Overcoming Customer Service Obstacles in a Small Retail Business

This is a guest post from Jori Hamilton (see her bio at the end) – thanks Jori…

Small business ownership is an enticing career path that allows you to pursue your passions instead of working in a traditional corporate setting. However, it isn’t without its challenges, especially if you choose a retail business. One of the most demanding (and most important) parts of running a successful retail business is building a loyal customer base.

If you want customers to stick with your company for a long time, they need to love your customer service. Every interaction can transform a client’s relationship with your brand — especially when they’re reaching out to you in search of customer support.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common customer service obstacles that small retail businesses encounter, then offer ideas for mitigating these concerns and improving your overall CX (customer experience).

Streamlining Your Customer Service Processes

Practically everyone has experienced customer service delays before — long hold times on the phone, days without an email reply, and even long lines at the store. However, the ability to connect quickly when customers need you is a basic tenet of excellent customer service management.

Small retail businesses don’t necessarily need to stretch their staffing budgets to offer more efficient customer service. You can streamline your customer service with automation tools like chatbots and offering FAQs and walkthrough videos for common questions. Believe it or not, good customer service is actually a form of positive marketing for your small business.

Establishing Consumer Trust in Your Employees

Modern consumers have access to more information than ever before. They’re used to relying on their own research on platforms like search engines and social media. In fact, 87% of shoppers begin product searches online, without the help of in-store service counters.

Consumer self-reliance is great for helping small businesses keep their staffing costs low, but when customers do need your team’s help, it can cause friction between your shoppers and your associates. Since they’ve already done the research, consumers may believe they’re more knowledgeable than your team members.

Establishing trust and respect for your retail employees is key to making customer service effective and building more positive customer relationships. To do so, it’s important to build a confident team that’s prepared to provide efficient service that goes above and beyond. Consider implementing a customer relationship management platform, which helps you store consumer data and cater your customer experience to each individual’s needs. Rather than making the mistake of only providing what shoppers ask, your associates can better take control of conversations and upsell or show customers other helpful options.

When you need to hire for a customer-facing position, have a clear training process lined up for technical skills — but always seek a people person. Great talkers are hard to train but necessary for relationship-building.

Prioritizing Customers During Internal Conflicts

Unless you’re running your business solo, there’s always a risk of internal conflicts within your company. Employees may have disagreements, while owners may clash on the direction your business is taking. This is especially the case when you’re running a family-owned business (or employing any family members) since anything from small spats to divorce can affect your business operations — and ultimately, your CX.

When internal conflicts arise, your team must prioritize the customer and avoid bringing their negative emotions into client interactions. Family members should resolve personal conflicts before entering the office, while all team members should commit to communicating when they can help customers, even when their conflicts aren’t fully resolved.

Creating Consistency in the Customer Experience

Consistency is key in many aspects of business, including the customer experience. When customers come back to your business, they expect to receive the same quality of service, no matter which employee they’re interacting with. Otherwise, without the CX that initially made them love your brand, they won’t stay loyal to your company for long.

So how do you get your team members on the same page? Establishing customer service guidelines — and training new employees based on those guidelines — is crucial. Outline the values your associates should embrace and the actions they should take in specific situations. For example, you can require an on-brand greeting (like “ahoy” for a pirate-themed shop) for every guest and have a process for managing returns in-store.

Improve your Customer Support

When customers need your help, your team members should be able to provide meaningful interactions that solve their problems or alleviate their concerns — not create new frustrations. Implement technology to offer efficient support while also building a highly capable customer service team that your consumers will trust and respect. Make it a priority to identify when things don’t go well and what you can do as a team to get better the next time that issue comes up.

To mitigate the risk of declining customer loyalty, establish customer service guidelines to offer the same quality of support with every interaction — and ensure that internal conflicts won’t affect your communication and customer relationships.

When you overcome your biggest customer service obstacles, your small retail business can thrive.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, marketing strategies, and HR solutions. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach