Best Practices for Exceptional Customer Service

Five stars service

A customer’s most important and lasting impression often comes from customer service—that personal contact with your company’s sales or other customer service personnel. Striving to make customers feel not just important but genuinely comfortable and willing to do repetitive business with you and your organization should be the goal to strive for at all times.

Each person’s idea of exceptional customer service will vary.  But most people agree that if the person serving you goes above and beyond what is normally expected with service, products, time and insights, that would be exceptional.       

With the move toward social media and the ability for customers to comment immediately on Twitter and Facebook; customer service is under the microscope at all times.  Albeit extremely important to have presence with websites and social media, the personal connection still reigns supreme.

Exceptional customer service will absolutely save your organization tons of costs because if done well you won’t have to fix problems or correct wrongs.  Setting out to achieve and sustain exceptional customer service has a huge added benefit of developing happy customers and retaining them for the long run.   Key to achieving this goal is to develop exceptional personnel who understand the importance of customer service to the overall business.  Focusing on empowering all personnel to serve the customer’s needs will never go out of style.

So it becomes clear that the more complex our world gets, the more value there is in authentic, clear, customer connections.  Ron Frank of IBM summarized it well, “As organizations become more intelligent, top CEOs are focused on drawing deep insights from customer data making it possible to understand customers and engage with them as individuals.  In parallel, some have leveraged more traditional and personal ways to connect with their customers and the teams that serve them to a larger benefit”.

How to Improve Your Customer Service Game in 2014- is worth the read- from Intuits Small Business Blog.

What is one small customer service choice you have taken that has seen notable results?

Going beyond what may normally be expected, here are additional posts to help serve you:

15 Customer Service Skills Every Worker Needs

10 Examples of Shockingly Excellent Customer Service

 

Retailers: The Point of Sale Industry is Rapidly Changing – Are You Onboard?

To move forward into 2014 as a successful retailer you can’t just assume the key will be in stocking products in demand.

What do the consumers of 2014 want from their retail experience?

Customers want their needs to be served in the most efficient and intuitive way possible and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems are absolutely proving to be excellent channels to achieve this primary need.

The most widespread trend that will be taking over in 2014 will be the integration of mobile options. The days of waiting in long lines during peak retail seasons are numbered. Recognizing the need to adapt to the changing landscape of the eligible client-base – a younger and ‘always-on’ customer – mobile point-of-purchase systems are proving to be a win-win. Not only do tablet or smartphone POS systems streamline services and enhance guest satiMobile POSsfaction, this consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems.

Additionally, the touch screen aspects offered by most mobile POS devices are more intuitive than traditional systems. Mobile POS systems do not require complex configurations or the need for a back-up server. Most employees are efficient with smartphones and tablets, which not only saves time from a staff training perspective, but also offers self-service for customers, yet another example of increased efficiency and differentiating value in the storefront.

Another trend we expect to see hit the POS space in full force next year is the integration of more loyalty programs and customized advertising and marketing promotions to engage with customers at each stage of the purchase process; from driving impulse consideration, all the way to the final purchase. Loyalty programs have been picking up momentum for the past couple of years and are now becoming fully integrated into on-site POS systems, both mobile and traditional. With customer loyalty software programs launching in every type of retail venue imaginable, cashiers are able to sign customers up within one to two minutes, meeting the easy and quick transaction consumers’ today demand while also reminding them of the added-value offered by the vendor.

Excerpts of the above were taken from Jay Graham’s article in Retail Info Systems.

If I can help you in your purchase and understanding of how a POS can make your business more efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Shawn Thompson

sthompson@merchantsolutionsauthority.com

www.merchantsolutionsauthority.com

Pop-up Retail Shops Find Fresh Advantages

Not just for holiday seasons any more, retailers of all sizes are leveraging the Pop-up store concept to pique consumer interest, drive brand awareness, launch a new product and test their business in new markets.

The good news and important part of the equations is that landlords are warming up to the Pop-up store concept due the traffic surge some neighborhoods and shopping areas receive when a new store opens and they get a chance to turn a short term lease into a long term opportunity.  “The more traffic a Pop-up store gets, the more people it brings to the space,” said Katherine Hill, Director of Offline  at BaubleBar,  in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.  “Both parties benefit.  The company gets the space and the landlord will get prospective clients who may want to rent out the space for their own purposes.”

Brands and companies that plan, launch and maintain Pop-up stores with the right strategies will find they are valuable tools for branding, experimentation, advertising, storytelling and product demand. A Pop-up shop can give your brand a personality and turn it into an entire experience.

Check out the video on how the Fleur du  Mal brand owner Jennifer Zuccarini successfully launched her latest Pop-up store.

 

 

Have any Pop-up success stories of your own?  Let us hear about them.

Need help with resources for your retail store?  See what the Ivystone and Simblist teams can offer your business.

Ways to Make the Remainder of 2013 Amazing

During the last full month of summer, allow yourself  time to take stock of your business and personal situations so you can set an action plan to make the rest of the year as productive as possible. Regardless of your position or status, there are actions you can take to drive forward your business and yourself.     All things are possible

Chances are you will need a productive To Do List to make the rest of your year amazing……here is a useful  tip to start (or add to) your list for the remainder of this year.

Seven actions you can take on to make the rest of your 2013 amazing!

What would you add to the list?

 

Smart Retailers Plan Ahead for Successful Holiday Sales

Whether it’s Halloween in April or Christmas in July, smart retailers look ahead and develop a plan to help them get ready for the holiday and make the most of every sales opportunity.

Here are a few of our own suggestions on helping you prepare for holiday 2013 with awesome product selections, unique collections and merchandising and smart marketing tools.

Planning for Successful Holiday Sales

Read more to learn what other retailers around the country are doing now to plan for a successful holiday season.

Brick & Mortar Retailers – Still the Desired Destination for Shoppers

Great news from a recent study by Synqera, where results show that more than two-thirds of Americans prefer to shop in traditional, brick and mortar stores than online commerce sites. The survey found that shoppers gravitate towards retail locations that offer more customized shopping experiences, but the dreaded “checkout” remains the number one pain point for 73% of U.S. consumers.

Personal service is a big factor that drives customers to brick-and-mortar retail stores, Synqera found 80% of shoppers say they’re more likely to shop in a store that provides a customized experience for them.  Custom coupons at checkout was a requested by over 76% of respondents.

Two-thirds of consumers are more likely to shop in a store where they receive personal suggestions while shopping.  While 75% make more purchases if they are in a good mood while shopping.

Take heed and make certain your salespeople actively engage with customers, greeting them when they enter, suggesting add-on products to go with what they’re purchasing, or offering advice and insights. (This is a great way to combat showrooming – if customers know they can get the info they need from your sales staff, they won’t have to turn to their phones to look it up and possibly find the product somewhere else for less).

Showrooming is very real and very damaging for retailers that can’t easily compete with e-retailers.  In an effort to combat it, insights like those that Synqera found can help to pinpoint where retailers should focus their time, money and innovation, even in the most unlikely or obvious places, like the checkout line.

There are also ways to make suggestions without salespeople. For instance, you can display groups of products that complement each other together, such as a camera with accessory battery packs, straps and cases. You can use signage to suggest “Buy two, get a third free,” “Check out our sales items in the back of the store” or “Sign up for our email newsletter and save $5 off your next purchase.” You get the idea; suggestive signage both inside and outside the store becomes crucial to sales success.

Suggestions help engage the customer with your store.   The more actively engaged the customer is inside your store, the better they feel about shopping there.

Synqera_Brick&Mortar_customer_experience_infographic

Brick & Mortar Customer Experience Infographic

Why Does Free Cost So Much?

The old adage “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is a reminder that while something on the surface may sound free it may actually be very costly. This is especially true with Point of Sale (POS) systems. Some of the most recent marketing ploys I have heard have been where one company “gives away” a POS but then requires you to process your credit cards exclusively through them at an excessively high rate.

freeI have also heard of another company that would “give you the POS software  for free”, only if you purchased the equipment from them along with a support agreement. Make certain your new POS does everything you need it to do and don’t purchase features which are not needed.

A good Point of Sale should pay for itself by increasing product turn and helping to increase margins.

For more information on POS and Business Solutions contact Shawn Thompson at Merchant Solutions Authority:

sthompson@merchantsolutionsauthority.com

www.merchantsolutionsauthority.com

p.s. Be sure to look for Shawn and the Merchant Solutions Authority table at the summer markets!

The Perfect Pinterest Picture, According to Science

 

A team of scientists from the Curalate team, including a computer vision PhD and a dedicated in-house data scientist, recently did some intensive research on Pinterest, sampling 500,000 images and distilling from them half a dozen or so characteristics that distinguish the most popular Pinterest images.

They identified one ideal picture that best combines these characteristics. And here is that image.     Perfect Pinterest Photo

It’s from cooking show host Paula Deen, and it’s called “Aunt Peggy’s Cucumber, Tomato, and Onion Salad.” This “perfect pinterest image”  has been repinned 307,000 times, liked 8,000 times, and commented upon 300 times. “In other words, that image killed it,” says Curalate CEO Apu Gupta.

“Consumers are increasingly communicating using images rather than words,” says Gupta. “We’re trying to decode that language and give you a better vocabulary with which to speak.”

In other words, in the future the picture will do more than speak a thousand words.

Read full article on perfecting Pinterest images here.

Smiles Prove to Make the Difference in Customer Service

Need proof that congenial customer service matters? A recent study from London’s Kingston University found that a smile and a friendly greeting were the most common reason why shoppers felt loyalty toward independent businesses.         Smiley Face!

The study examined more than 2,000 consumers and 1,200 small- and medium-sized businesses and found that more than one-third of shoppers come back to stores because of great service, and 20% say having a salesperson remember their order is important.

While great customer service seems like a no-brainer, only half of the businesses surveyed said a smile and greeting were a common practice for their staff.

Customers willing to pay for smiles

 

 

3 Ways to Attract and Keep More Customers

New research from Forrester finds that when it comes to attracting customers and keeping them, people respond more to the “experience” they have with the business even more than with their perception of price.

background of the hands with hearts

So it makes sense that one of the best ways to attract customers is to connect with them on more than a transactional level using everything in your arsenal; your personality, your services, social media and events.  Whether providing valuable information about your business or a much needed laugh, inject some personality into your brand and show the human side of your business to make it attractive.

1-Get Back to Your Roots In your need to attract customers don’t EVER assume that everyone knows your business exists, even if you have been in business for 3,5,10 or 15 years in the same location!  I have heard countless stories from business owners that include the statement “after being in business in this location for X years, surely everyone knows about my business and what we do here”…..simply not true!

Act as if you are running a new business each and every day.  This could make a huge difference in attracting and keeping customers and be remarkable to your bottom line.  Make a short list of what you would do today as if you were opening your doors on day one.  Here are a few examples:

  • Be at the top of your game- Greet, welcome and explain your products/services.
  • Tell your business back story- If you business has a great back story (and who’s doesn’t), tell it verbally when possible and show it visually throughout your business and online.  People love a story so provide yours on your business, products and services. Photos and videos are shareable on social media and digestible for busy customers. Aim to visually convey your brand’s story on your website and through social media.
  • Highlight your special talents and services- Does your business customize products, ship anywhere, offer a design service, provide local delivery, take special orders ….you get the picture. Don’t hold back…make it clear verbally and visually in all possible locations.  Signage, websites, social media, local press.

 

2-Stay Connected. Growing a business is about fostering long-term relationships. Capture customer information and communicate consistently via email, phone, social media.  Communication is a two-way street so provide your customers multiple ways to communicate with you.

  • Promotions, events, sharing updates and humor are a consistent reminder of your business brand.  Ditch the fear and stop worrying that you will be bothering your customers, everyone can use an occasional reminder or update on what your business can offer.
  • Make sure customers have a clear path toward a deeper level of engagement with you and your company – and vice versa. It can be as simple as leaving a comment book at the counter, a survey on a receipt or a place to comment online. The more customers interact with your brand, the more they’ll remember you when it’s time to make a purchasing decision. Make it easy for them to communicate with you.
  • Get visual- Some good ideas include filming a video interview with your best customers having fun at your business or using your products, asking customers to submit a picture of themselves using your product, or uploading video product demos and tutorials.

3-Offer Exceptional Customer Service. I am referring to your top of the line service here.  If you believe you can make a customer’s experience better today, don’t hold back….go for it!  This could make the difference in word of mouth advertising (the best kind!) and earn your business social buzz and recommendations.

  • People love to share when they have something great (or truly miserable) happen to them.  Give them something great to share on a consistent basis.
  • “Experience” is the new currency….if you can do remarkable things for your customers, your customers will share because they’re happy.  Make it easy for your customers to help you.

Share with us some of your great customer service stories and we will happily share with others to help everyone attract more customers.