7 Common Customer Complaints in Retail that Cost Businesses Revenue
In every business, customer retention is a pivotal part of growth. It is a simple fact of life that companies that can keep their customers and build brand loyalty survive, and those that can’t, don’t. The biggest thing that defines loyalty is the customer experience. If the people who frequent your business enjoy their experience, they will likely return. In the retail industry, where businesses compete with e-commerce and online shopping, the customer experience is all the more important.
Retail businesses are still trying to cover some ground they lost to e-commerce during the pandemic. According to Digital Commerce, the pandemic added a massive $219 billion to the United States’ e-commerce spending across 2020 and 2021. That is a huge portion of spending retail has to win back or tap into, and many businesses are struggling to do so because of consistent failures in the customer experience sphere.
Retail stores need to find new ways to keep customers happy and engaged. Contributing to a positive experience means happier customers, but many retail stores fall short and lose customers for the same reasons they always have. There are an array of customer complaints that consistently plague businesses in the retail industry. The majority of these complaints revolve around a lack of customer service.
Knowing and addressing these common customer complaints is how businesses can become more customer service oriented. According to Khoros, for 86%, good customer service turns one-time clients into long-term brand champions. If you want to improve customer loyalty and decrease the risk of lost revenue from customer complaints, understanding and addressing the common issues is a must.
Let’s dive into what the common customer complaints are and why they matter, and look at how a queue management system and appointment scheduling software like QLess can help retail businesses overcome these frequent difficulties.
Long Wait Times
One of the most agitating experiences customers can face is heading to a retailer and finding themselves standing in an extended line with an unknown wait time. This is universally loathed by customers, and these long physical lines are exclusive to brick-and-mortar stores. Few things can make customer satisfaction drop more than long wait times, which make it increasingly difficult for customers to walk away with a positive experience.
Whether a long line for a checkout counter or a return desk, lines disturb customer flow and make it likely that an operation alienates its customers. According to a Synqera survey result, 73% of customers surveyed stated that long lines were their least favorite aspect of the customer experience. Long lines are often looked at as a simple cost of doing business for retail stores, but this doesn’t have to be the case. There are alternative options that can eliminate the need for lines altogether or make them less of an arduous experience.
One way many businesses are addressing their problems with lines is with the use of queue management solutions. These are software solutions that can help businesses oversee and manage their entire customer flow with the help of a virtual queue. A virtual queue is a line customers can check into remotely, either from their phones or on-site kiosks. Rather than standing around in long lines waiting for their turn with uncertain wait times, a smart queue offers freedom and clarity.
With a virtual queue management system, businesses can allow their customers to enter lines remotely and wait from wherever they want until it is their turn. This removes in-store congestion and gives customers more choice in the line process. QLess and other virtual queue software provide highly accurate wait times to customers, so they can undergo a more transparent waiting process. This will lead to a drastically improved line experience that addresses a major customer concern.
An Impersonal Shopping Experience
There is a common expectation amongst customers that businesses offer a fully customized, personal experience. They want to feel seen and attended to, like their patronage matters to the business, and they want offers that align with their shopping tendencies. This is difficult for many retailers to offer, but a personalized service is an incredibly important thing for businesses to provide. The more personalized and custom-fitted to the desires of your customers the shopping experience is, the higher retail sales will likely be.
There is a noted correlation between personalization and business success. According to Startup Bonsai, 80% of consumers are likelier to buy from a business that provides a personally tailored experience. Personalized experiences can drastically reduce the number of unhappy customers by ensuring the shopping experience is driven by their unique wants and needs. However, many businesses fail to connect with customers in this regard.
Brick-and-mortar retailers face difficulty creating a personalized experience because, unlike e-commerce, collecting data on users is difficult. It is largely the task of sales associates and store workers to drive the personal aspect of the business. However, many aren’t experienced in this regard, resulting in a poor customer experience.
That is one of the areas an in-store queue management and business intelligence platform like QLess can make the broadest impact. QLess collects important data from the customers using the platform to help businesses to provide a more positive customer experience. Businesses can identify things like when wait times are longest, what departments are failing to deliver a positive customer experience, and can even send surveys to find out what customers want to be improved. This will provide retail operations with the tools necessary to deliver a more personal in-store experience.
Inefficiency in the Online to Offline Transition
It is commonly discussed that online sales are cutting into the sales of brick-and-mortar stores. This is true, as Canadian and American consumers spend more of their money online than before. However, online sales don’t necessarily need to be viewed as taking away from businesses. Many stores are trying to merge the physical and online aspects of their business to offer an omnichannel experience that is more effective and consumer-friendly.
Businesses are trying to merge technology with physical retail with things like curbside pickup, a common solution stores implemented during the pandemic. This turned some physical stores into fulfillment centers that met customer orders while still allowing for an in-store shopping experience. But many customers still complained of negative experiences, particularly while transitioning from online to the physical store.
Long waiting times at the stores to receive curbside pickups are a normal problem many customers find irksome. If this is a recurring issue, most people will simply cut the physical retailer out and choose delivery rather than curbside pickup. The reason customers do things like an in-store pickup is that they want an efficient experience without the extended waits. Businesses need to provide this for them.
With waitlist software and an appointment management system, retailers have a virtual infrastructure that can help make the transition from virtual to in-store much easier. Customers can schedule pickup times with the appointment software and monitor potential waits and physical congestion with the queue management software. They can then enter and exit the store when they’re scheduled for pickups and use the smart queue software to check to ensure there is no wait. The flexibility of the appointment scheduling features makes it so retailers can completely control their calendars and have an efficient customer flow manager.
Lack of Communication Options
The average business focuses a significant effort on creating a clear line of communication between the customer and the business. This is a major component of the customer service experience. Communication is critical to a positive environment, yet many stores fail to communicate properly with their customers. This contributes heavily to a bad experience, as a lack of communication can be incredibly frustrating.
Most stores have sales associates providing a physical presence for customers to communicate with. Many times, these retail workers are overburdened with many customers seeking to speak with them, and some customers prefer virtual communication. Gen Z and millennials have deeply entrenched virtual communication preferences, with 65% of this demographic communicating with each other more virtually than in-person. Yet most retailers don’t provide virtual communication options to their customers.
To accommodate the digital preferences of younger consumers, retailers should focus on expanding their communication options. Retail software like QLess can go a long way in this regard by providing stores and customers with a solution that offers bi-directional communication. Customers can message staff for updates and information, and staff can answer back.
This increases businesses’ capacity to communicate with the customers that frequent their stores. Customers can ask staff about return policies, sales, or any other pertinent information and receive responses without needing to talk to a sales associate in person. This will reduce the strain on associates. Customers can also check average wait times with the waiting line management system for a more open and communicative line experience.
A successful retailer finds a way to meet the needs of as many customers as possible. With more customer communication options, retailers can create a more transparent and open atmosphere that leads to happier consumers.
Unpleasant or Unexciting Retail Atmosphere
If a brick-and-mortar store will convince consumers to get off their computers and get into the store, it has to have something to offer them that is different. Stores need to genuinely stand out as a better option than online shopping, and a big part of that is the experiential aspect. Going shopping has to be fun and exciting. People will continue to head to your store as long as it surpasses the relatively monotonous experience of online shopping. That is why a significant component of the future of retail is curating an exciting atmosphere.
This takes a top-down commitment, starting from business owners. All evidence indicates that focusing on the customer experience during a difficult time can allow some businesses to thrive, even while the industry falters. According to a wide-ranging report by McKinsey, customer experience leaders experience shallower troughs and quicker recoveries during recessions. So revamping the retail atmosphere has the potential to allow businesses to thrive even during a difficult time for the industry.
There are many different ways to curate a more exciting and pleasant retail atmosphere. One that McKinsey suggests is creating a more immersive store. Many stores, like Nordstrom or Lulu Lemon, have created additional offerings, like a spa or blowout treatment center, to entice customers to enter. Stores like Ralph Lauren have added Augmented Reality fitting mirrors for more experiential shopping.
The combination of technology-driven changes and a commitment to a more immersive retail atmosphere can produce positive results for enterprises. There has to be an additional value-add to retail now. Not only do they have to offer great products, but they have to do so in a way that makes customers want to actually visit their store physically rather than virtually. Curating an exciting and pleasant atmosphere can do this.
Difficulty with Staff
Retail staff handles a difficult job. They have to be communicative, responsible and understand the needs of their customers. They are pivotal in creating a retail environment that customers want to return to. Sales associates and checkout clerks often deal with frustrated or confused customers, and their responses define whether your store creates loyal customers. However, one common issue is that many customers find their responses lacking.
Customers’ issues with staff are either that they are not communicative, disinterested, or not knowledgable about the things they need to be. A good sales associate can drive additional sales; a bad one can lead to a loss of customers. This is a dilemma for businesses because hiring for retail isn’t particularly easy. Salaries are often on the lower end, and interest in positions can wane because of this.
One of the options for businesses to fix this issue is improved training. Knowledgeable and communicative staff are integral to the future of retail businesses. They are an important part of offering personalized services and are the frontline of a business’ customer service offerings. They should be well-versed on your core products, up-to-date with sales and offers, and have a polished demeanor for customers. This comes down to hiring and training.
A retail queue management system with business intelligence can also help here. The data businesses receive can provide pivotal insight into which departments are offering a seamless experience and which may not be. Information from surveys and reviews can also show which staff members may be living up to your goals and which aren’t.
Staff are vital to the shopping experience and can define a great time in-store or a difficult one. Data from QLess or other retail scheduling software options can help businesses with both hiring and training to ensure staff offer customers the best assistance possible.
Poor Product Layouts or Lack of Availability of Key Products
Have you ever entered a retail store, exciting to make a purchase on a product you had discovered, only to find it was out of stock? This can be a frustrating experience for customers and is all too common. A lack of product availability is a common complaint in the retail industry, as is poor product layouts. A poor product layout is when customers enter a store and struggle to navigate due to a confusing or scattered design.
Struggling with a lack of availability of key products is a difficult issue to fix. You’re not always going to have a full stock of every product consumers want to purchase. However, communication surrounding the lack of availability goes a long way. As we move towards an omnichannel shopping future, an app like QLess that can distribute mass messages to people in lines or checked into stores can help with this. Staff can identify which products are unavailable and communicate that to the customers in the store.
A poor layout can inhibit a retail store by making it harder for customers to find what they need. This decreases the likelihood of a purchase and leads to frustrated customers. This is particularly important for large stores with different sections. A neatly designed, seamless customer journey is a great way to create a more efficient operation that leads your customers from one place to the next.
Business intelligence helps with this. It showed you what is being purchased, how long customers wait for certain products or services, and how fast transaction times are. Learning from this data can help businesses create a more natural customer journey. Layout and product availability are two important differentiators businesses need to consider.
Why Now is the Time to Solve These Issues
These common customer complaints have been costing retail businesses revenue for a long time. Most are issues that have been endemic to the retail industry since the beginning. But in a world of increasing competition from online sales and e-commerce platforms like Amazon, and with recession appearing imminent, it is time for retailers to start addressing these customer concerns. This will be a process, but by addressing the common customer complaints, businesses can begin to see profits soar.
One of the biggest reasons now is the right time to solve these critical issues is the availability of technology. A huge number of retail businesses have used software solutions to completely transform their operations for the better. Whether this is streamlining their wait times or creating a better order fulfillment process, the technology needed for digital transformations is now widespread.
Another significant reason to solve these issues is that we are emerging from a global event that transformed the economy and consumer habits. In 2020, a record 12,200 retail stores closed due to the pandemic, and e-commerce eating into brick and mortar. For the stores that managed to escape the pandemic intact, becoming more reliant on technology makes a lot of sense.
Tech like QLess and other customer journey management platforms allow businesses to better dictate the physical experience. They can reduce the need for long physical lineups, minimize congestion, and generally run a more efficient business. In a post-pandemic reality, where many are still struggling to re-acclimate to in-person shopping, a virtual solution conducive to social distancing goes a long way.
Change is coming to retail. It is a simple reality that the industry has pivoted dramatically. As e-commerce grows and we emerge from a pandemic, now is the time to address these core customer complaints.
The biggest indicator of a retailer’s lifespan is its ability to keep customers happy and returning. This is easier said than done. We live in a world where consumers have an abundance of options. Not only are there numerous companies that serve just about every retail niche imaginable, but there are different methods of shopping that consumers prioritize. Retail businesses are fighting to stand out from other brands and shopping methods.
One thing that stops the average brick-and-mortar retailer from seeing the best possible results is a litany of customer complaints that seemingly occur repeatedly. Dissatisfied customers can be a serious threat to businesses. The average unhappy customer tells 9-15 people about their negative experience. Bad word of mouth is a danger in every industry.
The common complaints retailers face, such as long wait times, poor communication, and an impersonal customer experience, can all be addressed by savvy businesses. A waitlist app like QLess is an all-in-one solution that can help businesses answer many customer concerns.
Waiting line management software helps address long lines and a lack of communication. By offering a virtual line customers can check into remotely and monitor wait times; there is no longer a need for large physical lines. Bi-directional communication features allow staff and customers to remain connected throughout. Appointment scheduling features can help businesses offer seamless curbside and in-store pickup, and business intelligence helps companies with everything from staff efficiency to the in-store experience.
Retailers face a lot of common complaints, but they shouldn’t be taken as a cost of doing business. With QLess and other smart retail solutions, retailers can address these critical issues. This leads to a drastically improved customer experience.