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What Retail has Taught me about Customer Service

Like any young person, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life within the retail world. Not shopping, rather, part-time work. My retail work history included associate work for 2 large retail chains (I won’t name names here.) And while the experience has been one I’d hope to not have to repeat, I do owe retail some gratitude for the customer service lessons I have learned through my employment. These days I will fully admit that large retailers don’t always deliver the ‘best’ customer service. However, it’s not for lack of trying. Both of the retailers I worked for had brilliant extensive customer service plans they tried to achieve each and every day. Where the waters went muddy was in the delivery. In other words the less your associates care the worse your customer service will be, and vice versa.  I think the mere fact that you’re reading this shows that you already care about your customer service. I’ll touch on that part a little more next week. But for now, I’d like to focus on what I learned while in retail and how it can be applied to online marketing.

At the two retailers I worked at we learned the four basics to good customer service (all retailers have some form of this):

1. Make the Interaction 2. Ask for Assistance 3. Suggest the Sale 4. Keep Them Coming Back

Make the Interaction

This is so very important to any form of marketing you do, and leads directly into good customer service. As retail associates we are trained to walk up to the customer, smile and initiate conversation- never beginning with, “How can I help you?” It’s not only less demanding, but it also allows for the chance to get to know the customer and their needs. Once you know their needs, you are better able to assist them in step 3. It’s even more important in online marketing. Never never never enter into a conversation with a potential customer without saying hi, asking how their day is, etc. This is will show them that your eyes aren’t only positioned solely on the sale- thus instilling their confidence in you. Like I always say, online marketing (like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) is just like a conversation. You wouldn’t start a conversation in the middle, would you? So don’t leave out the obligatory introductions! 

Ask for Assistance

Once you’ve initiated conversation, you may be asked for assistance or you may ask them if they require assistance. After all, your potential customer is there for a reason- so don’t keep them waiting too long! Even if they don’t need assistance with anything in particular, alerting them to the fact that you’re around to assist if needed opens up the door for future conversation. This may seem like a difficult task in online marketing, but it’s really no different. Usually in online marketing businesses seem to like to wait around for customer requests. Beat them to it! Go ahead and ask if a recent business strategy or product is treating them well. It goes the extra mile in showing your potential customers that you care about the experience they have.

Suggest the Sale

This one is pretty self-exclamatory. Once you’ve figured out what the potential customer’s needs are and any requests they may have, you’re ready to suggest a product or service for them. Once again, this isn’t much different in online marketing from retail. Online marketing is just another way of cultivating relationships- just not directly in person. But you’re still carrying on the same conversation you’d be having if you were face-to-face. So don’t get too nervous to simply suggest yourself to potential customers you’ve been chatting with. It’s the courageous jump that lots of businesses in online marketing forget to take.

Keep Them Coming Back

This is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of customer service. Once you’ve opened up the line of communication, sought out the potential customer’s needs and suggested a sale you’ll want to keep tabs on how well the sale was received. When I worked for these retailers follow-up was usually engaged when a customer would fill out a survey (which they almost never fill out anyways) or if they came back in with a complaint or return. Other than that, they’d simply walk out of the store after Step 3 and you wouldn’t know whether or not they’d return. Online marketing makes this so much easier, especially with social media. After Step 3 you can now follow up with new customers to ensure they received the best service possible. If they have complaints or questions, you can answer them in a more timely fashion. The “immediate-ness” of social media has made customer service for businesses a much better experience for both the business and customer alike. Do you have experience in retail customer service? What did you take away from it, and do you use any of your experiences in your business? Share with us!   Photo Credit 1, Photo Credit 2  

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