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Customer is king agree major retailers

Customer is king agree major retailers

Skillsmart Retail offers new solutions to the customer service challenge

Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, called on retailers to embrace a new age of customer service at their annual conference held in central London on Tuesday.

At the conference, titled Delivering excellence in retail customer service, some of the UK’s major retail players discussed what outstanding customer service means in today’s multi-channel environment and for the country in the run up to London 2012. A new piece of research by Skillsmart Retail illustrating a comprehensive model for retail customer service using case studies was launched alongside the WorldHost retail customer service training programme.

Headline speaker at the event, Nick Robertson, Co-founder and Chief Executive of leading online retailer ASOS said: “Being an online retailer does not mean you have less contact with customers. We get thousands of queries every day, which we must respond to quickly and correctly. We are constantly trying to improve our customer service by listening to customers about what we’re doing right and wrong.

“Social media gives us access to our key demographic and we have to embrace the challenges and opportunities which come from having a two-way conversation with our customers. It enables us to communicate with our customers directly and market ourselves. In Australia, where we have no distribution centres and did little traditional marketing, we have grown to become the largest online fashion retailer and this is largely down to social media activity. It’s essential that when people are talking about us online, they’re saying positive things and ensuring we provide the best possible service, is part of that.”

Anne Seaman, Chief Executive for Skillsmart Retail, said: “Today’s discerning customers are less likely to put up with bad service and could potentially tell thousands of people about it within moments on Facebook or Twitter, meaning even big brand retailers cannot afford to sit back and ignore customer service issues. It is in a retailer’s best interest to understand their customers and ensure they are doing everything possible to attract and keep them.

“Our piece of research shows how sales and customer service are intrinsically linked and how retailers can build a vision of excellent customer service that is promoted internally and is experienced externally by all customers online and instore.”

The research details best practice in customer service through studies of leading retail businesses operating within the UK, and provides workable models that retailers of all sizes can use. Breaking down the instore and online journeys customers take, the practical model outlines where customer service comes into play, from pre-visit to post-sale, and how good customer service intentions must be translated through leadership into the ethos of a company. The model offers retailers a standard against which they can assess and compare their customer service.

Terry Maywood, Group Operations Director of Ryman, said: “Customer service today is about exceeding, rather than just meeting, expectations. This can only be achieved by building a culture of service excellence which involves everyone in every department from the top down. Only by embedding customer service into the everyday working and communications of the company can we ensure consistently high levels of service.”

For retailers who want a practical training programme to improve their staff’s customer service skills there is WorldHost, the only internationally proven, individually assessed, customer service training programme specifically tailored for the UK retail sector. WorldHost retail customer service training is delivered through the National Skills Academy for Retail and gives retailers of all levels the skills to offer consistently outstanding customer service.

Myf Ryan, General Manager Marketing for Westfield UK, spoke about the customer service vision for the new Westfield Stratford City shopping centre and using WorldHost to train all their concierge staff. 

She said: “At Westfield, excellent customer service is non-negotiable, the customer is always right and their shopping experience should always be the best it can be. With our new centre, we worked hard to provide a unique offer which attracts customers, not just once for a look around, but over and over again. Part of this has been to ensure our concierge staff are trained to offer shoppers a world class experience. Through WorldHost training we have a team who are confident and capable to represent Westfield Stratford City and the UK as we move into Olympic year.”

Jayne Bransby from the independent shoe shop, Elegant Steps in the Wirral, whose staff have been WorldHost trained, said: “For many independents, the point of difference, which helps attract customers is the high level of service offered to customers. As a retail owner you can’t assume all your staff know how to deliver the service levels you want. Training is a necessary way to invest in staff and ensure they have the skills to offer great service and maintain the reputation of the business.”

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