For the smaller independent retailer, customer service is the key to success, especially when competing against the high street multiples with their large advertising budgets.  If customer issues are tackled promptly and the retailer can be proactive in dealing with problems there can often be a big impact on both profitability and future sales whereas should a retailer wait to be chased by a disgruntled customer they are likely to lose any potential repeat custom and risk negative word of mouth.

The retailer’s customer service department is a key ally to help prevent any negative customer feedback and should not been seen as a dumping ground for sorting out the sales teams’ problems and delivery issues. To make the most of the customer service department, any internal procedures should include an integrated solution to help resolve any issues in a professional and timely manner. An integrated system will allow for all customer communications and any internal actions to be updated and collated in one place.

Initial communication from a customer should ideally be recorded against the sales order either through the use of free format notes or by attaching a file such as a letter or e-mail. Actions or responsibilities which are allocated to the relevant staff member should be recorded and diarized with an alert system to ensure that they are carried out at the appropriate time and that the customer is kept fully informed of the progress of their issue, via phone, email, SMS or mail.

To assist the retailer in communicating updates to the customer effectively, they should make use of pre-formatted template letters, emails and SMS, produced, and saved against the issue to increase the customer’s perception of the professionalism of your operation. These initial communications are vital and will create the impression with the customer that you are well organised and care about finding a resolution.

Every action relevant to the issue – organizing service engineers, raising credits, ordering of replacements or parts, arranging collection of the goods from the customer, providing loan items or even sending a bunch of flowers to say sorry – should be at the customer service department’s finger tips. Ideally a cost should be allocated to each of these actions so that a provisional cost can be placed on each resolution.

All remote personnel taking responsibility for the specific issues, such as service engineers, would ideally directly communicate any photos of damages/repairs and a record of the customer’s satisfaction electronically to the issue logged in the internal system. This saves re-entering any information, shares the responsibility, provides real time updates and puts the retailer firmly in control.

Through using an integrated customer services system, the retailer can produce detailed analytics to track the source of the issues raised, allowing them to see which suppliers, products, delivery teams and employees give the most problems,  This in turn provides the retailer with a comprehensive set of performance reports, to assist in addressing issues with manufacturers, company employees and delivery operations.

For the independent retailer their key selling tools over the high street multiples and internet retailers is their reputation for high levels of customers service for both pre and post sales. Personal recommendation is probably the best form of sales enquiries for any retailers and knowing that no one is 100% issue free, if you are seen to address customer service issues as promptly, professionally and efficiently as possible it enhances your reputation and has a positive effect on customer loyalty and profitability as a result.