One question we’ve been asking a lot of our eSellers this year is what they think the future of the High Street will be. It’s natural, with the closure of Jessops, Comet and HMV to believe that the High Street no longer provides value and bricks and mortar stores will be no more.
However, new technologies are emerging that not only ensure the stores work in harmony with the internet and mobile technology but offer a way to save the High Street and even suggest that the right strategies will actually increase the amount of stores outdoors.
These solutions focus on the customer experience, along with multi-channel, cross channel omni channel technology that combines the collection of data with buyer behaviour to enable retailers to increase sales on the shop floor.
LightHaus is one company that believes there are many missed opportunities in store that could be capitalized on with the right communication and data collection tools. In some stores up to 80% of the footfall is through browsers alone that leave without buying a thing but Lighthaus have the solution.
They’ll be talking about this in a presentation at the RBTE so I won’t give away all the secrets yet, instead I focused on the sales staff experience along with the consumer experience, in order to gain an insight from the other side of the fence.
With over 20 years’ experience of giving customers what they want, Kevin Blackmore, LightHaus’ UK General Manager, is in a prime position to advise on how to utilize and capitalise on consumer behaviour, while Tim Johnson, the Sr. Technical Director of Concept Development & Implementation for AT & T stores believes customer focus is key.
At Integrated Retailer we’ve already determined that the next decade will show the consumer to be the one in control, the customer holds the power, and the retailers who will thrive will be those who listen to the customer and give them what they want, however, although the US has a great reputation for customer service, here in the UK we do not.
Tim has recently launched a store in Chicago and this is proving to be a huge success, not only is it reinforcing the brand but the staff are reinforcing the reputation of giving excellent customer care. He is proud that customers will ask for a specific sales person by name, as they remember the service they received, yet here in Britain we do tend to remember more the bad service.
Of course, high end stores, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, John Lewis even understand customer care but others seem to miss the point.
The British Can Do Better
A recent trip on the North Yorkshire Moors railway gave me the opportunity to witness the worst case of customer service I’d ever encountered, while anyone that’s moved home recently and used BT for broadband will understand my plea. The Consumer Voice has incredible stats on how customer care is now losing apathetic brands billions.
As an example of this, recently I stepped inside a Body Shop, having met Anita Roddick a couple of times, this has always been a brand that I respected and admired. I was looking for an all-natural face wash for my daughter and approached two sales assistants to ask if they still sold the oat scrub. I stood, as they finished their conversation, looked at me as if I was extremely rude then replied “no” in unison.
That was it. I was so shocked I let them know they’d missed a sale. They shrugged. Obviously not on commission then!
See if they’d shown me an alternative, asked me what skin problem I was trying to help and found out a bit about my daughter’s regime I would have happily parted with £100 for body wash, facial scrub, moisturisers and bath foams as long as I thought it would alleviate her eczema naturally.
The cheaper options especially seem to have disregard for customer care, as David Cameron should be able to confirm when he bought his pasty from Greggs.
The Computer Says No –Innit?
When I asked what Britain could do to improve on customer care, Kevin disagreed that the UK had a problem in this field, which is understandable as every client of Lighthaus is committed to providing the ultimate customer experience.
Regardless I persevered for those of us, who have returned home to write a strong ranting email to a store we were disgusted with and asked,
“Loyalty schemes and listening to the consumer are obviously the way forward however, how do we tackle the apathetic employees that don’t seem to understand the importance of customer care?”
Although both believe that there are very few out there that do watch the clock and don’t often care about customers as long as their wages are paid, Tim Johnson did give me some great insights.
He told me that now; the focus is not simply on the customer experience but on the sales reps experience too. Companies are investing more in staff both in training and confidence, as they are involving more employees into the whole process so they feel like a huge part of the success (which they are). With the information Lighthaus can gather, sales reps can also be motivated by rewards for giving a great customer experience and customer satisfaction can be measured so employees understand how to improve.
Tim also highlighted that with every investment in modern technology; there should be an investment in staff training too so the two work seamlessly together to deliver the best service.
The Future Looks Bright
Personally this short interview has already whetted my appetite for a better future. It’s not difficult to see that with more motivated staff, happier customers and a growing High Street, LightHaus is shining a bright light on the future of retail.