paying for national living wage

Developing a Customer Service Strategy in tune with a Productivity Strategy

Experience a lack of care from your retailer and you usually shop elsewhere, no need to complain, too many of us are too reserved to do that anyway, we just go. It’s rarely direct rudeness or poor customer service, it is either apathy from the colleagues or not being able to locate one that makes us leave.

Nobody believes that the actions they take in head office create a poor customer experience, I have never spoken to a retail director who thinks that. Yet they all take actions in reducing payroll and streamlining the organisation. Retailers across the spectrum are trying to reduce costs and the largest controllable they have is the cost of their labour.

paying for national living wage

The opposing reality of trying to save money but retain good customer service

Here lies the problem, the opposing realities of trying to save money but retain or even improve good customer service. Having completed work in both supermarket retailing in the UK, Eastern Europe and Africa and fashion retailing across Europe and Australia it is evident that these two needs are very uncomfortable bedfellows. In truth pushing hard in delivering productivity usually leads to a loss in customer service at the front line.

We have followed a number of well-meaning and statistically excellent productivity improvements introduced by internal teams (often finance controlled) or big brand consultants (often lacking retail experience), most have been pretty miserable. The biggest failure appears to be around understanding that the job of customer service is a task in itself and that if you give most employees two tasks (fill this and then watch out for customers who may need help) they default to the more measurable element.

This gives a clue as to where the solution may be, unfortunately moving mundane operational task out of hours or away from specific areas can add cost and is also difficult to deliver in low volume, small unit retail where minimal manning dictates hours.

Define what a good job looks like

If I owned a fashion shop one of the key ways that I would be driving sales would be through the interactions with my customers. Visiting some stores recently with a client brought this home to me. Even when identified customer service time had been given, nearly every colleague reverted to doing some task, filling up needlessly or re-merchandising a section.

I observed the store managers and the regional managers interaction with their customers. It was lovely and pleasant yet entirely transactional, very little if any ‘connection’ was made with the customer. When I queried this the answer became more apparent. Despite having the time allocated nobody had defined what a good job looks like in this regard and there were no role models within the business who evangelised and exampled the way it should be done. Senior management on visits to stores would largely ignore customers or at best treat them as a transactional need.

So the question I leave you with is this. If you are trying to reduce costs and yet still want great customer service how have you defined what that means and how does every senior person in the organisation currently role model the way?  If you are having difficulty answering, give us a call and we can help deliver both!

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