Customer Service Stagnating

Customer service levels in the retail sector in 2018 are stagnating at a time when store owners can least afford it, a survey by customer service training organisation KiwiHost reveals.


KiwiHost CEO Jared Brixton said the company has surveyed customer service levels annually since 2008 when customer satisfaction was around 33%, rising to 64% by 2013, where they have since remained – give or take a percentage point or two.


“Rising wages, a more transient workforce that doesn't see retail as a long-term career option, tightening margins and rising fuel costs – not to mention competition from online giants like Amazon – have created a tough environment that discourages investment in people skills,” Brixton said.


“Ironically, it is people skills – like communication, the ability to hold a face-to-face conversation and friendliness – that offer the only real competitive advantage to walk-in retail store owners.”


Brixton said the advances of technology, including point-of-sale software solutions like Vend, have dramatically changed the landscape, but come with both problems and opportunities.


“Where your millennial work force understands and is comfortable with technology (and the efficiencies it offers) the people with the money who still enjoy going in to the store are 50-years-old plus; these are the customers who want personal, friendly engagement.


“It is imperative that store owners return to personable, informed customers service as a point of difference – the technology is there to make it happen, but training your staff in interpersonal, customer service skills will enable them to sell better, negotiate better and serve better.”


Brixton said for many customers there’s no real incentive to come instore except to try on sizes and perhaps listen to the opinion of a real human being.


“Your customer researches online. They’re informed with reviews. They know prices, specifications and availability. They can even buy cheaper online, but when they come in store, even to try on a product or a get a feel for it, that is your opportunity to get them to buy then and there too.


“If price and supply are a bricks-and-mortar retailer’s only differentiators, then they’re going to struggle,” Brixton said.