For many years I worked in retail and although it is exciting, it’s almost like live TV: it leaves little room for errors. In fact, one of the key factors is to resolve any possible incident immediately and minimize the impact on the client.
How quickly we reach the client is part of a good “evaluation”, brand perception and customer service. Obviously here I am taking for granted that the product or service we sell has a high quality and we just need to improve complementary services.
As I was saying, the immediacy is essential and we know that there is a component called “snowball effect”. That means, for example if we see an empty restaurant even though we know we’re going to get a table right away, we do not go in, but we go to the one which is full without knowing how long it’s going to take. Same in other industries: having many customers attracts more customers. Obviously, at a first glance, our goal is to have the most customers, but what happens if we go from high turn over to a decline in customer service?
A few years ago, when I managed a group of stores, we measured several elements, as is the usual practice. We were very well evaluated in almost all aspects, even getting higher than 95% in image, but our great Achilles’ heel were the long lines and waiting time of our customers. Here our ratings went down. We did such a good job and increased traffic that after a certain threshold, rather than having a positive effect, we started to suffer a series of complaints and therefore customer satisfaction also began to decrease.
How is it possible that having more customers can be harmful? Yes, sometimes it is. There are other elements that are not so easy to change such as the size of the store or the number of employees because then the numbers won’t pan out (those who work in retail, know that our income statement should maintain a balance and especially seek to increase profitability per square foot). Since it is a fascinating world, I’ll talk about this last point in a future article.
At the end, our final goal is to minimize our customers waiting time and as I was saying, if we can’t have a bigger store and do not want to lose customers, then what can we do?
On one hand, we could speed up internal processes to try to serve more customers per hour, but I assure you that this is sometimes already optimized. The second, ideal, option, is to distribute that traffic throughout the day, but this may also be complicated. A third option, if we can not reduce the real waiting time, is to reduce the perception of that wait and give our customers more freedom.
Do you see these changes possible? And of course, if you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.