Great customer service is the number one key to repeat business. Companies like Zappos are known for going above and beyond while others just don’t seem to get it. With budgets getting tighter and impulse buying becoming less of a trend, customers aren’t just looking to purchase a great product, they’re buying into a great experience.
While nothing on this list should be a surprise, here’s a round-up of 8 ideas to elevate your customer service to keep people coming back:
- Pay a Sincere Compliment: This is a great tactic, especially if your clientele is mostly women. Compliments are always appreciated, but when they come from a stranger and catch us off guard, they’re particularly meaningful. Something as simple as commenting on a necklace, a handbag, a nail polish color or a pair of shoes can really go a long way. It makes the customer feel comfortable, lets them know you’re paying attention, and encourages them to stay longer in your store.
- Empower front line employees: It’s discouraging when customers need to wait for “management approval” to have an issue addressed. It’s important to make sure that all of your employees are trained to handle difficult situations and are able to make executive decisions without additional assistance. Taking a small discount on damaged merchandise or making an exception to a return policy when the customer provides the original sales receipt and the tags are still attached to the garment are no brainers when it comes to providing superior customer service and your front line staff should be able to make these decisions for themselves.
- Be “on” whenever there is a customer in front of you: How valued do you feel when you’re paying for your merchandise and the cashier can’t be bothered to put their cell phone away or they’re so busy chatting with other staff members they don’t even say hello? We could all tell dozens of these customer service horror stories. This is probably the easiest tip to remember. If there is a customer at your register, they should be the only person who matters. An average transaction takes no more than a few minutes but that interaction may be the difference between the customer feeling valued or the customer never returning. The phone, the other staff members, the stock guy, the mail delivery, etc. They can all wait. After all, it’s the paying customer who is keeping your business open.
- Treat returning customers like VIP’s: There’s a restaurant I frequent where one of the waiter’s greets everyone with an enthusiastic “it’s so nice to see you again!” and says goodbye with “great seeing you, we’ll see you again soon!” He says it so sincerely to each person that you would have a hard time believing he says it a couple hundred times a day. Even though I know it’s part of his pitch, I still feel like a valued guest every time I go. Letting return customers in on details about your next shipment of similar merchandise or adding them to your loyalty program because you “don’t want them to miss out on any special promotions” makes them feel extra special and is a sure fire way of encouraging them to keep coming back.
- Show appreciation: The most basic practice for this tip is to say thank you and say it often. “Thanks for coming in!” “Thank you for shopping with us” “Thank you for bringing your friends with you” etc. Knowing that their business is appreciated, encourages customers to return again and again. To take this one step further, acknowledging a special event like a birthday or anniversary with a personal card delivered by mail or discount makes a huge impact.
- Add a personal touch: With everything becoming more automated, person to person contact is becoming rare. Try to find out your customers names and use them in conversation whenever possible. Pick up on personal details they may inform you of each time they come in and make reference to them as they’re shopping. What are some other ways to take this one step further? Can you gift wrap their purchase? Offer to assist them with heavy items? Hold packages behind the counter for them as they’re shopping? Have a seating area available for weary tag-alongs? Small, special touches really go a long way in a retail setting.
- Ask for feedback on how you can improve: Customers love to feel like they’re part of something. Who better to ask for feedback than the people are on the outside looking in? If you’re not sure how you can improve your service, ask your customers how they feel when they come into your store. Are they happy with the products and services you provide? If you could grant them 3 wishes, what would they be? Customers will be curious to see if you’ve put their suggestions or recommendations into practice and curiosity alone will keep them coming back again.
- Create a positive atmosphere where people enjoy going: One of my favorite local stores to go into and browse is, believe it or not, a candy store. I don’t often travel to that area of the city, but when I do this store is a must. The employees are always having such a great time singing along and dancing to the music, their energy is contagious and it encourages me to browse longer than I normally would, and I’ve never left empty handed. Walking into a store where employees are standing around or complaining about how tired they are or how they can’t wait to leave for the day puts a negative spin on things and doesn’t do anything besides encourage the customer to turn around and walk out. Creating a happy-go-lucky atmosphere where customers and employees alike enjoy is key to them not only having great experience, but ensuring they will recommend you to family and friends.