7 Retail Customer Service Experience Mistakes and What They Cost You

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As a motivational speaker, I travel a lot and encounter customer service mistakes all the time.  

A few weeks ago, I waited in line for an iced tea at a coffee house. Just as I was about to give my order, the cashier said, “Excuse me,” then looked at someone standing behind me and said, “Fred, do you want the usual?”

A guy three people behind me said, “Yes,” and the cashier nodded, then turned back to me.

I’m sure she thought she was giving great customer service; she acknowledged me and helped her regular customer.

She didn't realize that she made the common mistake of giving a regular customer preferential treatment over a new customer. That’s the opposite of what you want a customer experience to be and is one of the reasons customers don't return.

Treating regulars better than first-timers is an expensive customer service mistake.

What did it cost that business? I would never return, and I’m sure those two people behind me wouldn’t feel like returning either.  

When you don't treat new customers just as well - if not better - than your regulars, you develop a core group of customers that don’t grow. You are more exposed to your loyal customers' behaviors as they move away or a competitor enters the market.

Let me help you and your crew better understand the customer experience.

Here are six more customer service mistakes retailers make that lose them money:

1. Leaving a customer to answer the phone

It takes a lot of time and effort to greet a stranger in a way that lets them open up to you and allows you to become a trusted advisor. Leaving them after you have established this trust breaks that bond.

What does it cost you?

The higher your average ticket, the more this costs you because customers revert to thinking they must go it alone. Then, you have to start over to reignite their trust in you. If you don’t return, you lose the add-on or the sale entirely.

2. Asking for a commitment before providing inspiration

Old sales training encourages salespeople to tie down potential customers early so as not to waste the salesperson’s time.

While most retailers don’t even have retail sales training anymore, many allow their employees to ask early in the sale: "Do you have a budget?" or "Are you prepared to buy it today?". This puts customers immediately on the defensive.

What does it cost you?

While many customers will tell you their budget, no one comes in and says the sky’s the limit! Limiting their choices means you are making them settle. When they can’t find something in their price range, they feel judged by the employee and leave empty-handed.

3. Selling only what the customer asks for

Most customers nowadays research online before ever coming to your store. When they come in and ask for a particular product, poorly trained employees will take them to it or tell them they don’t have it.

What does it cost you?

The trouble is, your shopper will never discover another option you have that will do the same or a premium model that will work even better. The shopper is never allowed to compare and contrast, which means your store’s success solely depends on what customers ask for, not what you carry... leaving a lot of money on the table.

4. Asking, "Anything else?"

This mistake is rampant with retailers and restauranteurs, which tells customers you’re finished.

What does it cost you? 

Suggestive selling is where the profit is. The first item pays for your overhead, and the second item is what the employee adds that the customer either needs or doesn’t know they need.

5. Allowing long wait lines at the cash register

Understaffing the cashiers, especially on busy weekends, makes customers question their purchases.

  • Is standing in line worth it?
  • Can I order online?
  • Do I really need this?

What does it cost you?

Online retailers track abandoned carts religiously. Brick-and-mortar stores rarely notice. You have to staff for the rush, not the schedule. Look around your retail store for how many items are placed in bizarre locations. Realize frustrated shoppers most likely abandoned those items.

6. Adding services at the cost of coverage

Buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) requires dedicated staff, space, and resources. Ship-from-store requires more boxes and advanced logistics to avoid flooding the store with orders.

Merchandising and planning need to be modified, as traditional key performance indicators will not be applicable if the whole store becomes a fulfillment warehouse. These additional omnichannel services do not increase revenue as much as they increase costs.

Those unbudgeted expenses have to be made up somewhere, typically seen as a reduction of staff on the sales floor.

What it costs you?

Less staff on the floor means less customer service. The more staff are charged with tasks to pack orders, the more the focus of your business goes from the customers in front of you to the ones you can’t see.

Dressing rooms filled with clothes, messy displays, and long wait times for service make customers pull out their smartphones in your store and shop a competitor.

See also, Do you Provide an Engaging Customer Service Experience? Take This Quiz

Customer service mistakes are your biggest expense

In an age when we are told it is "all about the customer," it is shocking how many decisions are made that degrade the customer service experience at brick-and-mortar stores.

Delivering an exceptional experience requires focusing squarely on the person who drove in the rain, the snow, the heat, past your competitors, to find a parking place, and walk through your door.

Blow that, and the customers you have now, or any new ones you might have acquired, will either stay home and order online or shop from a competitor - anyone but you.

Customer service experience management has many parts; look for those on this list you are guilty of and fix them before it is too late.


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