Study: Customer Service Should Be Central To Strategy

As anyone who will never visit a store or buy a product again because of a mean, ignorant, unutterably contemptuous, (choose your adjective here) sales staffer knows, customer service can hurt more than the customer.

That's common sense, but Retail Systems Research has codified it with its new study on the predicament, "The State of Retail Workforce Management." The study, sponsored by software services company Kronos, Inc., shows that with Internet retail taking business from retailers who don't focus on strong customer service, the spoils of the brick-and-mortar business will go to those who make good service central to their business strategy.

The study surveyed 160 retail executives and managers in August and September. Retailers participating in the study operate in Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and/or Africa, and North America.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they were "focused on providing high-touch customer service strategy." Also, 24% of them conceded that employees--at all levels, regardless of skill--play an important role in customer service. Only 9% said they have a "low-touch" customer service strategy in which employees play a supplemental role.



Seventy eight percent of the respondents said quality and consistency of customer service, and driving store sales are the top business issues they are looking to improve through tactics designed to orient the workforce toward customer relations skills.

"Retailers need to fix the disconnect between their offerings and customers' priorities. Such a disparity is a major threat in an age where customer service is valued over price," says Nikki Baird, managing director of Retail Systems Research. "Shoppers have choices like never before. Therefore, understanding customer needs is essential--and serving them accordingly is critical."

The challenges to all of this, per respondents, include finding good employees, keeping them, and maximizing labor productivity.

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