Blog entry

Putting the customer first

Customer service from the word obviously means that the customer should be at the centre of your business. Sometimes I feel it is difficult for retailers to achieve this especially when it is a choice between offering bespoke customer service or cutting costs. I know from my vast retail experience that in most cases the cost issue will overide other aspects. At Shinar we understand this problem and can offer programmes that will put your customer's interest first.

Here is an article from the Guardian which reinforces the importance of customer service.

Putting the customer at the centre of your retail business Modern shoppers need modern service – it's about having a flexible, cross-channel approach, says

Sarah Taylor






Service remains the most important element of the shopping experience.

There is a fundamental relationship binding service to retail. In its most complete sense, retail cannot exist without service. While perceptions and the categorisation of service may have altered over the years, it remains the most important element of the shopping experience.


At Oracle, we recently conducted some research into the shopping needs and expectations of shoppers in Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US – in an effort to better understand the role and importance of service to the retail experience. Here are some of the things we found shoppers value most.


Understanding the value of service


In our commerce-anywhere environment – where shoppers want to be able to interact with a retailer through any channel at any time – the role of the sales or service assistant in a retail organisation is still considered critical to a positive or negative service experience.


Our findings revealed that unhelpful or unfriendly staff were listed almost universally as the primary cause of poor service, followed by poor knowledge, outweighing other factors including poor fulfilment, lack of choice and inefficient returns processes.


Meeting the modern service requirement


The global marketplace has opened up a new world where shoppers can source the products they want by price, range, review and recommendation. We see customers expecting a more sophisticated and flexible set of components that meet their individual demands, when and where it is convenient for them.


Realistically, the only way a retailer can create this flexible service model is by aligning the business around the customer – by putting them first. By doing so, retailers can meet the needs of each individual customer.


The store as a differentiator


Take the store, for example. Our research revealed that the role of the people in an organisation, particularly store assistants, is still critical to the overall delivery of service. Yet with more and more information in the hands of shoppers, assistants are frequently at risk of disappointing the customer with their lack of knowledge, suggesting that many interactions may deliver less than satisfying outcomes.


Empowering assistants with the right insight, whether this is access to real-time stock availability, loyalty programme data or the fastest way of sourcing that must-have item can be a key differentiator in the outcome of a retail interaction.


Flexibility and agility of the supply chain


Retailers are facing significant operational challenges in providing consistent product content, pricing, promotions and inventory across multiple sales channels, store formats and international borders. Add to this the need to allow customers to buy merchandise across any channel and have it fulfilled on their terms – perhaps in store or via home delivery, and return it easily if they choose – and this process becomes even more complex.


Retailers must focus on optimising their planning, merchandising and supply chain operations. In achieving this, it is vital to work from a common and integrated platform that provides visibility across the business.


Connecting the customer experience


Although we found in the research that the store remains the preferential channel for shopping and service, online commerce and service is a very close second, followed by mobile and social networking websites. Shoppers are now using several channels throughout the shopping process. Survey results indicate that the key to facilitating this kind of 'commerce anywhere' requirement is to connect each of these touch points to create a single view of the customer.


Cross-channel (or omni-channel) integration is imperative to a retailer's ability to market, interact and transact consistently across multiple touch points, whether the shopper is online, on the move or in the store. Shoppers want a seamless brand experience irrespective of channel, so retailers must evolve from considering individual, channel-specific transactions to that of a holistic, company-wide view of shopping behaviour.


Naturally, the customer lives at the centre of this picture. This extends to the provision of services such as click and collect, live chat, delivery to a location of the customer's choice or even shared shopping baskets – all these elements need to be brought together.


Ultimately, getting the fundamentals of service right is about prioritising the business around what the customer prefers. Retailers that achieve this will have a significant opportunity to differentiate and distinguish value for their customers.


Sarah Taylor is a senior director EMEA at Oracle Retail – follow the company on Twitter @OracleRetail




Posted by

Sarah Taylor

Wednesday 10 July 2013 12.50 BST