The minute the pressures of business take over, we find ourselves forgetting strategy and advice that may seem like common sense to most people. Of the things that are easy to forget, customer experience is one issue we all struggle with each day.
Enough and more has been said about how to treat a customer who walks into a store. ‘Customer is king’, ‘always prioritize the customer’, ‘think like a customer’. It quickly gets tiring.
Yes, as retailers, we know we’re supposed to think like our customers, we just don’t know how!
If you’ve gotten tired of reading advice, books, and manuals on how to improve customer experience, we hear you! This post isn’t meant to tell you ‘new and improved’ ways to treat customers- instead, we just hope that you’ll be able to take away not just the ‘what’ but also the ‘how’ of customer handling and interaction.
Without much ado, here are five simple ways to improve customer experience and help your customers have a lovely experience with you.
Ways To Improve Customer experience In-Store
1. Customer Experience Reflects Employee Behavior
Why do some stores always seem like they attract a lot of repeat customers while others don’t? What makes a customer come back? More often than not, even above considerations such as price, a customer values experience.
How did you treat them in the store? Did they interact with a representative who was helpful yet unobtrusive? Did they make an informed purchase?
Take something as basic as a lingerie store for example. It may seem like a no-brainer that the store would need fitting experts and someone who can recommend lingerie based on preferences, but how often do we just see an aisle full of products with the clear message, “Do as you please”?
We often take for granted that our customers know exactly what they want. Instead, so many people walk into stores with the intention of browsing and of being convinced to buy a certain something. A well-informed store employee will be able to serve this purpose.
There’s also the other extreme. Large retailers often find it hard to monitor every store, so they set targets for their employees- ‘collect feedback from twenty customers every day’. The employees then begin to hound customers for feedback even when they don’t seem keen to provide it.
Ironically, an activity meant to understand consumers often ends up become a reason for them to never visit again.
2. Shorten Those Lines!
This is the age of online buying. The basic reason why so many people prefer buying online is that no one has the time or inclination to stand in long queues. We all know how long queues can get during peak seasons. If we were a customer and not a retailer, we wouldn’t want to stand in them.
Most small retail stores depend on manual billing. If you’re still billing manually, you may want to switch to a Point of Sale software and make things happen faster. For one, barcode scanning is always quicker than writing the product’s name out with a pen.
While there is no way to eliminate queues from retail stores entirely, having more points of sale during peak season can help shorten them. Having an engaging television program or music playing in the background, sufficient air conditioning and water nearby can all help make the queue seem less painful.
If you root for the radical approach, incorporate a feature where customers can buy your product online and then pick it up in-store. Especially useful for electronic goods.
Related Article: 5 ways to make your store a different experience from the rest
3. The Changing Room Dynamics
This one is for the apparel stores. Yes, having curtains instead of doors makes people leave trial rooms faster. But it also causes people to spend less time with the product, be less convinced with their pick, and perhaps buy lesser. A fitting room is the core of every apparel store, and having drapes there that anyone can pull aside is just frustrating.
Frankly, just have doors. You can instead set a limit on the number of garments that can be taken in in one go, or on the amount of time spent inside a trial room. You can have helpers gently ensure that only a certain number of clothing pieces are being taken in at a time.
Forcing customers to complete their purchase fast may work for the big-brand retailers. For smaller retailers, it is all about being as nice to the customer as possible, while standing firmly on your values.
4. Keep The Parents In Mind
Perhaps one demographic that always finds itself ignored is the parent community. From movie theaters to high-end apparel stores, no one seems to want a snooty child in their shop. Parents, however, also tend to shop more, especially in the Kids Apparel and Gaming sections. Isn’t it only right then that you could benefit immensely from having a supervised playpen inside your store?
This applies not just to stores selling kids’ stuff, but also stores that sell cosmetic products, jewelry or even just groceries. A dedicated playpen with a trained supervisor may just be what a haggard parent needs to be able to finish shopping. What’s more, knowing such a facility exists will prompt them to choose you more often.
5. A Little Extra With Customer Experience
Who doesn’t like a few extra toppings? As a retailer, you may have considered having loyalty programs in place. More often than not, loyalty cards can be useless rather than rewarding, especially if the rewards are linked to bill value alone. Even here, demographics come into play. If you sell multiple categories of products, you may find a particular set of people interested in certain products. You can try and give these groups better incentives by offering better rewards in their categories of choice.
If you have a single or very few stores, it helps to remember your customers by name. This would make them want to come back to the friendly neighborhood retailer instead of trying someplace new.
Bonus: Ways To Improve Customer Experience Online
In an online context, there are a few different ways to gove customers an improved experience. While some of these directly translate to better conversions, others are just considered good practice and are ways to ensure you serve everybody with ease.
Use AI To Engage Better
The most prominent use of AI in online retail is in the form of chatbots. Studies have shown that chatbots can improve customer experience and engage with audience at all times. The best thing about a chatbot is that the conversation is simple and straightforward, plus you can act on the query within no time at all.
Facebook’s Messenger based chatbot is gaining prominence for small retailers. You can quickly employ it for your business page and even customize as you see fit. Some retailers also choose to use custom chatbots on their websites instead.
That said, chatbots aren’t the only use of Artificial Intelligence. You can consider using it to fix inventory problems, offer better 24X7 support and even present products more interestingly using AI. All of these things, in turn, work to increase conversions and improve customer experience.
Improve Your Website
The first step in improving customer experience is getting to your website. Websites that take more than three seconds to load are a big no. Compress your images and ensure that all pages load in time. Apart from this, also look at
-the length, readability and usefulness of your product descriptions
-the number of images and if they showcase the product well enough
-how easy it is to contact you for queries
-anything that may be stopping them from making a purchase (for example, a blog pop-up should not be shown to someone who is already browsing a product)
-a way to stay in touch with them, such as asking for their email address when appropriate
Take Feedback Very Seriously
Customer feedback is an important piece of information you can use to change how your business works. You cannot improve customer experience if you do not know what is wrong. Also, in the online context, people have no incentive to offer feedback by themselves. If they do, it usually means they have a problem.
When you receive feedback, take it very seriously. This is because several people may be having the same issue and they just haven’t said anything yet. Also take a look at unspoken feedback. If your site’s home page has a high bounce rate, it is likely that your site has problems in one or more areas. If people go until checkout and then abandon, it may be due to hidden fees and charge.
Engage Customers Outside Of The Purchase Interaction
Once they buy from you, they forget. With the sheer amount of competition in the online space, it is virtually impossible that customers will remember an ‘okay’ interaction. So, make it good! Look for ways to keep them engaged and offer incentives for following you on social media. Run frequent contests. Send emails with the latest product updates. Do everything in your power to be seen more often.
Go The Extra Mile
When we talk of ways to improve customer experience, we have to discuss being better than the best. This is because a lasting impression is the only way to sustain your retail business over time, no matter what changes.
These are just a few ways to impress an online customer even further. Get creative and feel free to use your own ideas depending on the products you sell.
-Handwritten notes thanking them for their purchase
-Excellent packaging that makes them want to enjoy opening it
-A seamless way to track their order right until delivery
-If you have an offline and online presence, the option of picking up in-store
-Omnichannel sales for your offline customers when they want a product that is out of stock
-Clear refunds and replacement policies so no one is left disgruntled
-Over time, building the impression of a trusted brand in your niche through blogs, promotions and constant creation of value for your customers
What tips and tricks have you used to improve customer experience in your retail store and online so far? How have they worked for you? Let us know in the comments.