Recently, Accenture released an annual survey on customer reactions to poor service. The main take away was that in 2011, 66 percent of customers changed a service provider or retail store due to poor service. This is up 3 percent from 2010 and 12 percent from 2009. That number is astonishing! You can't take your customers for granted. You have to earn their business with each transaction and encounter.
But there is some good news for the retailers, and other companies, that make up the bulk of the natural products industry. According to American Express consumer research, 81 percent of people agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on service than larger ones do. That perception leads to a willingness to spend more money. In fact, 70 percent of these consumers are willing to spend more money, while 13 percent are willing to spend to get superior service.
This is great news for those on Walnut Street concerned about competing with Wall Street. Consumers come to your store already expecting that you have a greater emphasis on service and they are willing to pay more for it.
This data, and its potential benefits, is motivating the rest of the marketplace, too. Management consulting firm KPMG, in conjunction with the National Retail Federation, report that “enhancing customer service initiatives” is a major retail push planned for 2012. And improving customer service was the highest priority for 60 percent of stores in a Boston Retail Group survey.
What influences repeat customers
So where does customer service—and customer satisfaction—come from?
- A good shopping experience
- Finding the products that they want in stock
- Getting answers to questions
- A well-organized and user-friendly website
- Being treated like a “customer” and not a like a “sale” or a “number”
These are all products of your staff—the people who handle the myriad activities that are a part of running a retail store.
I would never argue with the old maxim that the three most important words in business are “location, location, location.” However, I would suggest that a retailer have as their next set of important words “staff, staff, staff.”
In regards to your staff, two additional keywords are “hire” and “train.” Be sure that you hire the right people for your store. The fact that they like natural products does not by itself indicate if they are going to serve your customers well. And an inclination toward service does not mean that they will learn your systems and procedures by themselves.
I will be presenting a seminar entitled “Motivating Your Staff to Provide Excellent Customer Service” on Saturday, March 10 at 10:30 a.m., at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. We will explore these topics and many more. I hope that you join me!