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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

A growing number of businesses recognise the need to drive sales growth through the customer experience. Yet, a successful customer focused organisation looks beyond merely providing service training to incorporating an experience focus from the top down. The customer focused organisation needs to lead through both culture and also practical execution.

Pressures of a Changing Retail Landscape

Online retail in Australia is expected to exceed $13 billion in 2011, or around 4.4 per cent of total spending. With the growth of online retail and the high Australian dollar, retailers need to respond to the rapidly changing landscape by moving beyond competing purely on price. Businesses can adjust their business value propositions and implement a strategy of building market share and customer loyalty by providing an enhanced buying experience — a branded experience.

Defining your Business Value Propositions

Online retailers have a natural competitive advantage with price, having less overheads, While price represents a consideration for buying decisions, it’s not the only factor driving business value. The buying experience, along with overall product and service quality, is a strong contributing factor to customer satisfaction.

Vice President of American Express World Service, Christine Wakefield, aptly noted that; “Consumers gravitate to companies that are investing in the customer experience and going beyond the basic transaction.” Hence a  balanced strategy can be pursued by providing customers with an individual and distinctive retail experience.

The importance of service to a business value proposition is clear. How can your quality of service be augmented and differentiated from competitors?

Focusing on the Branded Experience

Experiential branding is integrally linked with service delivery. It can be broken down to a combination of emotions, behaviourial responses, and sensations — feelings that are invoked by the service experience. Consistency, value, differentiation, and intention – these service factors trigger powerful and positive brand experiences which lead to experiential branding and build customer loyalty.

Who are the first customers that management should take care of? It’s those who are pivotal to an excellent service culture – the staff.

4 keys to Building Sustainable Sales Advantage

Generating Commitment

Your staff are your most important asset and need to be supported by a culture aligned with service. Leaders inspire staff toward service excellence when they are able to share their vision, act as aspirational examples, and sell staff on the brand values. The organisation’s leaders are also able to generate commitment to service excellence by driving a cultural change at all levels of the organisation.

Investing in People to Drive Sales

Providing staff with the skills to deliver a branded or multi-faceted customer experience through customer service training is crucial to success. Along with providing training programs, management can encourage spheres of activity at all levels by addressing accountability, culture, providing inspiring leadership, encouraging staff to come up with creative solutions, and setting in place a system for continuous improvement.

Establishing Accountability

The best customer service makes use of context specific knowledge which may be exclusive to the staff member or staff level. As such, staff need to be empowered to generate appropriate service solutions.

Management can also establish expectations and set up the means for providing appropriate feedback and recognition through the use of highly specific goals for individual staff members or staff levels. These ideally measure operational as well as experiential aspects of the service.

Continuous Improvement

Committing to continuous improvement means management works to implement an ongoing process of planning, doing, and reviewing. Whether you are differentiating on service depends on the perceptions of the customer, and is a dynamic model of operation. Staff can be empowered to participate in a similar cycle of renewal and improvement at their own spheres of activity and influence.

Major changes to the retail landscape make it more important than ever to stand out from the competition. Exceptional customer service hinges on the prevailing culture of your company and your most important sales weapon – your staff. Empower your staff by providing them with inspirational mentors, appropriate and extensive training, and entrusting them with responsibilities. Remember that your staff drive the buying experience – a pivotal factor in the success of your product or service, and the ultimate longevity and growth of your business. Investing in this often neglected sphere is increasingly recognised as the secret that ensures great companies enjoy lasting market presence.

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