Picture this: you’re ready to buy something from your favourite store, but there’s nobody around to serve you. It’s now 10 minutes later and you still haven’t been served, and your patience is running thin. You may have decided that because it’s your favourite store you’ll suck it up and wait, or you may have decided that the wait just isn’t worth it.
The moral of the story here is that no good can come from making your customer wait for longer than necessary. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your product is- if your service is slow, your customer will suffer.
Speed is no longer an option in retail- it’s a necessity. Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and the speed of service is just one of them. Customers want a response right now, right now; and they’re not prepared to tolerate anything less.
What shouldn’t be confused with speed is rushing. Nobody likes a rushed job, but if you can make a process simpler without compromising on quality, why wouldn’t you?
Here 5 ways you can go about delivering a faster and more reliable customer experience for your customer:
1. Quit Leaving Them Hanging
Customers want a sense of urgency from you. If you’re taking too long to respond, this translates into not caring/ being lazy, which equals the customer not wanting to shop with you again any time soon. Obviously, this is not ideal, so how do you let them know that you really do care if they’ve reached out to contact you? This could mean increasing the number of staff you have responding to messages sent on social media and emails, or giving these customers a direct number that they can call to speak to the right person on the customer service team without having to go through multiple transfers (let’s face it, we’ve all been there before and it isn’t a fun ride). If a customer has called and their problem can’t be resolved entirely on the spot, that’s ok- let them know that YOU will call them back so that they don’t have to go waste more time on hold or explaining an issue over and over to multiple customer service reps. If your business can put the right strategies in place to respond as quickly as possible, you’ll be more likely to establish a meaningful connection with your customer because they will know that you’re giving them the effort that they deserve.
2. Keep Your Communication Current and Easy to Understand
If your communication is out of date, this is a recipe for frustration and complaints. By keeping your communications with your customer frequent, you have the potential to minimise their confusion and maximise the likelihood of customers being able to self-serve before needing to seeking help from customer service staff. For example, if your website has out of date FAQs, delivery instructions or product information, a customer is left without guidance or clear directions. This is why ongoing communication maintenance is critical to ensuring a fast, seamless customer experience. Similarly, if a customer is instore, there should be adequate signage so that the customer knows exactly how to navigate to where they need to go without feeling like they’ve been left in a maze. Communications should also be easy to understand and in a tone that matches your customer. There’s no point sending a follow-up email after purchase that your customer has to spend time translating from Shakespearean English. Keep communication conversational, direct, and simple to avoid time wasted on confusion and frustration.
3. Assess Your Team Structure
As important as it is to focus on your customer, it’s equally as important to check out what’s going on behind the scenes. Stopping to assess what resources you have in place and how they’re being used will give you the opportunity to identify problems and see where there is room for improvement. A carpenter is only as good as the tools they use, and retail employees are no different. Is speed a priority for your team members? Do they actively exercise a sense of urgency when it comes to serving customers? Does the helpdesk have access to updated, detailed information so that a supervisor isn’t regularly required for assistance? Is there enough staff on call or instore during peak times in the day? These are just some of questions that can be asked to highlight potential solutions. Maybe your employees need to be given more authority to solve issues without requiring a manager signoff, or maybe you need to set goals for the average time a customer if left on hold or a benchmark for the number of calls a team member can process. There’s more way than one to solve these types of problems, which is why it’s vital to take a step back and analyse what’s going on and why.
4. Upgrade Your Technology
You don’t need to go crazy here. It’s about identifying what you need, and which technology is required to do this for you. Ideally, the technology you introduce or update should be easy to maintain, to train people on, and should be able to be easily integrated with other channels you’re already using. There’s no point introducing some new, fancy technology process that only makes it more difficult for your customers and staff. Areas where technology can prove to be extremely beneficial is for keeping and updating customer profiles. This makes it much easier for a customer when they call with an issue or question. If a customer can call and the person on the other end of the phone already has the information there about the customer, this speeds up the process and makes the experience much more personalised. At the end of the day, technology is there to eliminate unnecessary processes or steps, and should not be creating any extra confusion or delays.
5. Do Your Research
Be proactive with your research. If you can seek out what problems your customers are talking about, particularly on social media, you can find out what issues are regularly discussed without relying solely on complaints that have been formally reported. For example, lots of people could all be talking about the same delivery problem on Twitter. Essentially, if you do your homework right, you can nip the problem in the bud before it escalates to a recurring problem. Rigorous research and planning can be a great preventative measure that you can utilise before having to deal with the aftermath. This could mean quantifying the data that you find after surveying customers, and then developing strategies that address certain findings to eliminate future problems. This data you collect can also be used for personalisation too, so it’s a win-win situation for both aspects of the customer experience.
Speed is about keeping your standards high, but response times low.
You could have all the bells and whistles, but if your service is slow, it just won’t cut it. Providing your customers with speedy resolutions will only add to the whole customer experience by showing them that they can rely on you, and this is something that they won’t forget.