Knowing Your Customer: How to Improve Retail Customer Service

Bob Phibbs
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Knowing your customer

I just completed a business makeover of Eklund’s, an agricultural equipment dealer in rural, upstate New York.

While I’ll have a full post on some of the details and strategies later, what I can tell you is Billy Eklund is one business owner who really knows his customer.

And I could tell that from the moment I walked in.

He was seeing less of the commercial customers who had been his bread and butter and more of a weekend or vacation-home customer who loves to play farmer but who doesn’t want to walk down a hill to look at over 100 tractors.

One who didn’t grow up using one of these machines.

And a customer who frequently was skewing female as the decision-maker. Knowing his new customer demographic, he knew he needed to change the inside of the store to cater to that new customer. 

Entrepreneurs and smart business owners ruthlessly try to understand and develop their niche audience.

They craft a customer experience where their target customer can feel at home, compelled to buy the merchandise, and overall feel it’s my store.

I’m not talking your regulars. I’m talking your target audience

This became very clear last week at ShopTalk where many retail leaders shared how they were upset that all their first-time customers were walking out the door without registering the necessary data points.

Read more about Retail Customer Service Here

They walk out as invisibly as they walk in.

Those retailers leaders are researching better ways to connect with their shoppers and build trust so those shoppers will join their rewards programs or sign on to their digital worlds via their apps.

They know the more data they collect, the more they’ll know who their target customer is so they can make changes in their visual merchandising, their marketing, and just as importantly, their store design and product selections.

This goes far beyond knowing your customers’ email address or even where your customer lives. It goes to trying to understand where your brand, your ethos, your very survival intersects with the needs of your customers.

Many smaller retailers feel they get a pass when it comes to data collection, analyzation and implementation. You don’t.

I touched on that this week in this excerpt from my Facebook LIVE video:


It is only when you have robust data about your customer that you can understand who they are and predict what they might like.

That’s a far cry from going to a trade show and buying what you hope they want.

But the only way you will get there is to go beyond saying you know your customer to actually knowing

That takes time to think, find new technology partners, and train yourself to be forward-looking rather than worrying about what might happen.

When Albertsons CEO Jim Donald was asked at ShopTalk how he sleeps with what Walmart, Amazon and the rest are doing, he replied, with the best response during the conference, “Like a baby. I wake up every two hours and cry like a baby.”

Billy Eklund has done his background work. As a rural store owner, he didn’t do it as much digitally as he did it personally on his floor. He gathered his information talking one on one to each and every shopper who walked in.

He knows he doesn’t mind walking down a muddy hill in the rain to look at his products, but he knows his weekend homeowner does.

He knows he loves jumping on a tractor and tooling around his small projects, and he knows his weekend customer does too.

And he knows he can only grow the market for his tractors and other products if he can make that new homeowner feel at home in his store.

And after the makeover, they will. 

See also, How To Compete With Amazon? Create An In-Store Customer Experience That Rivals Theirs

In Sum

Retail is going through a transformative time.

Those who try new things, who disrupt their own comfort levels, discover new ways to provide customer service and stay rooted in the future have a fighting chance.

But knowing which new areas to go into takes first knowing… really knowing... your customer. 

You might also find value in these posts:

7 Retail Customer Service Experience Mistakes Retailers Make

What To Do When Your Retail Customer Service Fails Miserably

The 7 Essentials of Retail Customer Service

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