Service the cure to online threat

AUSTRALIAN retailers are being told they will have to develop superior customer service skills to have any hope of retaining market share and competing with the online boom.

Retailers are losing their business to online competition not only because of the cheaper prices, but because “old-fashioned” customer service skills have sadly been lost, according to leading retail service expert Timothy Millett.

Mr Millett, the director of Training and Development for i perform, says many customers wanting good service are expressing disappointment with their interactions with some of Australia's biggest retailers.

He says with the Australian retail landscape rapidly changing, the focus needs to be switched from discounting on price to focusing on an improved retailing experience for the consumer.

“Organisations focused on customer experience generally outperform their competitors 2:1 in revenue growth and report five to 10 per cent higher profit margins,” Mr Millett said.

He said a recent study released in the US found that even in a tough economy consumers rewarded exceptional customer experiences, with retailers seeing improved financial results. Over 73% of the respondents stated that they would expand their purchases with a business by 10% or more if the service was superior.

“Retailers who are getting it right by creating superior customer experiences are not feeling the pinch. Luxury brands in particular are really dominating as they realise the value in training their frontline staff to give them expert product understanding and the knowledge of what it takes to satisfy the customer,” Mr Millett said.

Ella Baché national field training manager Amber Scott agrees that consumers' expectations have changed, with people now seeking out and demanding superior customer service.

“To represent our brand adequately and now more than ever, having superior customer service is essential. Our brand is based on a loyal client base, so it's not just a once-off service they try it's something they use every single time,” she said.

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