Delays or long queues at checkout should be a big NO for retailers

Why brick and mortar retailers need to improve their customer experience

I recently visited a popular premium department store and as I entered the store there was no one  to greet me, find out what I needed or at least guide me to the right place in the store. I had to find my own way around, but I did notice a group of 4 staff members huddled together and merrily chatting away and completely ignoring me and the other customers. So far, my experience in this store has been bad and I am feeling I am not valued. Anyway, I end up in the electronics department and find out that there is no staff available to help me, so I go looking for someone to help me and find a lady who promises to send an expert there immediately. Again, I am not happy that as a customer I had to go looking for staff to help me.

At this point my experience has turned from bad to worse. But to my surprise I find that the lady did send an expert immediately to help me out, that’s good. It turns out that the ‘expert’ was not really an expert as he could not answer my questions. Note that like everyone else I have done a fair bit of research online before stepping into a physical store to buy an electronic item. The ‘expert’ just ended up giving me the basic information about the product that I was already aware of. He did not add any value. Obviously at this point I have given up and decided that I will just buy the product online and at a cheaper price too.

With so much competition from online retailers on price and value, physical retailers have no option but to provide a great experience to their customers on every occasion. Otherwise you are just pushing your customers to online retailers as there is no incentive for customers to engage with you or give you their business.

The kind of customer experience physical retailers should be providing –

1.  Greeting – at the entrance to the store, greet your customers and find out more about why they are in your store. It is a perfect way to start the engagement process and show them you care. Point them in the right direction and if you can, have someone ready to help them.

2. Never ignore your customer – never make your customers feel that they are being ignored. The example above of staff members chatting away and ignoring customers should never happen. It sends a very strong message that you don’t care. Customers are in your store because they want to buy, remember and capitalise on this opportunity by engaging with them as much as possible. Train your staff to focus on customers and hold them accountable.

3. Knowledgeable staff members – most customers step into a retail shop after doing some research online which means they are already aware of some of the basic features about your product. Be ready to go beyond the basic product information and add value to your customers’ experience by demonstrating that you truly are an ‘expert’. Provide comprehensive training to staff members so that they are experts and can add value to the customer that they might not get online.

4. No delays at the checkout – this is the one I continue to experience at most of the stores. It should not be happening and is a big NO for retailers. When a customer arrives at the check-out, they don’t want to hang around and listen to the store music, they want the process to be quick and efficient. Having delays or long queues at the check-out can potentially turn a positive experience so far into a negative experience. Most retailers have a huge opportunity to make the checkout process faster. This alone could go some way in getting the customer to come back to your store.

Lot of customers will pay a premium for a great experience. Customer experience if done right is one area where physical stores can do a lot better than online stores due to the human presence and touch.

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Kedar Naik is Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Customer Experience Solutions. He has 20 years’ experience in helping companies understand their customers and provide great experiences to drive satisfaction, loyalty, retention and brand advocacy. Kedar also helps companies looking to offshore processes at a fraction of their current costs

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