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Meeting Customer Service Expectations

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Your store’s ability to provide a high level of customer service will set your store apart from all your competitors. I’ve believed it for decades, practiced it, trained my staff and encouraged other retailers to “up their game” and improve what goes on when customers come shopping. Setting your store apart with good customer service is worth the effort. 

Why is good customer service so important? 

Experiencing poor, or inconsistent customer service, can be as memorable for consumers as good customer service.

At many “average stores” in the marketplace, where customer service is poor or inconsistent, you may have noticed that the consumer eventually comes to expect, and demand less. It seems counterintuitive perhaps, but consumers often accept worse customer service from those they expect poor service from. I believe consumers rewards stores that go over and above their expectations. 

Customers crave consistency.

It works for supermarkets, auto repair, restaurants and also shoe stores. Before traveling to your store, the potential customer has an idea (whether through a previous visit or word of mouth or through investigating you online) of what to expect. If they love what you normally provide (in terms of selection and service) you have a better than usual opportunity to get them to return. But, if your customer service levels are inconsistent, one bad visit can ruin your relationship with that customer. Unfortunately, if a customer gets bad service and two or three other shoe stores, they might expect the same from your store.  

How can your store “raise” customer service expectations… and meet them? Here are a few things to focus on:

Under promise and over deliver has been my motto.

I do not overpromise or under deliver. It is my hope that customers are so excited by finding more than they expected when in the store, they maximize the purchase. I want the customer to leave the store with the maximum purchase (in units or dollars) that they will be happy with when they get home. Unfortunately, the habit is for your competition to advertise products and sizes they do not have in stock today and that experience turns potential customers into jaded consumers.  

Liberal return policy.

I learned to turn my restrictive return policy into a liberal one maybe 25 or 30 years ago. Prior to that, I (and all my local competitors) had obnoxious rules and signs plastered near the cash register (and sometimes on the front door glass) to protect ourselves from customers. Over time, we learned to gracefully “fire” some customers and we installed a very liberal return policy and that worked to our advantage. Unfortunately, some stores are still at war with their consumers. The key is to turn the doubt of some customers around and let them know that you will back them up with something goes wrong. It will cost you far less than you might expect and will produce big dividends.  

YOU NEED REPEAT CUSTOMERS.

You can’t afford to lose a single customer. Especially at the average transaction value that many of us are getting. Strong customer service environments pay off, but customers don’t always believe they will get it, so spend a little time before your salespeople turn on the sales button and have a conversation with customers when they enter the store. It is worth the time.

This is third in a series of Footwear Insight columns authored by Alan Miklofsky, a shoe industry veteran whose business was awarded the top score in the Footwear Insight Gold Medal Service Awards in 2019. After a long, successful career as a shoe store owner, e-commerce pioneer and trade association leader, Alan is currently a business consultant.

For more information on Alan, visit his LinkedIn page at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanmiklofsky

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