4 ways to improve your customer service

4 ways to improve your customer service

Annabel Thorburn
Director of Retail Services

With a career exceeding 15 years in the retail industry,  Annabel uses her experience to head up our retail consulting team. She works with clients to develop strategic eCommerce and multi-channel growth plans. This includes new propositions, market expansion and roadmap development plans. Annabel gained much of her experience at Tesco across multiple disciplines, including online marketing and trading, web and mobile product development, strategy and commercial.

In today’s fast-paced world, customers are becoming increasingly demanding, expecting retailers to get it right first time round. And failing that, they’ll expect you to put things right quickly if they go wrong. Although new channels are emerging all the time, customer service is ultimately still about getting the basics right, and anticipating and addressing customers’ needs at all points of the customer journey – before, during and after purchase.

In our recent survey of 500 European fashion retailers, 22% of respondents said that their customers identified online customer service as an area for improvement; 20% said that their customers desired better in-store customer service. So what are some steps that retailers can take to improve their customer service offering? Here are four tips on how to master the basics of customer service.

1. Invest in and empower your staff to provide excellent customer service

Providing scripted answers to customer queries, also known as “computer says no”, is one of the most common mistakes made by retailers. This happens when customer service representatives are unable to resolve an issue due to a lack of training, an overreliance on automated information, a process issue – or a combination of all three. For instance, if your omni-channel proposition does not allow for returns to be made via the customer’s preferred channel, your customer service agents are unlikely to be able to keep customers happy.

A key way to overcome this issue is to invest in regular staff training, as well as trusting your staff to provide the best service possible. At the Ritz-Carlton luxury chain of hotels, for example, staff are authorised to spend a certain amount in order to help customers as necessary.

2. Make the ordering process clear and easy

Our recent survey found that, on average, 30% of orders result in a query being raised with the contact centre, with this figure varying greatly by country. In order to reduce the number of queries, provide clear information right on the page. Include specifications around sizing, materials, washing instructions, what size the model is wearing, as well as a minimum of four images from a variety of angles. Put delivery and returns information on the page as well. Try to avoid vagaries like 3-5 days for delivery. Instead list the worst case and delight the customer with an early arrival.

3. Make sure you are where your customers are

Consider carefully which channels to use, working backwards from the customer. For instance, a recent eMarketer study found that almost 40% of under-25-year-olds would choose to interact via social media, with only 11.5% choosing telephone as their preferred channel. Make sure, however, that you have the capacity to manage all of your chosen channels – social media, in particular, can be very time-consuming, and you’ll need a strategy in place to handle any negative PR on social. Offering local language options appropriate to your customers is also vital.

4. Ensure you have the right KPIs in place

SLAs for response rate and resolution are likely to vary considerably by customer service channel, but it’s important to establish and closely monitor KPIs for each channel. Also ensure that any third-party providers are aligned to these – to the customer. You are one brand, and it’s important to maintain consistency throughout.

Find out more

View our interactive infographic to discover more findings from our survey of 500 fashion retailers from across Europe.