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How to Improve Customer Service in Retail: 27 Actionable Tips

How to Improve Customer Service in Retail: 27 Actionable Tips

Have you ever seen a customer walk away from your store or website after a bad experience? Besides offering great products, stellar customer service might be the difference between repeat, loyal customers and people walking out the door or leaving your website for good. When the retail world is changing so much, offering consistently great customer service is your way into the hearts and pockets of your customers. 

Keeping your service standards high, online and off, with a top-notch, trained team will help you pave the way to creating longtime connections with your customers. 

In this post, we’ll look at the ways you can start leveling up your retail store customer service for the future.

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1. Offer consistent customer service across all channels

The customer buying journey isn’t a simple process of visiting a store and buying a product anymore. 73% of customers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. Odds are, your customers might make multiple pit stops along the way before actually making a purchase.

Making sure you provide consistent customer service and a unified feel of your physical store, online shop, social channels, emails and any other touchpoints you have with your customers is key in providing a successful omnichannel experience

When Her Hide Out decided it was time to set up their eCommerce shop, they wanted to make sure they stayed consistent. For Stephanie Fontaine, one of the store owners, “it was really important that the vibe of our eCommerce shop matched the vibe of our store.” 

They also realized the importance of linking their online store to social channels like Facebook and Instagram where they extend their customer service and reach new customers. “We’ve been able to see the tie between someone that’s on our Insta account and goes to our website and buys a product.” Creating this unified experience with customer service to match has allowed them to replicate the same connection they offered to customers in store, online. 

2. Make customer service everyone’s job

Have you ever been in a store and asked for help, only to be told, “That’s not my job?” Whether you’re a manager, a sales representative or even an intern, customer care is everyone’s responsibility. 

If a manager considers customer service beneath them—well, maybe they’re not the right people for your business. And if your team needs to bone up on their customer service skills, get them training.

3. Keep your whole sales crew up to date

Another way to offer a consistent service across channels is constant product training and updates. 

When you bring in new products, make sure everyone behind the counter gets to check them out before you offer them to your customers. For more complex products, you might need to employ different types of training content like streaming video, in-person demos from experts and more. That way, your sales staff on the floor or online can all explain just how the bagel cutter works or what kind of accessories will pair well with your new line of sweaters.

4. Equip staff with a customer service script 

According to Jerry Han, Chief Marketing Executive at PrizeRebel, a great way to help guide staff is by training them and preparing a script. For Han, “Retailers can improve customer service by training their team to use positive and reaffirming language. The script shows the best way to deal with customers by suggesting word choices that help induce a positive customer experience.” 

Some customers might not be familiar with or might be reluctant to adhere to new rules, so training your staff on how to handle different situations beforehand, and providing them with scripts they can fall back on, will help mitigate what could be uncomfortable situations and negative customer experiences. Making sure your staff is equipped with different soft skills will make them better prepared to handle all types of situations.  

5. Talk to your customers on a regular basis

Whether you’re informing store visitors of new opening hours and services offered at your store, or if you’re letting them know of upcoming deals on your website, it’s never been more important to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. The best way to ensure a great experience is to let customers know details of any changes in the way you operate, ahead of time. 

For example, if you decide to offer appointment shopping, make sure to email customers and display information prominently on your website. Before their visit, email them with any relevant information they might need before arriving.

6. Personalize the customer experience

Personalizing your customer service is a trend that won’t be going away any time soon. 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that offer some type of personalized experience or customer service. If you’re working with customers, a surefire way to create long-lasting relationships is to get to know them. 

Some customers might want to talk to sales associates in store, but a great way to keep track of customer preferences and purchases is through an omnichannel loyalty program. 62% of consumers expect personalized offers based on their preferences. With a loyalty program, you can keep track of your customers’ buying habits, brand and product preferences and offer them relevant rewards. 

According to Tori Erickson, owner of Loyal Tee Boutique, her customers are faithful to their loyalty perks. “I have multiple customers that use their rewards every day. They look forward to it. They say, ‘I got the text, I get $10 off today,” says Erickson. 

Lightspeed’s Advanced Marketing capabilities enables you to strengthen your customer relationships and streamline your marketing initiatives. The built in loyalty program lets you reward shoppers whenever they make a purchase. You can also automate customer communications like welcome message, “We miss you” emails, and more.

Myself Lingerie uses Advanced Marketing runs their loyalty program, an automated win-back program and can also send email marketing campaigns for sales, promotions and product launches. Since launching, Myself Lingerie has seen a staggering ROI of 70x on Advanced Marketing costs.

“Beyond saving us time and money, I would say the greatest value is in the tools and add-ons Lightspeed offers. The integrated ecommerce is really helpful, and we love how Advanced Marketing works,”says Rachel Rosenthal, Co-owner of Myself Lingerie.

Giving customers exclusive offers isn’t the only way you can personalize their experience. Below are some simple ways your employees can take personalization into their day-to-day:

  • Give your customers contactless options 
  • Focus on the customer in front of you
  • Introduce employees and customers by name
  • Celebrate your customers’ birthdays
  • Go the extra mile
  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

7. Give your customers contactless options 

The way customers are shopping is changing. One of the biggest trends making its way through the retail industry is offering contactless options throughout the shopping journey. Whether that’s curbside pickup, or contactless payments, customers need to know you have their interests and safety in mind. Train your staff on how to interact with customers and make sure to offer sufficient options for pick up and shipping. 

8. Focus on the customer in front of you

We have all been there. The phone is ringing, you may have online orders to fill, and there’s a line of folks that need to be checked out at the register. Juggling responsibilities comes with the territory when you own a small business. 

That said, no one is more important than the customer waiting to be attended to in your shop. All it takes is a few angry customers and negative Yelp reviews to dent business sales. So when in doubt, put the phone caller on hold and focus on delivering a stellar in-store experience.

9. Introduce employees and customers by name

In today’s retail world, you literally have seconds to connect with customers and make a good impression. If you need to turn over a customer to another employee, introduce your co-worker by name and make sure you use your customer’s name as well. Referring to others by name during a sales interaction makes the experience feel personal, building a connection that’s hard to break.

10. Celebrate your customers’ birthdays

An easy way to win customers is to help them celebrate their special days. Have customers sign up for a birthday club with the month and day of their birth, and make a note of this in your POS system or loyalty program so that you’re alerted when the time comes. You can send them an email or postcard thanking them for their patronage, offer a gift waiting at your store or treat them to a discount during the month of their birth.

11. Go the extra mile

If your customer wants something that they can’t find in your store, offer them options. Head to that back room to look for those cute boots in size 8, even if you’re pretty sure they’re not there. Offer them a rain check or the opportunity to order now and enjoy free delivery when the item restocks. Even if they turn you down, most customers will remember the extra effort. They might even share their experience with friends and family, or on social media, helping to spread the word about your business.

12. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

Understanding what your customer is feeling is key to forging the kind of bond that invites them to come back to your shop and gives them a truly personalized experience. Is your customer stressed because they need an outfit for a special occasion or a job interview? Are they exhausted from a long day? Excellent people skills are essential when running a retail business. The more you relate to your customers and their emotional needs, the better experience they’ll have. 

13. Make your checkout process is seamless

Nobody likes waiting in line and they shouldn’t! There are many ways to make your checkout process as painless as possible. 

From scheduling customers for appointment shopping to making sure customers respect social distancing and having enough staff ready, the way you handle check out says a lot about your store to your customers. Keep your checkout line clearly marked, and add appropriate distancing so customers know where to stand without disrupting others. If you have a cloud-based POS, equip staff members with iPads so they can help customers check out wherever they are. 

The same goes for your online checkout. Skip the lengthy process and make sure to keep your checkout short and sweet. Better yet, allow customers to finalize their shopping as a guest without having to make an account. Another great tip? Make sure your checkout section has information readily available regarding shipping, payment information and other FAQs so your customers can have all their questions answered in one place without having to look around. 

The checkout experience is your last chance to finalize a sale and might also set the tone for any future visits to your store or website. 

Here are some tips on how your staff can make the best impression possible at checkout: 

  • Tell every customer your policies
  • Give paying patrons a gift
  • Be discreet if a customer’s card is declined
  • Ask for feedback 

Also, remember that the checkout process provides a great opportunity to collect customer data. Of course, you want to make this experience as seamless as possible, which is where a good POS system comes into play.

A solution like Lightspeed makes it easy to capture customer information at checkout, so can create shoppers profiles and further personalize their shopping experience.

Take for example, the jewelery store Melissa Joy Manning. According Melissa, she decided to switch to Lightspeed in part because of the our platform’s ability to collect customer data.

“What we were using was archaic,” recounts Melissa. “We were looking for more custom customer information. A lot of the things that we were looking at did not store customer information.”

Fast forward to today—Melissa and her team can capture shopper information efficiently at the checkout counter.

Switching gave her stores the access to the CRM capabilities they needed—now every time a customer checks out, they can capture contact information and purchase history notes, enriching their marketing campaigns.

14. Tell every customer your policies

Make sure every customer who makes a purchase understands what your exchange and return policies are. If you also sell online, see to it that your privacy policy is super clear. If they leave under the impression that they can return an item, and then learn that they can only exchange it, they can end up feeling frustrated and angry.

15. Give paying patrons a gift

Another way to end the checkout experience on the right foot is by giving out freebies. People love free stuff and humans naturally feel indebted to those who have done something for them, so by offering them something free of charge you implicitly trigger the part of them that feels indebted to you. Whether it’s a cold drink on a hot day, a candy jar full of treats by the checkout counter or a plate of free samples, do something to tap into your customers’ mental desire to reciprocate.

16. Be discreet if a customer’s credit card is declined

Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go as planned, and when it comes to shopping, very little is as embarrassing or stressful as having a credit card or debit card declined in public. 

Think how you would feel, and respond in a way that doesn’t draw too much attention to the situation. Inform the customer that there is an issue with their credit card and ask them if they would like to opt for another payment method. This combination of good customer service and basic human empathy are a sure way to turn a bad experience into a good or neutral one.

17. Ask for feedback  

Your job as a retailer is to meet your customers’ needs—and how will you know what they need if you don’t ask? It’s easy to link online surveys to codes on checkout receipts so you can provide a small gift when your customers opt-in, or ask if they can fill out a quick hard copy survey right there in the store.

18. Say “Thank you”

Of course, you want to thank customers when they complete a purchase. But that’s not the only time you should be saying “thank you.” Show your appreciation to everyone who visits your establishment, whether they make a purchase or not. Did one of your customers recently make a huge purchase? Send them a personal thank you email, or drop a thank you note (with a discount for future purchases) in their bag or mailbox.

19. Stay present without hovering

As a retailer, you have to strike a careful balance between being helpful and being overzealous. It’s one of the more nuanced customer service skills. Customers want you to be available to answer questions, open a dressing room or ring up a purchase the second they’re ready—but they don’t want you hovering over them as they browse. 

The secret? Keep yourself busy straightening shelves, and use your peripheral vision to wait for that moment when your customers start looking around.

20. Never turn away from an approaching customer

There’s no excuse for turning away from a customer. It doesn’t matter if the phone’s ringing, you’re about to start your lunch break, or you really need to run to the restroom. If a customer is approaching you, smile, greet them and offer your services. If you absolutely have to step away, make sure they’re clear on who else is around to support them or how they can get your attention when ready.

21. Smile

No one wants to be waited on by a grumpy or condescending salesperson. As tough as the job might be, the same goes for your customer service representatives. According to a study on the hidden benefits of smiling, waitresses who smiled made more tips than non-smiling waitresses. If you make smiling a priority in your retail shop, you’ll create a welcoming atmosphere for your customers.

22. Establish procedures for dealing with unhappy customers

Not every sales interaction might start out on a good note, making it all the more important to empower your sales staff to treat angry customers well. Establish written procedures to help employees know what to do if a transaction goes south, and train them in the customer service skills needed to always make unhappy customers feel valued. 

Give them the authority to issue returns, make exchanges or provide extra merchandise without having to ask for approval from higher-ups.

23. Encourage patience

Yes, certain customers can be challenging to deal with—but what if those very shoppers are your most profitable? Establish a storewide attitude of patience. Consider rewarding salespeople not just for hitting sales numbers but also for dealing with demanding customers successfully.

24. Never say, “I Don’t Know”

When you say, “I don’t know,” your customer hears “I don’t care.” Instead, when you truly don’t know the answer to your customer’s question, say, “Let me look into that”—and then do whatever it takes to find the right answer or to turn your customer over to someone with the answer.

25. Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Promotions are great for attracting new and repeat customers, but nothing is more frustrating than offers with lots of fine print and multiple strings attached. Be honest and upfront about what your business can offer and deliver. 

Also, if you send out a flyer with an offer that forgot to mention the expiration date, honor it. Clickbait offers might attract a lot of foot traffic, but they can also run your reputation to the ground if you’re not careful.

26. Create a comfortable break room for employees

You might be wondering how this has anything to do with excelling in customer service—the happier employees are, the more productive they are likely to be. Your employees work hard, and they’re on their feet for hours at a time. They deserve to take their breaks in a space that’s comfortable and truly relaxing. Small changes like providing a comfortable chair or two and stocking snacks to keep your staff’s blood sugar from dropping, can reenergize an employee who’s having a tough day.

27. Stay positive

When customers try on a zillion outfits and leave them all over the dressing room floor without buying a thing or when you spend an hour demonstrating software or appliances and your customer decides they’re going to make their purchase on Amazon, staying positive can be difficult.

That said, developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude is essential for any business that relies on consistent sales. Train staff to be solution-focused and efficiently manage negative emotions when they come up.

28. Use technology to improve customer service

There are a few ways your can leverage technology to improve customer service.

  • Invest in AI Chatbots: By incorporating chatbots, you can offer instant assistance to online customers, answer frequently asked questions or guide them through a purchase.
  • Implement CRM Systems: Using a customer relationship management system will help your retail business better understand customers’ behaviours, preferences, and purchase history, allowing for a tailored shopping experience.
  • Adopt Queue Management Software: This ensures customers spend less time waiting by efficiently managing foot traffic, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

29. Leverage social media for customer service

Engage on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to directly communicate with your customers, address their concerns, or answer questions in real-time on social media platforms, making them feel listened to and valued.

You can also utilise Instagram for Product Queries to post new products on Instagram and let customers enquire about them in the comments or through direct messaging.

30. Handle online reviews and feedback

Always respond promptly to reviews. Whether they’re positive or negative, a quick response shows customers you care about their feedback. Use criticism constructively to improve service.

Also remember to celebrate positive feedback. Sharing good reviews on your website or social media can boost your brand’s reputation.

31. Create a customer loyalty program

Launch a reward system or a loyalty program to make customers feel valued, incentivising repeat business. Offer points for purchases, which can be redeemed for discounts or free items.

32. Implement omnichannel retail strategies

Build a unified shopping experience to ensure your customers have a consistent and seamless shopping experience, whether they’re in-store, online, or on a mobile device.

33. Build a customer centric culture

Train your staff to always put the customer first by prioritising customer needs. This can be achieved by holding regular workshops and feedback sessions to  instil this culture.

34. Improve accessibility and inclusivity in customer service

There are so many different initiatives, big and small, that can be introduced to make an environment  accessible and inclusive. Two examples for retail businesses include: 

  • Enhancing store layouts to ensure that store aisles and counters are accessible to everyone, including customers with disabilities.
  • Offering sign language services for hard-of-hearing customers, having staff trained in sign language can greatly enhance their shopping experience.

35. Introduce sustainable and ethical business practices

This can include things like: 

  • Green initiatives: Show customers you care about the environment by adopting eco-friendly practices, like reducing plastic use or recycling.
  • Ethical procurement: Source products ethically, ensuring no exploitation was involved. Being transparent about your supply chain can build trust among customers.

36. Follow-up with customers post-purchase

Adopting a holistic approach to customer service includes following up with customers after their purchase. 

Sending emails or messages asking about a customer’s experience with a product or service, shows them that you value their opinion. Post-purchase follow-up is also helpful in gathering feedback and idetifying areas of improvement. 

What are some examples of good customer service?

This article just offered several tips to help you level up your customer service. Now, let’s take a look at some real life examples of good customer service in retail, to help inspire your efforts. 

The sales employee who takes the time to find the perfect fit

Earlier this year, I swung by the Sunglass Hut location in SoHo, as I needed a new pair of sunglasses. The associate manning the store was super friendly and offered to help after noticing that I was unsure of what to buy. 

She took the time to find out what I needed and what my preferences were, and then she walked me through the different brands they had. She then hand-picked pairs of sunglasses that best fit the shape of my head, and even brought out an eyewear tray so we could easily compare different products.

It was a great experience and I appreciated the employee’s sincere effort.

Example of good customer service from Sunglass Hut

Emulate this example by exerting more effort to help your customers in need. This could mean different things, depending on your store. For example, you could accompany a shopper to the shelf where an item is located instead of just saying “It’s in Aisle 4.” Or, like the associate above, you could bring out different products to help the shopper compare items.

The retailer offering a sincere apology

Things don’t always go your or your customer’s way, and it’s during times like these that your customer service is really put to test. While the “right” way to deal with unpleasant situations will depend on your circumstances, often you’ll fare a lot better if you apologize and try to compensate for what happened.

DSW offers a great example of the right way to deal with mishaps. According to Mikaela Kornowski, Marketing & PR Executive at OFFPRICE Show, “Lost packages, website glitches, and other unforeseen issues are always going to plague retailers, but excellent customer service in light of those mishaps will be rewarded with loyal shoppers.”

“DSW’s website crashed this fall, leaving many shoppers like myself stranded mid-checkout. The next day I received an apology in my inbox with a note letting me know their flash sale was extended because of the mishap. And guess what? I bought the shoes… and a few more pairs since then!”

Keep this example in mind the next time there’s a mishap at your store. Remember that even if the situation isn’t necessarily your fault, saying sorry that a customer is having difficulties can go a long way. And if there was an error on your end, do your best to own the mistake and make it up to the customer. Is there a way to reverse the error? Can you offer a discount instead? Find a way to make it up to the customer and go from there. 

The retailer who makes an effort to upsell and educate customers

Think upselling is sleazy or bad for customer service? Not if you do it right. If you take the time to educate customers before they purchase and tailor your recommendations to their needs, the customer will likely leave happy.

Case in point: a while back, I took my toddler shopping at our local shoe store for kids. We encountered a great associate who helped him select and try on different pairs of shoes. 

The associate then came up to me and said, “I noticed your son’s feet were a bit sweaty. What types of socks is he using?”

I told him we just used standard cotton socks.

“Cotton isn’t ideal for sweaty feet,” he replied. Do you want me to show you some of the socks we have that can help?”

He proceeded to tell me about the various types of socks they carried, the materials they were made out of, and which ones would work best for my son. I ended up buying a couple of pairs, and I was thrilled with my purchase because it did wonders for my son’s feet.  

The key takeaway? Train your associates to upsell and cross-sell. Encourage them to pay attention to each customer and determine any potential needs or wants they may have. In the example above, the associate took note of the fact that my son had sweaty feet, and then made the right call by recommending the right type of socks for him. 

It’s also important that associates educate your customers. Upselling or cross-selling shouldn’t just be about pushing products. See to it that shoppers know the benefits of the products you’re pitching and why they should buy it.

The online merchant who sends personalized video message to each new customer

Sending welcome messages to new customers is a common practice in online retail, but here’s something you don’t see every day: a personalized video message thanking the customer for making their first purchase. 

Magic Mind, the maker of the popular productivity drink, is doing just that. When I made my first purchase with the company, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personalized video message from Rebecca, one of Magic Mind’s team members. 

Not only did she mention me by name, but she took the time to tell me a bit more about the brand and the results that Magic Mind customers have achieved. 

Customer service example from Magic Mind

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Try to do something similar in your business by coming up with personalized ways to welcome new customers. Like Magic Mind, you could opt to record personal videos to really make shoppers feel welcome. In some cases, a tailored note or phone call might be a better fit. 

Get creative. See what your competitors are doing to engage new customers, and ensure that your strategy is better. 

The online store that proactively addresses shipping issues

When you’re selling online, problems with shipping and delivery come with the territory. Between missed deliveries, damaged shipment, and supply chain delays, there are a host of problems that could arise.

And while these issues technically aren’t your fault, you are still responsible for the customer experience.

That’s why it’s important to closely track customer orders and ensure their products get to their hands safely and on time. In the event that something goes wrong, stay ahead of the situation by immediately getting in touch with shoppers (rather than waiting for them to contact you) and aim to rectify the situation.

That’s what the food delivery service Yumble did when its courier was experiencing delays in delivering the meals. Instead of doing nothing or waiting until shoppers got in touch, Yumble proactively emailed customers about the problem and even issued a $10 credit to make up for the inconvenience.

The retailer who finds a way around stockouts 

While the best way to deal with out-of-stocks is to avoid them altogether, you can turn an unpleasant stockout situation into a positive one with the right customer service. 

Here’s a cool example from Real Canadian Superstore. A customer decided to use the store’s click-and-collect service by ordering her groceries online and then opting to pick up her purchases at the store.

According to her Instagram post, some of the products she ordered were unavailable, so one of Superstore’s employees called her up and offered substitutes.

The whole experience was smooth and efficient, and the customer was so happy with Real Canadian Superstore’s service, that she raved about them on social media.

The cashier who forges a local connection with shoppers

This particular instance isn’t strictly about retail, but it’s still a great example of notable customer service. 

I was purchasing a drink from a local cafe, and the cashier behind the counter noticed I had a business card from a nearby eyebrow threading place. 

“Oh, you go there too? Aren’t they the best?” she said. 

We then had a quick chat about why we love the business and our experiences with their services.

It was a brief encounter, but certainly a memorable one. I loved that the cashier established a connection by referencing something local that we both liked. 

That effort didn’t take much, but it went a long way as far as customer service goes. Why? Because so few people do it. The majority of cashiers just ring up sales and spout impersonal lines like “How was everything?” or “Have a nice day.”

Don’t be one of them. Make the checkout process as pleasant as you can by making an effort to connect with the customer. Doing so could be just the thing that keeps you top of mind and gets them to come back.

Creating connections through customer service 

Customers have become accustomed to a certain level of service. With so much competition, the bar for customer service is high, and will likely keep increasing as retail stores continue innovating the way they do business. 

Having a highly trained team that understands customer needs and is equipped with great technology to support them, will help you build long-term relationships between your store and the customer. By allowing staff to focus on the people rather than worry about the nitty-gritty of inputting manual information, they’ll be able to create connections with customers that go past a simple sale and will pave the way to future purchases. 

Find out how Lightspeed can help your staff focus on what matters most: great customer service. Watch a demo today!

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