressing rooms, and endless isle type digital interactions.

We know that shoppers prefer to use technology when picking goods and services. We also know there is a shift in the marketplace, with a greater emphasis on experience over goods. Because of this, many of these in-store experiences add value to the customer, and therefore will be somewhat successful.

Is it enough?

Returning to the question above regarding customers and their lack of engagement with employees. Let’s ask ourselves, is the retailers vision of an in-store experience going to solve this specific challenge?

The answer is it won’t! These attempts at improving the in-store experience are only going to encourage the lack of customer and employee interaction, diminishing the retailer’s greatest opportunity to interact with and win over their customers

The fact is, customer service has always been the most important aspect of retail. This is even true for online retails proven by the successes of Amazon, whose mission statement is…

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

The vision

Digesting everything above, there is a very simple solution. In a time when companies like Target are spending one billion dollars on testing in-store experiences to attract new and old customers, they should also be looking to remove the customer’s unwillingness to interact with their staff.

The solution is empowering the employee with the proper technology to serve the customer as they would like to be served. Since most customers do at least some of their discovering, researching, and comparing online while making buying decisions, the employee should have these tools as well!

How it will work

When a customer visits a store, they should not have to whip out their smart phone or wait to go home to do research on a product they are interested in. Instead they should want to ask an employee who will engage with them on their needs, giving them relevant information on the products. The employee will have access to an app on a smart device, and by scanning the barcode of the item or items being compared, have the relevant information the customer is looking for, which would not necessarily be available online, or the store’s customer facing mobile app.

The Future

The customer today does not want to engage with the store’s employees because their product knowledge is lacking. Also, the retailer should not expect the employee to have the in-depth product knowledge the customer craves as training costs would increase. The solution is retailers empowering their employees with the tools to find the correct information in an instant. With this technology, customer service can once again become the most important part of the in-store retail experience.

This coupled with all the cool, in-store experiences that retailers like Target are exploring and creating today, will solidify the bricks and mortar stores as a permanent part of our society for the foreseeable future.

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