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As a writer and journalist I'm often asked to interview CEOs of big companies such as Tesco and Verifone. These interviews along with the research that follows gives me an extraordinary insight into how retailers view the consumer.
I am extremely passionate about customer service, as I strongly believe that it takes very little to show gratitude for custom. I also believe that if someone has chosen a job in retail or food they should have the motivation to provide a service they are proud of.
Sitting on the fence I often review customer service for the consumer in a bid to make companies improve their game, while I'm also allowed in to see what retailers consider the most important factors when keeping their spot on the High Street.
After the fall of Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster, many retailers are worried as they don't want to disappear in the dust. Through intense research, forecasts and predictions they've learned that the one thing that prevents this is gaining customer trust.
The most shocking thing about this revelation is that very few customers know that they now hold the power.
The British are famed for their stiff upper lip and their reluctance to complain. We are getting a little better as many of us hide behind emails, yet a lot of us are still spending our hard earned cash with those who don't appreciate it.
In these tough economic times every penny counts and if you're spending money on a product or service you deserve to be treated well in return.
The best companies understand this, they know that great customer service will prompt loyalty, so you'll be more inclined to shop again. Although some retailers believe that as consumers we'll always go for the cheapest option, research shows that we value good service, reputation and aftercare more than saving a few pence or pounds.
Let me let you into some secret terms of the retailer.
Showrooming is probably the reason behind Jessop's decline. Basically it means we, the consumer, go to the High Street to look at and touch a product but then come home to find the best deal online. We did it with Comet too.
Multichannel retailing is currently big news. It basically means ensuring your account for a store is recognised across many platforms (smartphone, tablet, PC) allowing you to seamlessly swap from one device to another without losing your order. For instance:
You've used 2 separate platforms but the experience has been the same. Ensuring they all work together is essential.
Monitoring consumer behaviour is essential for eCommerce. You'll be amazed at how much a store knows about you and your buying habits (and you can use it to your advantage).
By understanding consumer behaviour, companies can target you directly (or it seems so) with offers you're more likely to need or want.
For example, every year you buy your son's school shirts from M&S.
One year you decide John Lewis has a better offer.
Now M&S can tell you've chosen somewhere else to stock up on uniform this year, as they see a gap in your spending habits, you bought a shirt for an 8 year old, 9 year old but not for a 10 year old?
This is when you may find your email suddenly receives a back to school offer from M&S.
It's not just by year either, consider your weekly supermarket shop. Stores know we sometimes shop at two or three different places to get the best deals and so if you don't buy your usual pack of nappies from them one week, they know you must be getting them elsewhere. Here comes the offer!
You are in complete control, you deserve great value for money and you really should complain if a service isn't to your liking. It may seem tough but if retailers are to survive then yes, they need to earn our trust.
In the long term, this will result in those who offer great services being celebrated, just the way they should be.