What is the difference between good customer service and bad customer service?
Or good customer service and just… being serviced by a customer representative?
The main difference is in whether or not companies actually listen to their customers. The companies that truly listen to their customers are the ones with happy and loyal customers who are happy to share their stories with others.
So how do you provide good customer service in retail and build strong customer relationships that last? By following these 3 steps:
- Get customer feedback
- Respond thoughtfully (like a human being)
Here are 3 examples, from companies large and small, who truly understand what it means to provide good customer service in retail:
1. T-Mobile’s example of good customer service in retail
What do you do when a loved one passes away? Whether you’re consumed with grief or just plain shocked, you’re probably not thinking about the little things. Little but important details like real estate titles, joint bank accounts or phone bills are the last things on your mind. (Naturally.)
This was exactly the case for one of T-Mobile’s customers.
When her husband passed away, the customer suddenly found herself with many new responsibilities.
Things her husband had previously taken care of had now fallen on her shoulders. And this doesn’t even include all that she would then have to deal with in his passing, such as notifying those close to him, taking care of funeral arrangements, speaking with his previous employer and accepting condolences… etc.
Most of these matters were handled over the phone, racking up a massive amount of airtime.
T-Mobile notified the customer that she had an unpaid phone bill of $2000 and her phone line would soon be shut down.
The grieving customer informed the T-mobile customer service representative of her situation and that since there was no will in place, the couple’s assets had been frozen; she wasn’t really sure when she could expect to pay the bill, but she really needed her phone now.
How did the telecommunications giant handle the situation? By looking beyond the bottom line. The customer’s account balance was forgiven and the company even offered her unlimited minutes for the following two months.
The customer’s reaction?
“Say what you will about T-mobile but they’ve done good by me. I’ll forever feel indebted to them and will stay with them till the end.”
She shared her experience on-line and the story has since received over 29.5K views with over 4K upvotes.
$2000 is no small sum, but by reacting to a tragic situation in the most human way possible, the brand won a customer for life.
And because their outstanding customer service moved her to share her story, over 29.5K people (myself included) also got to read about the kind and sympathetic way this telecommunications giant treats its customers.
2. Real Canadian Superstore’s example of good customer service in retail
According to a recent study by BigCommerce, 96% of Americans shop on-line.
There are a number of reasons to shop online: to save time, avoid crowds, do comparison shopping… whatever the reason, nearly all US consumers have purchased items on-line at one time or another.
The user below had a great customer service experience with the on-line click & collect service from food retailer, Real Canadian Superstore.
As she describes in her post, all she had to do was place her order on-line, select a time slot for pick-up, and then when she arrived, a customer service representative brought her order directly to her car.
She was especially impressed by the way the retailer handled the situation when they discovered that a few items she had ordered were out of stock:
A friendly customer service representative gave her a call to let her know about the out-of-stock items, and suggested some possible alternatives.
I ordered groceries today for the first time from online click&collect – Real Canadian Superstore #realcanadiansuperstore I had an amazing experience! Would totally recommend it to moms with young children who can't spend hours doing groceries. It's very easy and convenient. All you have to do is go online on the #realcanadiansuperstore website, place your order, choose a time slot for pickup and then just go pick it up. You can park in their click & collect designated parking spots and they bring the groceries out to your car! ? I saved soooo much time today. Their customer service was amazing! A few things I ordered online were out of stock so a nice lady called me from the store and offered substitutes. Moms please take advantage of this service!! First month is free ???? #mychildrenmyjannah #mommylife #groceries #tuesday #mississauga #torontolife #mississauga_igers #momblog #momblogger #toronto
I am no stranger to shopping for groceries on-line (saves SO MUCH time), but I’ve never received any phone calls from customer service representatives about items which were out-of-stock (mind you, they were not out of stock according to their on-line inventory)
The retailers almost always automatically substitute them with other brands or similar items.
I’m not always happy about this since I prefer to avoid certain brands (I’ve actually stopped ordering on-line from this retailer for that reason). A phone call, text, or e-mail asking if it would be okay to substitute out-of-stock items with other brands would have been appreciated.
But that’s one of the main differences between your run-of-the-mill customer service in retail and really good customer service from retailers: just listen to your customers and find out what they want!
A key step in providing good customer service in retail starts with remembering that your customers are human and connecting with them… in a human way.
This means that you listen to them.
Only then can you truly understand what your customers want and begin to build relationships with them.
This works both ways.
Sh*t happens. Disasters strike. When the tables are turned, how do you want your customers to react?
3. Deep Sea Headquarters’ example of good customer service in retail
Deep Sea Headquarters, a boat tour agency in Port Aransas, Texas, was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. This was the case for many individuals and businesses, who were left with next to nothing in the wake of the disaster.
Almost immediately, the boat tour agency received refund requests for interrupted boat tours due to Hurricane Harvey, but found themselves unable to issue them with their usual speed since their employees were now struggling themselves to deal with loss of house and home in the aftermath of the disaster. Not to mention the limited water, electricity, and cell phone service for everybody in the area.
A brief post on Facebook explaining the situation and asking their customers for some understanding and human compassion quickly revealed the strong customer relationships they had already built through outstanding customer service.
People quickly began to share their positive sailing experiences with the crew in the comments section and reassured the company that receiving timely refunds were far from being a priority during this time.
When the time comes (and it will) and your company requires understanding and human compassion from your customers, just wait: their reactions and support will reveal the strength of your customer relationships and just how well you’ve been providing customer service all along.
Hopefully, you’ll find yourself in the same boat as Deep Sea Headquarters.
Provide good customer service in retail with social listening
The first step to providing good customer service in retail begins with listening to your customers.
Your customers won’t always approach you directly, so you may have to do some digging to uncover customer feedback.
Keep in mind that your company won’t always be tagged when your customers mention you (like with the T-Mobile post above – the story was shared in a forum without any tags).
This is where social listening tools come in handy. Set up social listening projects to track mentions of your brand, product, industry, etc… and receive instant notifications whenever your customers mention you on-line, whether you’ve been tagged or not.
A powerful yet easy-to-use social listening tool like Brand24 makes getting customer feedback super simple:
Step 1: Set up your social listening projects.
Start by selecting the keywords you want to track.
If you’re not sure which keywords you should be tracking, this article will give you some ideas.
Step 2: Keep an eye on your social listening projects.
Once you’ve set up your social listening projects, keep an eye on the data you collect. Brand24 has a super useful summary tab in the dashboard that displays important aspects of your data at a glance.
You can personalize notifications to let you know when there is a sudden increase in mentions for your company or for particular types of mentions (such as mentions with negative or positive sentiment, or including specific hashtags for different campaigns).
This particular listening tool also includes a variety of filters you can use to separate mentions according to relevance. And PDF analysis reports help you understand the data.
These features are all available in the free trial, so set up your social listening projects now and find opportunities to build strong and loyal customer relationships by providing good customer service in retail!