It’s make-it-or-break-it season for retailers. The fourth quarter, October-December, can represent as much as 70% of revenue for retailers, and those who aren’t on their game can really pay the price. Not coincidently, this is also the time of year that a retailer’s customer service levels will have the greatest impact – short-term and long-term. It’s also the hardest time of year to deliver outstanding service, with the increased store traffic pushing the capabilities of both people and processes.
Most large retailers, unfortunately, put customer service a fair distance down on their priority list – far below merchandising, pricing and advertising. They are cost-conscious, and they see employee development costs related to customer service skills and training as expenses instead of investments. Store managers are evaluated on how efficiently they run their operation, and not on customer experience.
But those who really understand the benefits of customer service, make the investments, and have this as a core organizational value, see the payoff in reduced “I’ll never shop there again” experiences, and increased, “Wow, guess what happened to me at xx!” experiences. One retailer we had the opportunity to work with was able to quantify a mind-boggling 40% increase in gross margin just by focusing on these areas.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a look at the customer service levels of some of the dominant Canadian retailers to see how they are doing. In a reprise of two years ago, when they did a survey for CBC’s Marketplace, RetailTrack Mystery Shopping will be visiting retailers across the country and providing a report card on their performance.
Is anyone going to step up?