In trying times, customer happiness counts

Bridget Lea, Director of Retail & Online, Omnichannel at O2, Telefonica UK

The latest retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed a 0.4% year-on-year decline in May.  Given this follows a 1.4% decline in retail sales in the first quarter, some people in the industry may be feeling a bit disappointed by how 2017 is shaping up. These slowing sales have been largely attributed to rising living costs, consumer caution around Brexit and increasing operating costs.  But do falling sales mean falling customer satisfaction?

The latest Customer Experience Index, published by the Institute of Customer Service, highlights that consumers, despite being more satisfied than a year ago with the quality of customer service they receive, are less likely to recommend a brand than they would have done last year.  In order to thrive, retailers need to understand how consumers are changing and adapt with them, or risk being left behind.  So we, as retailers, can take heart that there are still opportunities for us to further build customer love and rise above of the competition.

This evolution of consumers’ expectations and what makes them happy was the focus of the BRC’s recent ‘The Changing Face of Retail’ conference. One of the things that stood out for me was that in order to thrive, retailers need to understand how consumers are changing and adapt with them, or risk being left behind. We’re proud that Ofcom’s recent annual service quality report shows that we’re the network with the highest customer satisfaction in the UK. It’s this passion for understanding our customers and adapting to their needs quickly which sits at the heart of our business; whether that’s our stores, our service or our products.

Putting customers first

To better meet those needs, we recently opened concept stores which showcase the very latest technology, provide interactive ‘inspire zones’ and facilitate roving technology tutorials delivered by our in-store experts, O2 Gurus.  One of the biggest changes we have made in these stores is evolving the way O2 Gurus interact with customers, by incentivising them based on customer experience rather than traditional sales targets.

One of the biggest changes we have made in these stores is evolving the way O2 Gurus interact with customers, by incentivising them based on customer experience rather than traditional sales targets. We know that happy customers make loyal customers, so we have placed customer satisfaction as our number-one in-store priority, and the results speak for themselves. In all O2 stores, customers who interact with our Gurus are surveyed via text and asked to rate their experience, and staff in our ‘stores of the future’ score on average 5% higher, showing the immediate benefit of putting the customer first.

But our innovation does not stop there. We’ve seen that when people come into our stores, their expectations have shifted from simply wanting to buy a product to wanting a tailored experience. This can mean anything from practical advice about how to use a phone’s safety features, to a hands-on experience with a VR headset.

Gurus’ value

To enable this, O2 Gurus conduct tutorials to ensure our customers have dedicated time to interact with our employees and the products they’re considering buying. Unsure of whether a tablet has the processing power to serve as your graphic design hub? O2 Gurus can run you through the specs of the products available and help you work out which one is right to serve as your studio on the go.

Allowing our customers time to ask their questions face-to-face provides truly personalised service, something which is valued highly by modern consumers.

The mobile sector is just one example of where the retail market is undergoing a huge transformation, and each sector will have its own unique challenges to face. Retailers can best prepare for change by placing customers at the heart of the decision-making process. Such a relentless customer focus can enable any retail business to adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers.  If we can help at all, do get in touch.

You can see this blog featured on Retail Week here.