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How To Provide Customer Service in Age of the App

Adapting to new technology is the best way to stay on top of your customer service 'A' game

How To Provide Customer Service in Age of the App

Technology is phasing out many retail jobs but the key position that’s here to stay is the store associate. They go by many names, from sales associate to brand ambassador to brand representative, but their role stays the same – delivering excellent customer service with a human touch. This is the foundation of retail and the reason why many people continue to shop in-store instead of solely clicking “add to cart” from their couch.

An app may be able to provide retail customers with the best deals on jeans but it’s the experience customers have with retail store employees that keeps them coming back or writing a bad review online. Negative or positive, there’s a lot of value in that relationship.

This is where, as a customer service professional, you can shine by creating a need for yourself in your customer’s shopping experience and by being much more than a computer screen. Creating a rapport with a customer is now much more difficult because of all the distractions but it is still possible if you are diligent.

Here are steps that will help you reach your retail customer when their head isn’t buried in their phone.

Face-to-Face Contact

Face-to-face contact is more complex in this age of technology but is even more valuable in fostering relationships and future business for the retailer.

You may have a very small window to introduce yourself to a customer, so it is important that you make an initial impact, greet a customer genuinely and welcome them to the store as if you’re happy to see them.

“First opinions are formed within the first 10 seconds. You never have a second opportunity to make a warm and welcoming first impression,” said Richard Shapiro, founder and president of The Center For Client Retention, in an interview with BusinessNewsDaily.

"Too many companies don't understand that while delivering excellent customer service is one of the key ingredients for repeat business, it's that special personal relationship with one customer and one associate that provides the link between customer satisfaction and customer retention," he said. "The service delivered by frontline associates must be viewed as the first step in the journey of loyalty,” he said.

Nonverbal Body Language

A whopping 93 percent of communication is based on nonverbal body language, reports Forbes. This is where you can provide the customer service that online shopping cannot give retail store customers.

Nonverbal body language such as, noticing when a customer tries something on and doesn’t feel comfortable, is a perfect example of what you can do that technology cannot. Even though they may have refused help when they started shopping, stay within eye view by organizing racks nearby in order to make yourself available, while at the same time, not crowding and overwhelming the customer.

Customer retention happens when you build trust and personalize the experience for the shopper. You can do this repeating a customer's phrases in your discussion to show you’re listening and are understanding their requests. Referring to them by name is also a proven method. 

The best retail workers have fantastic people skills and can identify through nonverbal communication what the customer needs. 

Technology Can Be Your Friend

In the age of technology when it feels like a computer may be taking your job, it is important to adapt.

Technology has elevated the expertise of the sales associate by empowering them with real-time inventory visibility, more knowledge of products, and by making them the point-of-sale, eliminating lengthy checkout lines and ultimately creating a personalized experience for the customer.

Many stores are giving their sales associates tablets or mobile devices to amp up their customer service abilities to give the best of the best to their customers.

Nordstrom, the “gold standard of customer service,” has done a fantastic job integrating technology with their face-to-face customer service to give the customer the best of both worlds. They are using video conferencing to give customers access to personal shoppers from the comforts of their own home and also provide free shipping on all returns to provide the customers with great service even if they are not talking to a person. 

Pairing the importance of face-to-face contact with the technology that many people are now comfortable with creates a “super” sales associate and a more rewarding customer experience.

As a retail employee, always adapting to new technology is the best way to stay on top of your customer service “A” game. 

Monster Wants to Know: How's your company preparing sales associates with technology? As a customer, do you prefer going to stores that empower sales associates with mobile devices and tablets? Is there a difference? Share with us in the comment section.

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