12 Ways To Provide Great Customer Service In Retail

More than ever customers are looking for that extra something from businesses. Great customer service is one way to stand out from the crowd, increase customer retention, and ultimately revenue.

default author avatar image
Mark Allen
13 min read

According to research, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service.

Good customer service is widely acknowledged as vital to increasing profit, building customer loyalty, and retaining customers.

American poet Maya Angelou once mused, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You see, as humans, we’re hardwired to be social.

And in our fast-paced world, small acts of kindness, warmth and generosity are rare but hugely appreciated by customers.

After all, treating current customers well is a lot less expensive than acquiring new customers.

Indeed, investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

So, instead of spending lots of money on new customer acquisition, it’s always a great idea to build relationships with your current customers too.

But how can a retailer like you get started on your customer service journey?

Whether you’re a retailer that struggles with customer service or you’re a retailer that’s striving to improve customer loyalty, today’s guide is tailor-made for you.

So, let’s get stuck in!

Customer service at POS
Customer Service at POS

What is good customer service?

Good customer service means meeting your customers’ needs in a pleasant, timely, and efficient way.

And that applies regardless of the stage of the customer’s journey; before they buy, while they’re buying or after they’ve completed a sale.

Drilling down into customer service a little further, you’ll find that providing great customer service can take many forms.

It could be as straightforward as advising a customer about a product.

Or it could be something a little more technical where an employee speaks about a product in-depth or provides a live demo.

And it could even be welcoming and greeting a regular customer by name.

Several things are consistent in providing good customer service: friendliness, helpfulness, knowledgeable staff and personalising the retail customer’s experience.

Why is good customer service important?

Retailers who prioritise providing good customer service enjoy a whole host of benefits.

1. Good customer service improves sales and increases profitability.

It’s a fact that retailers who provide high levels of customer service are more profitable.

Recent research by Bain and Company found that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% - 95%.

Even better, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.

2. Great customer service sets your company up for long-term success.

In a world of instant gratification and high expectations from customers, it’s unsurprising that those retailers who focus on excellent customer service are laying the foundations for long-term success.

And that long term success is evidenced by a recent study by Qualtrics XM Institute.

The study found that 89% of companies with “significantly above average” customer experiences perform better financially than competitors.

3. Good customer service builds customer loyalty.

Creating loyal customers should be the number one goal for every retail business.

Why?

According to Zendesk, 60% of customers report that good customer service is vital for feeling loyalty toward a brand.

And when a customer has a positive experience when interacting with a retailer, repeat business from loyal customers is more likely.

HubSpot Research found that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service.

As we mentioned earlier, customer retention is a lot less expensive than acquiring a new customer, and it boosts your sales revenue too.

12 ways to provide good customer service

You might be wondering, “How can retailers provide good customer service?”

Regardless of where you currently sit on the scale of lousy to excellent customer service, there are many things you can do to provide good customer service.

Here are twelve tried and tested tactics to get you started.

1. Put your product knowledge to great use to help customers.

Nobody likes being sold to, but we all love being educated.

And one of the best things you can do as a retailer is to educate your customers.

All staff should be thoroughly versed on all products that you sell and should be able to speak about your products authoritatively, passionately and helpfully.

Customers won’t always know what they need or why they need it, so it’s your job to bridge that gap in knowledge and help the customer choose a product that fits their requirements.

By educating customers, you’ll also create a relationship and have more opportunities to cross-sell and upsell products.

To put this to good use, it’s worth remembering the ‘FAB formula’.

That is:

Features: Explains to customers what is unique and distinctive about a product. Make it easy for them to understand any technical jargon.

Advantages: Now that you’ve explained the features, show your customer the advantages of using the product.

Benefits: Ultimately, customers want to know how and why a product will benefit them.

Explain in simple terms what the product can do for your customer; for example, will it save them time and money, or will it make their lives easier?

For example, if you’re selling a smartwatch to a customer who has already mentioned they want it for swimming, personalise the benefits to them.

You could do this by speaking about the swim tracking functionality and the fact that the smartwatch is waterproof and ideal for swimmers.

2. Have empathy.

We all have good and bad days when our mood might be great, bad or indifferent.

And while as a retailer, you might not be privy to what your customer is going through, there are things you can control, one of which is empathy.

Try and understand your customer and put yourself in their shoes.

Ask questions to have as much information as possible to help you - and ultimately the customer - with their buying journey.

Empathy, therefore, in retail terms, is about listening to your customer, understanding their point of view, and when appropriate, helping and advising them.

friendly customers
Be friendly to your customers

3. Be friendly to your customers.

As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

And it’s absolutely true.

As soon as a customer walks into your store, they are subconsciously forming opinions and assertions.

If they see two staff members huddled in the corner on their phones watching a video, they might feel neglected.

And if they’re welcomed to the store by a friendly, warm smile from a passionate employee, there’s a good chance they’ll form a positive opinion.

You see, great customer service begins the moment a customer walks through the door into your store.

So, how do you make a great first impression?

Ensure all staff members learn a variety of greetings to welcome shoppers.

It could be, “Hi, my name is Jack, can I take those heavy shopping bags from you and leave them behind the till so you can browse in comfort?”

Come up with five or ten different greetings and ask your employees to familiarise themselves with each greeting.

Test which greetings work and narrow them down further to two or three greetings that have had positive responses in the past.

4. Go the extra mile for your customers.

American author Napoleon Hill once said, “One of the most important principles of success is developing the habit of going the extra mile.”

Interestingly, most retailers don’t go the extra mile, which means that there are significant opportunities for those who do.

According to McKinsey, 70% of the customer’s journey is based on how they feel they are being treated.

If they’re being treated well and an employee delivers value that exceeds the customer’s expectations, it will leave a positive impression on your customer and increase customer loyalty.

5. Respond quickly to customers.

Picture the scene.

You’re having a problem with a product you bought, and you’ve sat waiting for half an hour on hold to the company.

Apart from the horrifically bad on-hold music, you’ve just been passed to another department.

If you’re nodding your head as you read this, you’ll know that this is a sure-fire way of aggravating your customers.

There’s no reason for long delays or customer service responses that are emailed back five days later in the modern era.

No, we all want responses as quickly as possible.

And recent research has backed this up.

According to HubSpot Research, 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question.

Interestingly, 60% of customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less.

So, how can you respond better and more quickly to customers’ queries or issues?

Prioritise the contact process and offer different ways for customers to contact you.

For example, some prefer a phone call, while others love Live Chat services and emails.

Regardless of the options, make sure that customers’ queries are answered quickly and adequately, or you may lose them to a competitor.

6. Offer customer self-service options.

Not every customer will feel compelled to contact you when they have a question about your products.

YouTube has a tutorial for pretty much everything you can think of, and there’s a good reason why how-to guides and videos are popular.

We all enjoy the trial and error of working things out for ourselves.

So, what form might that take for your retail company?

Firstly, you could host product videos that answer many of the frequently asked questions a customer might have.

Secondly, you could create a knowledge base on your website, where customers can learn more about your products.

Finally, a consistently updated FAQ page on your website will serve two purposes: answer specific questions quickly while freeing up your customer service team for the more complex questions.

7. Act quickly on feedback.

Feedback - whether it’s positive or negative - should ideally be responded to quickly.

After all, when a customer offers feedback, it’s for one of two reasons: to alert you to an issue or provide complimentary feedback on a job well done.

And when they go to the trouble of spending time to give feedback, it’s only human nature that they’d appreciate a response.

According to Microsoft, 53% of shoppers believe their feedback doesn’t go to anyone who can actually act on it.

So, where does your feedback go? Who reads it? Do they act on it? And most importantly, do they respond to the customer too?

It’s such an easy win, but one many retailers miss the boat on, so it’s time to get the ball rolling on feedback.

Support customers on social media
Add support on multiple channels

8. Provide omnichannel support.

As we discussed in tip #5, customers interact with retailers in a variety of ways.

They could be in-store or on their phone.

Or it could be on their laptop, on your app, on a desktop or via a tablet device.

And the interactions could happen via email, social media, phone calls and Live Chat services.

As the methods of access grow, retailers must provide omnichannel support.

In our recent blog, ‘What is omnichannel for retail? Omnichannel retail explained.’ we looked in-depth at why omnichannel sales were important for retailers.

Ultimately, providing omnichannel support shows your customers that you value their busy schedules and listen to them about how they like to engage with you.

9. Remember and appreciate your regular customers.

American author Dale Carnegie once memorably commented, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

We’ve all been into a store, restaurant or coffee shop, and we’ve been greeted by an employee who not only greets us by our name but also remembers our usual order.

It’s such an incredibly easy yet compelling tactic that is under-utilised in retail.

Regular customers aren’t looking for a party every time they enter your store.

A simple “Hello Victoria” or “Hi James” lets them know you value and remember them.

When you’re chatting with customers, active listening can also prove to be highly successful.

For example, if a customer mentions they’re away on holiday that weekend and then visit your store a month later, you could ask them about their holiday.

10. Proactively address any issues.

As a retailer, there’s a multitude of issues that can crop up during a typical week.

One week you could experience shipping issues; the next, it could be stock issues.

Regardless of what the actual issue is, face it head-on and address it with your customers.

For example, if you are experiencing shipping delays, don’t wait for the customer to notice and contact you.

Be proactive and contact the customer and let them know about the issue, how you are addressing it and when the problem will be fixed.

If there are serious issues, reassure your customers and let them know you will update them as soon as possible.

It’s also worth considering offering them a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience caused, for example, £10 off their next order.

thank you card
Add a thank you note

11. Add a personal touch.

While the likes of Amazon and eBay rely on complex algorithms to spit out information to help them customise their engagement with customers, you don’t have to.

As a local retailer, you have a distinct advantage over those global superpowers: your ability to add a personal touch to every customer interaction.

According to Trust Pilot, your online conversion rate can improve by roughly 8% when you include personalised consumer experiences.

As the old saying goes, “People like to buy from people”, so adding a personal touch will go a long way to your future success.

So, what could adding a personal touch look like for a retailer?

Firstly, you could give customers special attention in-store and help them choose a specific product that meets their particular needs.

Secondly, show the human face behind the company.

For example, if you’re a small retailer, you could write a hand-written thank you note, which is rarely done in the modern era but always appreciated by customers.

Whichever way you choose to personalise your customer’s experience, you can rest assured that they’ll remember it for all the right reasons.

12. Reward customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty in retail is much discussed but extremely challenging in our world of unlimited choice and a hyper-connected world where a customer in the UK can order something from China, and it arrives just days later.

However, creating a slick customer loyalty programme will help you increase profits, maintain customers and most importantly, make your customers feel appreciated.

Customer loyalty platforms come in various guises, but thankfully if you use AirPOS as your point of sale service, you’ll benefit from a robust customer loyalty program that is already linked to your AirPOS account.

AirPOS has a wide range of customer loyalty perks to help you service your customers with unique accounts and offers.

The loyalty program also allows you to take card payments and offer your customers an online shopping option.

And your customers will be delighted to shop with you again when you reward them with loyalty points.

With our clever inventory management system included in all AirPOS packages, too, you’ll always have enough inventory thanks to intelligent stock alert levels, helping you to ensure you never let down your customers.

3 examples of retail companies providing good customer service

Examples of good customer service take many forms.

But they all share one common trait: the companies put the customer first.

Here are three examples of companies that have provided great customer service.

1. Sainsbury’s having fun with customers.

Good customer service begins with understanding your customers.

Creating a connection with customers on their level is just as important as completing a sale.

Humour has the potential to provide excellent exposure for retailers.

Sainsbury’s provided a memorable example of humour and puns that hit all the right notes.

After all the media coverage a Twitter exchange between a customer and the official Sainsbury’s account got, you could say the retailer was in a good ‘plaice’.

Read the whole hilarious conversation here.

2. Halifax sending new mortgage customers a hamper.

Sometimes it feels like the bigger a company gets, the less time they spend appreciating their customers.

But Halifax came up with a clever customer service tactic widely reported on social media by delighted customers.

New Halifax mortgage customers were sent out a welcome hamper after they arrived at their new home.

The hamper contained a bottle of wine, a multi-purpose toolset, a box of chocolates and a picture-hanging kit.

The kit itself was probably inexpensive, considering they would have bought them in bulk.

However, how that hamper made customers feel will live long in their memory.

You can have a look at the hamper shared by a happy Halifax customer here.

customer apology KFC
KFC apologise for having no chicken

3. KFC runs out of chicken and apologises to customers.

Imagine you had a craving for a big box of chicken and got to the KFC drive-thru only to be told that they’d run out of chicken.

Well, it’s hardly a great look for a brand that includes ‘chicken’ in its name.

When KFC went through the ‘fowl’ chicken-shortage period, they apologised to customers with a well-thought-out advert that had the right combination of humour and a genuine apology.

You can read their apology advert here.

Conclusion

Can you afford not to offer great customer service?

Good customer service doesn’t have to be costly.

Some of the best examples of customer service were free; instead, the only currency used was time.

Ultimately, offering good customer service means that you strive to meet and exceed your customer’s needs.

And those needs should be met consistently, quickly and in a personable manner.

It’s easy to think of customer service as just when you see a customer face-to-face.

But good customer service entails looking after a customer before they buy, while they buy and of course after they’ve completed a purchase.

When you prioritise good customer service, you’ll reap the rewards.

Those rewards include an increase in profit, long-term success and increasing brand loyalty.

At AirPOS, we take customer service seriously.

In fact, we’re so in-tune with our customers that 96% of our customers would recommend us due to our excellent customer service.

Try out AirPOS with our FREE trial offer.

Try AirPOS today with zero risks and take advantage of our 14-day free trial.

Fancy a demo first?

Book in for your free remote demo with a member of our team.

Our team of experts will walk you through the system, tailor it to your business needs and answer any questions you may have, not only about AirPOS but POS in general.