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GUEST COMMENT Ten key customer questions that all retailers should be able to answer

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Today’s shoppers know what they want and they know how to get it – “that’s not my department,” “have you tried the website” and “I can’t help you” are no longer acceptable answers from retailers. Here are ten key in-store questions your customers are asking that smart retailers can answer with the right technology.

• I’ve been looking at a few things on your website – can I see them in the flesh?

Don’t ask the customer to show you the products on their own phone. It shows a lack of access to information and it’s an effort for the customer, which might stop them buying.

Do use a connected experience platform to unify basket and wish lists across mobile app, website and staff devices, giving them access to all the information they need as well as prompts for future purchase.

• I can’t find my size – do you have it?

Don’t ignore the fact that moving stock to backrooms to free up floor space and having different systems for in-store, online and nearby stock can frustrate the customer. Also don’t risk saying something is in stock when it isn’t.

Do use staff mobile scanners, self-service apps and kiosks to allow for fast, seamless local lookup. Integrate your stock systems, and use dedicated staff with wearables to fetch backroom stock. Above all, make sure there’s proper attribution for online sales in-store – otherwise, why would staff bother to secure the sale through the website?

• I found this in another store for £10 less – why should I buy it here?

Don’t refuse to acknowledge that competitors might offer a better deal than you. Don’t keep your staff in the dark about the latest product news/messaging, and don’t allow centralised supply chains to derail attempts to empower local stores.

Do give your staff easy access to training materials and messaging documents about pricing on tablets and personal phones. Allow all staff to have a real-time framework that calculates when and how they can drop prices, using smart permissions to allow even lower ranking employees to do this safely.

• I already told your call centre this – my order hasn’t arrived and I need it for tonight. What can you do?

Don’t expect shop floor staff to take the flak for online issues if they don’t have the information they need. Don’t use a ‘computer says no’ approach and refuse to allow online orders to be fulfilled with in-store stock – it’s illogical and annoying for customers.

Do give staff access to good customer identification and multichannel CRM so they can quickly pre-empt issues and solve problems. Join up your systems in a way which makes sense to the customer – be flexible and think outside the system integrator’s box.

• I bought a lipstick from you last year and it’s run out – what colour was it?

Don’t forget that customers expect to be able to find and reorder their favourite products. Don’t neglect them and fail to reward them for loyalty.

Do give multichannel access to past orders for better customer service and targeted upsell. Make sure shop floor data is fed back to your CRM tools for targeted opt-in notifications and emails – Christmas, birthdays, special occasions etc.

• I need a gift for my wife under £200 – any ideas?

Don’t leave shop floor staff without access to the rich amount of product and promotion information available online – customers come to stores for expert advice and it’s down to you to ensure staff are trained to deliver it.

Do give staff real-time digital access to all existing content – it’s a quick win for everyone. Do make sure the right member of staff speaks to the customer with smart notifications on wearables – if there’s a TV on their wish list, send them a TV specialist.

I have a click-and-collect order – how do I get it?

Don’t expect your customers to be happy with a retrofitted, confusing click-and-collect experience in-store. Don’t allow big queues to build up during Christmas and other busy periods.

Do provide a dedicated digital check-in or staff with roaming click-and-collect terminals so that queues don’t build up. Make the most of signage, mobile apps, geolocation and staff devices so that customers can be identified and their orders prepared in advance.

• I really like that shirt you posted on Twitter this morning – where is it?

Don’t allow a disconnect to develop between the content customers can see and what staff have access to. Staff are brand advocates and the ideal audience for social content, so it’s an oversight not to include them.

Do give staff controlled access to social posts so they can be part of a joined-up brand experience. Give early warning about the social schedule so staff can be trained and extra stock made available.

• I have a voucher – what do I get?

Don’t base your loyalty scheme entirely on bribery – it may drive footfall, but it’s fleeting and may not attract the right kind of customer.

Do encourage true loyalty through great customer service, quality products and knowledgeable staff. Customers want a value exchange for their personal data – create a two-way relationship with equal benefits for shoppers and marketing teams.

• Are there any other products I can buy that go with this?

Don’t expect customers to ever ask this question. Staff need to be pushed at every point to think about upselling – a lot of 9-5-ers don’t really consider it, especially if it requires effort and training.

Do leverage your finely-tuned online upsell and cross-sell process in-store for an easy win and make it an integral part of the sales process. Make sure in-store data feeds back into other sources of recommendations for a fuller picture of customer behavior. It all helps to build a business case for replacing older point of sale systems with a direct monetary benefit.

Alex Sbardella is director of product strategy at Red Ant



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