With the holiday season upon us, local merchants are pulling out all the stops to entice shoppers into their stores and away from their computers. Without the ability to compete with ecommerce giants on pricing, many independent brick-and-mortar retailers are focusing on customer service. In a LivePerson survey of 500 SMBs, improving customer service ranked as the number-one priority in 2015.
“Shopping, as we all know, can be hectic at times, and pretty much a guaranteed nightmare around holiday seasons. Businesses need to meet demand and keep customers happy,” says Adi Bittan, CEO of OwnerListens, a platform that enables businesses to respond to digital customer feedback. “Technology can help, but it can’t replace a strategy and a culture focused on the customer.”
Here are five ways local merchants can improve customer service this holiday season by implementing hyperlocal technology.
1. Open up new avenues for digital engagement. “The growth of digital engagement — such as messaging, social media, and live chat — gives businesses new avenues to connect with consumers one-to-one. Small businesses will find that they also need to offer more digital engagement channels because that’s how more consumers want to connect and stay connected. They don’t want to pick up the phone anymore. They want to send a message and get a response that they can absorb at their convenience.” (Tom Byun, LivePerson)
2. Use multiple payment systems in mobile registers. “Using multiple payment systems in mobile registers, you can turn your salespeople into cashiers and help customers get rung up without waiting in long lines this holiday season. The employee should approach the customers to sell, cross-sell, and check out all in one touchpoint.” (Hulya Aksu, ListenPort)
3. Automate and set appropriate expectations. “Auto-replies that set the right expectations for response times are key to avoiding angry customers. Use a tool like HubSpot or Buffer for publicly posting on all social networks in one shot, and a tool like OwnerListens for replying to private messages in one place. Commit to a wait time that you can manage, but remember that speed is king.” (Adi Bittan, OwnerListens)
4. Don’t wait until closing time to respond to complaints. “Larger than normal volumes can push staff to make mistakes. During times like this, waiting for the end of the shift to read comment cards and discuss performance means customers are leaving dissatisfied and potential improvements are deferred. You’ve almost completely missed your chance to make things right. A quick turnaround on issues will help prevent customers from going home and writing a negative review online, and will allow management to make corrections quickly, providing a better experience for the other customers.” (John Washam, TalkToTheManager)
5. Update your website FAQs with holiday-themed content. “Let customers know about holiday relevant topics with a prominent link on your website and with pinned posts on social media. Things like delivery dates, times, cost, gift return/exchange policies, and lead times are top of mind during the holidays. You can hook up your FAQs to instant messaging to automatically detect what specific questions are about and send responses from your FAQs. This often satisfies the customer without the need for custom interaction.” (Adi Bittan, OwnerListens)
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.