In a world where word of mouth goes viral, mediocre service is not an option

January 18, 2019

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Martin Newman

By Martin Newman

The Consumer Champion

Tap into Twitter on any given day, and you’ll find that a brand is trending – but you would be wrong to assume that the civilians of social media are sharing nothing but gushing praise.

While you can’t avoid every customer crisis, it’s lazy and dangerous to coast along through website glitches, rude staff and appalling ergonomic floor designs. This is the era of reviews, Reddit threads and easily Googled competitors. In the event of poor service in-store, 21% of customers are likely to air their frustrations on social media . So what is good customer service? And how can you make it work for you?

I’ve found a few of my favourite brand strategies from the previous year that I feel really highlight the changes we are seeing in the retail sector, as well as the importance of customer-centric transformation.


John Lewis: Investing in a multi-channel strategy

I have often been critical of John Lewis in the past. But I take my hat off to them, as they have recognised the requirement to move beyond the transaction and become a service provider. Offering relevant services to consumers such as kitchen and bathroom fitting, interior design, installation of white goods, TVs and sound-systems, nursery advice for expectant parents and beauty treatments all helps to drive conversion, propensity and lifetime value.

Next: Reinventing itself in an online age

Next is the bellwether for the high street, as evidenced by the fact that they will soon be the first major retailer whose online sales surpass those of their stores. They are constantly looking to drive their value proposition forward and ensure they stay relevant, and much of their success has been driven by getting the basics right. They have a strong catalogue and home shopping heritage, and were arguably in a better place then most retailers from the minute ecommerce took off. They have massively extended their offer, and broadened their range significantly as well as bringing in strong third party brands from Nike to Paperchase, and from beauty vendors such as Fabled by Marie Claire and Hugo Boss.

Google and Fast Retailing: Translating customer trends into products

Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, has been leveraging Google’s image recognition technology to forecast and project both product trends and consumer demand. They have also launched a new Google-developed service to help customers select items on the Uniqlo app. The system enables Uniqlo to gather lots of valuable data and insight on customer behaviour and product preferences.

Amazon Go: Streamlining the customer experience

Six years ago, I wrote in my Retail Week column that Amazon would open brick and mortar stores. Not content with opening any old store, they have reimagined the in-store customer journey and removed one of the biggest barriers to purchase: the checkout. In my opinion, this sets the benchmark for how consumers will expect to pay for their goods in future. Without having to bring out a wallet, purse, credit or debit card – or even having to use their phone or touchless payment – the technology in play will complete the transaction automatically, leaving customers free to pick up and go.

Netflix: Perfecting the ‘content for customer’ strategy

Netflix’s new strategy is based around the mantra ‘content is king’. Heavily modelled around the metadata collected on customer behaviour, Netflix ensures that they create content entirely with the consumer in mind. Banking on millennial nostalgia for the ‘90s, and tapping into macabre curiosity into serial killers and natural disasters, Netflix has gone a step beyond traditional television and film mediums by asking the question, “What would you want to binge watch if no one was going to fight with you over the remote?” Releasing all the episodes at the same time allows the consumer to watch at their own pace, in a world where shift work and zero-hours contracts make it hard to sit down every week at a set time.

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