The retail world has been continuously shaken up over the years by digital innovations and fluctuating consumer trends. But there’s one trend that seems to be here to stay. Buyers today are being said to “shop with their emotions, rather than their wallets,” which is a big change from years past. If you lead a retail company and haven’t structured your customer experience strategy around this change, you could be missing opportunities to align your service model with the direction the industry is going in. 

Here are a few ways you can connect with your customers on a human level, so your customer relationships – and sales – can thrive.

Train your customer service representatives to identify emotions, empathize and connect.

Your customer service agents are the face of your brand, whether they’re sitting in a call center or standing in a brick and mortar store. So your ability to establish true customer relationships are largely dependent on how you equip your team. Instead of only giving your call center employees a playbook to follow when customers call, focus on also teaching them to identify the emotions customers may be feeling and how to use verbiage that conveys empathy. Then, empower them to provide solutions that will satisfy the customer and be good ambassadors to your brand.

When it comes to your in-store employees, training is just as important. Teach them how to find out what’s really driving a customer’s purchase, and how they can provide value to that person. If your salesperson can use conversation to determine motivation, the customer will have a better experience (and may even ending up buying more).

Also, don’t shy away from training call center agents at the same time as in-store agents. Handling all of the training congruently can help keep your messaging, vibe and brand consistent for customers. It’s a great way to ensure all your channels deliver a consistent message and feel.

Regardless of the channel, have real human interactions.

Digital communication technology is a wonderful thing, and has advanced the way in which we can reach customers and solve their problems. But it can also morph into something alienating, if we’re not intentional about how it’s used. Instead of bridging connection, it can create distance and misunderstandings.

To use it in a positive way, it’s important to train your team members to speak and type clearly and conversationally. It’s also key to have a Omni-Channel customer service program in place, so your representatives can reach consumers where they want to be reached, as well as customer feedback mechanisms that will help you know how customers feel about the support you offer.

If a customer asks a question over live chat, your agent should respond in a way that feels natural and unscripted (even if they’re working from a script). If a customer emails you, make sure your responses are warm and sound like they’re coming from a human, rather than being canned or salesy. This can go a long way in establishing rapport, and helping your buyers feel like they’re dealing with people – not a nameless, faceless brand.

Incorporate corporate social responsibility into your strategy.

There’s no question that consumers today are more emotionally and socially driven than they have been in years past. In fact, 91 percent of millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause if given the opportunity, which is major. Even if your retail company has the lowest prices around, you may very well lose out on business if a competitor clearly markets their ethical sourcing of materials and your standards in this area are unclear.

In order to win more business, and connect with your buyers human to human, you need to use your marketing and communication to show your principles resonate with your audience’s values. For example, maybe you donate 10 percent of all sales to a well-known nonprofit that feeds the hungry. Make sure this fact is public knowledge, and don’t be shy about highlighting it on your social channels and website, in your email newsletter and anywhere else it may be appropriate to do so. Most consumers today would rather spend a little more to a company whose heart is in a good place than other companies who appear to be only profit-driven.

Want to learn more about developing a winning customer service strategy, and the digital tools that will help you get there? We can help.

Contact us anytime.

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