Tag Archive for customer service

Dirty Bathrooms and Messy Stores Still Hurting Retail

Retail Store

Can cleanliness and organization affect how a retail store performs? You better believe it. 2018 was a rough year for several retailers…proving that fact.

Toys R Us closed for good in the United States and was forced to liquidate because it was unable to sustain its debt load after a leveraged buyout in 2005. According to a filing with the bankruptcy court, Toys R Us had still been making $400 million payments on its debt every year.

Department stores, in particular, have been struggling because of declining foot traffic to malls, which has affected Sears, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s. They all have closed stores in the past year, and Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after years of declining sales.

The rise of e-commerce has played a huge role in the downfall of some retailers who can’t keep up with Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, etc. Although stores have been working on improving their marketing strategies, it hasn’t always been enough. Even on Black Friday, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year, stores were relatively empty.

Maybe it’s because department stores are focusing on the big picture and not the details. During secret shopper visits to various stores, it was alarming what was discovered. Empty shelves, dirty carpet, displays so crowded you couldn’t sort through the inventory, and empty cash registers with no employees in sight.

Tom Buiocchi, the CEO of facilities management platform ServiceChannel, sees it over and over. Retailers cut back on store maintenance and improvements and end up on the fast track to bankruptcy, while those who invest in store improvements and upkeep are succeeding and expanding.

A study commissioned by ServiceChannel surveyed 1,521 consumers and 70% said they recently had a negative experience with a messy store, ranging from dirty bathrooms and broken toilets, to disorganized shelves and burned-out light bulbs. Over two-thirds said they have walked out of stores because they were messy or disorganized. Four out of five shoppers said they would rather have a clean store than ones with the newest tech, and two-thirds said retailers are forgetting the basics—like clean floors and well-stocked shelves—in the rush to add tech. “The vast majority of purchases are still being done by people walking into a location. And their experience of that location has never been more important,” Buiocchi said in an interview.

With so many other shopping options, retailers must be on top of their game. Consumers want to be rewarded when they make the effort to walk into a store and a dirty, disorganized store says the retailer doesn’t care—about the store or the shopper. Store maintenance used to be considered “a non-sexy part of the business,” Buiocchi said, “but now it directly affects the high expectation for an in-store experience. And facilities managers all have a role at the table now.”

Many of the new online brands that are opening stores are quick to recognize the value of rigorous maintenance and are signing up as customers. “There are the people that get it, and there are the people that don’t get it,” Buiocchi said. “Good progressive retail is investing in their brick-and-mortar experiences and enjoying the benefits of that,” he said. “Bad retail is not and they’re unfortunately being penalized for that.”

Although JCPenney has been struggling the past few years, new CEO Jill Soltau, is up for the task of bringing the stores back to life. Soltau, who took over the position in October, said in a recent earnings call that the department-store chain is failing to adequately deliver on some fundamentals of “good retail.”

On Tuesday, JCPenney reported first-quarter earnings for 2019; same-store sales during the quarter dropped by 5.5%, following a 6% drop in the previous quarter. “I am pleased with the strides we’ve made in setting key objectives, building our senior leadership team, executing significant changes in our assortment, such as eliminating major appliances, and mobilizing the entire organization around our priorities,” Soltau said in a press release on Tuesday. She continued: “JCPenney is an American retail icon that is very important to all of our stakeholders, and I am encouraged by the early signs I am seeing in our business as we work to realize the potential that lies ahead.”JCPenney, and other struggling retailers, are definitely capable of delivering on the fundamentals of great retail. The fate of the company now depends on its ability to execute this shopping experience across its entire fleet.

The problem is consistency. Visits to numerous JCPenney stores across the Southeast proved just that. Stores in Richmond, Virginia featured empty shelves, messy displays, and abandoned cash registers. The stores, which both anchored enclosed shopping malls, felt outdated and far too large. However, a third JCPenney store in a strip mall, revealed flawless design, layout, and presentation. This store obviously cared about presentation, reputation, and customer experience.

Customers Still Want the In-Person Customer Experience How to Capitalize on it

How can you make the customer experience better? It’s pretty simple actually…talk to your customers.

While the digital experience is important due to the rise of social media shopping and interaction, new research has found that putting extra effort into the personal touch – phone or face-to-face contact – is more successful at making the customer experience memorable and increasing sales.

Almost two-thirds of customers say they spend or invest more in products and services after they’ve had personal contact with someone at the company, according to research from BookingBug. And 50% said that being able to speak with a service or sales professional when issues arise is critical in making the decision. Plain and simple, when customers talk to someone, rather than corresponding through email or social media, they are likely to become a loyal fan.

It’s important to build both a competent digital experience and a feel-good personal experience. “By closely following customers along their dynamic journey between digital and physical worlds, businesses will engage more effectively, build trust with customers and ultimately drive increased revenue,” says Glenn Shoosmith, CEO of BookingBug.

How can you bridge the digital and personal experience?

Make your people accessible – online and on the retail floor. Customers still want to gather as much information as possible on their own…from your website, on social media, and by reading online reviews. But eventually, many of them will want to talk to or meet with a service or sales professional. Make that as easy as possible by adding the ability to schedule an appointment to every page on your website and on your social pages. And know your busiest shopping times so you have ample sales staff available. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking around a store hunting for an associate to answer your questions.

Customer service

Know their experiences. When customers get in touch with you, the service or sales professional should have an idea of what the customer has already experienced. Businesses can use tracking software to better understand what customers are interested in and the processes they have already gone through to handle their issue. Once they’ve asked to talk or meet, review what’s already been done, ask what questions they have, and move forward with information targeted at the needs they’ve shared.

Be prepared. The most important aspect of a personal customer experience is knowledge. Customers routinely give top ratings to experiences when the person they work with can answer everything they need answered – or, at least, know where to find answers and respond with them quickly. You can do this by providing ongoing training for all staff members so they stay on top of developments on your products, services, uses, technology and industry.

Managers also have the responsibility of understanding and managing workloads across all teams. Knowledge of their team’s attendance and performance trends, including nonproductive hours and overtime, can empower retail managers to become more successful in responding to workforce challenges, addressing individual employee needs, and building stronger customer relationships.

Keep in touch the right way. Just because customers have a personal interaction doesn’t mean they want to continue communicating that way. Make sure you ask how a customer wants to continue to receive information, handle follow-up or be contacted in the future. You’ll likely want to keep in touch with customers after calls or visits, but you’ll want to do that on their terms.

Great customer experiences lead to loyal fans and repeat business. In order to achieve this, brands need to invest in educating employees and making sure all members of the team are focused on positive customer interactions – whether that is digitally or in-person. Take care of your team and they will take care of you and your brand.

Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Customer service

The terms “customer service” and “customer experience” are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings and interpretations. While they are related, there are definitely unique characteristics of both.

Today, research shows that companies investing in customer experience boast a higher stock price. According to a portfolio of publicly traded companies drawn from the top 20% of brands in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index – these companies that invest in customer experience had higher stock price growth and higher total returns than a similar portfolio of companies drawn from the bottom 20% of brands.

So what is the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

Customer service is only one piece of the puzzle — focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers while customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

Let’s get into more detail.

Customer Service

Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer service requires your team to possess patience, product knowledge, and compassion, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs.
The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, usually by answering questions, but could also include helping a customer choose the right product before they make a purchase, giving assistance to customers on how to best use the product, trouble-shooting any issues, and ensuring they had a great buying experience. Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer Experience, or CX, reflects the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business. Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching a product to shopping and purchasing, to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection customers have with a brand. It isn’t a one-time interaction, but rather includes the entire customer lifecycle and every touchpoint a customer has with a product or service.

Customer experience includes three main components:

  1. Customer Service: Including Customer Support, Customer Success, and self-service support — the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
  2. Technology: This is the product itself — how it works and the interactivity points.
  3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint — the marketing, the design, and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

All of the pieces combine to make up the customer experience.

Putting it Together

Customer experience is measured by net promoter score (NPS), which tracks how likely a customer is to recommend the brand to a friend. Customer service is measured through the customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which measures how satisfied customers are with the experience.

The main difference is customer service is reactive and often is only used when a customer isn’t satisfied. If a customer has an issue with a product or service, that is typically the only time they would contact customer service. On the other hand, customer experience is proactive, aiming to reach every customer. The goal being to provide an exceptional journey so customers do not have to contact customer service. While customer service may only be a one-time interaction, customer experience is long-term, creating lasting impressions that will stay with the customer every time they think of the company.

Customer service and customer experience are both important pieces to an organization’s success, yet it’s not possible (or necessary) to draw hard lines between them. Customers consider the whole picture when thinking about your brand, and you should, too. The two elements work together to build a satisfied customer base that is loyal to the brand and will return for more.