As retail evolves, where does the service desk fit? Speak to anyone in retail and they will tell you it is tough out there. Big names that have been around for decades and seemed eternal are disappearing. But in this tough world, there are retailers who are not only surviving, but thriving. What are they doing differently?
If we think about the biggest complaint from customers when they go into a large format retail or department store, that will give us a good idea. I don’t have any data on this – but I know what my biggest annoyances are:
- There is no staff around. Sometimes when I am in a store I have to wander around randomly calling out and running after people to see if they work there.
- When I do find them they don’t know anything.
- I have to queue up for 20 mins at a random place somewhere in the store to receive service.
I do understand that retailers want to provide better customer experiences. The challenge is the constant pressure to do more with less.
Making big changes in the way they operate can be difficult for existing retailers. Changing store format can be a big decision and take time to implement. They are often locked into long term contracts for the leases on their large stores. Hiring additional staff can also be expensive and challenging in a struggling retail environment.
One of the things that large retailers are doing in an effort to modernise their operations is providing more high-tech self-service options. This is great for some types of retail – if you know what you want and just want to grab it quickly – a self-service checkout is great.
But if you are trying to make a slightly more complicated purchase, for example, buying shoes or trying to replace your TV cable, having someone on hand to help makes a huge difference.
When thinking about big ideas for how to take retail to the future, we often forget that people do a lot more than simply buy items in-store. They may pick-up an item purchased online, make a lay-by payment, register for a wedding gift list, bring an item for repair, register for a loyalty program – the list goes on. Many retailers send people to a service desk for these peripheral activities. They are usually seen as secondary to the main game of getting people to buy more – but are they?
Apple is seen as a business who gets retail right. Most of us have experienced an Apple store. What is it about this experience that works?
When you walk into an Apple store, the first thing we notice is that we are greeted by a concierge. Many stores do this, but are they really making the most of this interaction? One of the things Apple does well, is they don’t just greet you; they actually start helping you straight away. They ask what you are after, log your request and direct you to a person who can help you.
Old retailers got this right in the old days – they had a high number of staff on the floor who were all very knowledgeable about their department and what was there.
One of the big challenges for retailers today, is that most of their staff are part-time or casual. They no longer have the experience and deep knowledge about their products.
Retailers who are getting it right, like Apple, do not only ensure staff are on hand to help you, they empower their staff with mobile technology so that they can actually get the information you need and carry out the transaction or service, then and there.
This does two things;
1. Treats the customer like a person not a transaction by having a person to person conversation
2. Brings the service to them, where they are.
Giving a more personal service is not new; we just need to remember that is what people really want. Retailers everywhere are shifting back to smaller, neighbourhood style stores with more staff per square foot.
Taking service to customers is the big shift that has been enabled by technology. The difference between shoppers of old and the modern shopper, is that today we are all so time poor – we want and need fast and efficient service. By empowering staff to provide service to customers on the floor where they are – we can provide a modern, efficient service in a personal way.
Retailers that are not only surviving, but thriving, are starting with what they can change in-store now. The smart ones are mobilising their in-store service and taking service to their customers. They no longer make customers search through the store to find the service desk or ask them to join a long queue for the privilege of speaking with one of their staff. They greet their customers like people, ask them about what they need, and provide personalised service where they are.
Want to improve your customers in-store collection experience? See how Localz can help you.