Are National Retailers Outpacing Locals on Customer Service?

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The folks at at Software Advice – a free resource for customer service technology reviews – just concluded a six-month project called “The Great Retail Experience Race: Local vs. National.” The research was designed to compare the customer experience of five small retailers and five comparable national chain stores. The findings are summarized in the attached infographic. Although not a large study with a great statiscal base (they only used local Austin retailers), the findings are interesting.

What can the smaller stores learn from their national counterparts? Here are three strategies identified during the race that small business owners could easily replicate:

1. Ask really specific questions The study references the question ‘Are you looking for anything specific today?’ I would challenge that this question is not specific enough. A better question might mention two specific items or product offering category offerings and ask which the customer is considering.

2. Be consistent with deals at the register This refers to cross selling added products. The study referenced examples where national chains did this twice as much as local operations. This would likely stem from a lack of training in local operations vs. mandated training in large national franchises and directly owned stores.

3. Give a little to get a little The article mentioned an example where a Starbucks barista asked the site visitor if they wanted to buy a bag of coffee beans. One tactic Starbucks used to “sell” customers on the idea is offering a free drip coffee when they return the empty bag to the store. As noted, this strategy works for driving sales; according to one recent survey, 42% of customers said they made a purchase for additional products and services after being offered a ‘freebie’.

National chains do not always have the ‘natural’ upper hand. Ironically, the local stores actually had more opportunities during the race to upsell customers because their employees talked to site visitors more often (the second column in the graphic shows the percent of times where a personal, emotional connection was made with the customer). The small businesses simply didn’t take advantage of opportunities to upsell at the same rate as the national stores. Once again this highlights the need for customer service training and cross sell training in small business. Unfortunately many small business owners view this as a cost instead of a revenue generator.

What about you? How do you feel the service at national chains such as those shown in the attached graphic compare to service offered by local firms in your community? Comment below and let us know!

To see more on this study by Software Advice, please visit the CSI website

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