Nearly every brand has some version of “customer-centric” or “customer-obsessed” at the core of its stated mission and values—and for good reason. Brands that actively listen to customer feedback and make adjustments to improve the customer experience build stronger customer loyalty, resulting in higher sales and customer lifetime value.
It’s no surprise the definition of what a customer would consider “customer-centric” has shifted over the past year. It used to be enough to write a thank you note and send it along in a customer’s order, or hold value additive events in the store for customers to attend. Now customers expect more from brands. They require an experience that is one of a kind—personalization is the way to achieve brand affinity.
Brands must offer a uniquely personal experience that spans their selling channels in order to meet customers where they want to buy. It’s true that the rise of the “omnichannel associate” was gaining traction even before the pandemic lowered the divide between the digital and physical worlds, but now, as customers begin stepping out to explore retail once again, brands must be prepared for a new set of expectations for their stores and store teams.
Here’s what brands need to know in order to meet these new expectations:
The most important technology will be invisible.
For years, much discussion has taken place with regards to the role of technology in stores. Brands have tried holograms, virtual reality, touch screens and more, and while these items garner press and drive some traffic, they don’t drastically impact customer satisfaction one way or another. The technology that truly adds value to the experience is largely invisible. For example, customers expect integrated inventory systems that allow them to see a store’s stock in real-time, select items to buy-online-pickup-in-store, and enjoy a seamless return process when their purchase doesn’t work out. They also expect brands to know them—their name, their address and their purchase history—to save them time and make it easier to complete a purchase.
It’s time to re-learn how to ride the customer service bike.
It’s clear from recent traffic data that customers are craving the comfort and familiarity of the in-store experience. Though familiarity is important, brands that are truly customer-centric can’t simply deliver the same level of service they did before the events of this past year. For experienced teams, customer service skills are deeply ingrained and not easily forgotten—even after a long hiatus—but the expectations have evolved, and so, too, must the customer service in the store. Returning associates need support in the form of training to learn about the new set of customer expectations. They also need technology to support their ability to meet these expectations. Providing a robust CRM tool for teams to reach out to customers, record their preferences, and follow up at appropriate intervals is now a must-have.
Transitioning to “omnichannel” is not as daunting as it seems.
Adapting an existing infrastructure to be more integrated can seem like a daunting task. Indeed there are some adjustments, like implementing an ERP, that will take time and effort on the part of the brand. There are, however, other systems and processes that can be added or adapted as the larger organization is transitioning to an omnichannel operation. There is likely already some sort of personalized customer outreach being done at the store level—whether a brand realizes it or not. Building upon these efforts and adopting a technology platform that creates efficiencies around customer outreach will only benefit the store teams (and customers) in the long run.
Is Your Team Prepared?
Discover your store team’s readiness for the new set of customer expectations with our Clienteling Certification quiz, made for retail associates to measure their clienteling skills. Then learn more about the technology you need to stay ahead.