Shoppers Are Doing Their Homework Before They Shop But Insist On A Connection When They Buy
For some time now, disillusioned shoppers have been researching what they wish to buy on line to ensure they’re making the right buying decisions. They examine product reviews, opinions of other customers and even technical comparisons between products. They’ll compare warranties, durability and the track record of the manufacturer as well as the retailer they will select for the purchase.
All of this self-research activity has spawned from a notable gap in service levels at many of the stores, particularly the big box ones with minimal customer service. A customer who is interested in buying something in a store that offers little customer service will have little confidence in making a buying decision without authoritative recommendations from the employees. Not surprisingly, the larger and more expensive the item, the more the service gap will exist. Purchases of large ticket items will warrant extensive research on the net before a customer decides to buy. Usually when they arrive at the store to make a purchase it’s really a matter of just placing an order with minimal interaction with the sales clerk.
How long can consumers who are working harder than ever these days for their money accept the dismal customer service at the stores? Customers are beginning to realize that they’re now doing the work of the sales employee in the store. All the research they do to make an intelligent buying decision should be offered by the store employee, but it isn’t happening.
Consumers are now waking up and there’s an emerging backlash on the horizon. Consumers want a return to great customer service, and beyond that, they seen something new: Customer Engagement. Simply put, there’s no customer service like we see today, there’s good old fashioned customer service of yesteryear and now there’s customer engagement that takes the buying experience to a new level.
What’s the difference between great customer service and customer engagement? Great customer service offers great product knowledge, demonstrations and recommendations with knowledge and authority from the store employee. Customer engagement includes all of this plus an in-depth understanding of what the customer needs as well as establishing a long term relationship with the customer. An employee who uses customer engagement will not only get to know the employee intimately well, but look for the future needs of the customer and offer solutions. For example, today’s engaged customer who buys a new SLR camera concludes with the sales person that they’ll be buying an add-on lens kit as soon as they understand the nuances of their new camera. The sales person knows all about the needs and buying habits of their customer and has established a solid relationship. Through customer engagement, they also understand the future buying aspirations of the customer and will follow-up and be there when they make their next purchase.
Customer engagement makes the customer feel connected to your store and forgets about your competition. Customer engagement will dramatically differentiate you from your competitors and pave the way for future sales.
In my next article, I’ll talk about what customer engagement involves on the sales floor.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
1) Develop a new approach to customer service for your team. Think about what actions you’ll use on the sales floor that through customer engagement makes the customer connect to your store.
2) Discuss with sales employees how customer engagement creates loyalty and long term sales.
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