Prepare your business to face the expected unexpected




2021 was another year of uncertainty for retailers due to the global pandemic. However, despite the challenges, there was still plenty of opportunities to improve your business, and lessons to take into the future, JEANNIE WALTERS explains.

While 2021 was another strange, unpredictable, and a not-quite-back-tonormal year – and 2022 is looking better – it’s important to reconsider the changes you have made or need to make to your business in odder to progress out of the pandemic.

When it came to customer experience, leaders dealt with all sorts of changes and challenges. The introduction of vaccines led to some staff returning to the office, while some swore they’d never return.

Customers were able to go to the grocery store, yet many who discovered delivery services during the shutdowns found it better suited their lives. Schools opened, closed and quarantined groups, while parents juggled uncertain schedules and even bus driver shortages.

Our on-demand world did not fare any better, either. Shipments were delayed, there was a shortage in microchips, and the, so-called, Great Resignation led to organisational charts written in pencil. The best-laid plans were difficult to execute as once envisioned. Indeed, while 2021 was another year of change and adaptation, this year already looks like another with some degree of uncertainty.

However, some things won’t change and store managers can expect a new litmus test throughout this year. Here’s how retailers can help ensure better days ahead for customers and employees.
 

Protect your customer-facing resources

Communicate and support staff that serve customers in more consistent and larger ways. We all still need to ‘expect the unexpected’; we can expect volatility in the world, but not everyone welcomes change.

Customers and sales staff deal with anxieties and frustrations in ways that can lead to unfortunate or dangerous situations. For example, in the US ‘air rage’ incidents rose to historical levels this year, since the airline industry started recording these situations.

Managers need to find ways to address these when customers and staff are caught in such unfamiliar situations.

This means exploring measures to provide customers with guidance and support in navigating new processes, as well as communicating new rules or options. It’s especially important for frontline workers such as salespeople and counter staff. What do they need to know to communicate when things don’t go as planned?

Managers can collaborate with others in the business. What expectations can be reset for customers and how? What about the supply chain, high-stress situations, or moments deemed important in the customer’s journey?

Utilising root cause analysis and customer journey-mapping can help managers understand and prepare.
 

2022: The year you close the loop

Customers often provide feedback but don’t get a response from those who hear it. Quality retailers not only listen to the customer’s voice, but let them know they’ve been heard.

It’s often not enough to just respond, a retailer should also act on customer feedback and ideas when appropriate. Jewellery retailers may need to coalesce and get staff involved in that process.

Closing the loop also means bringing closure to everyone in the business that solved customer issues and created a better outcome. Share the wins throughout the business so staff can reflect the same to your customers.

Customer feedback will continue to be a key factor in preparing for the future, but only if the feedback loop is closed by communicating back to the customer.
 

Focus on the big picture

Don’t waste time on trivial matters. Always think big about your customer experience goals and how they can help your business achieve its goals, as well.

It is becoming increasingly important to respond to short-term, urgent situations. But jewellery retailers need to focus on the horizon – beyond the staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Looking at the present and beyond, invest in ways to enhance your customer experience outcomes.

Some retailers use centralised customer data for visibility and knowledge of the customer’s purchasing history. This helps staff provide the right information at the right time to the right person.
 

Holistic care for customers and staff

The uncertainty of the times has resulted in a stress crisis. Managers may be able to find ways to better serve customers by proactively reducing stress and anxiety, for both customers and staff.

What innovations or ideas do you think we’ll see over the next 12-18 months?

2022 will bring its own set of surprises, and customer experience managers will need to work collaboratively in order to fulfill a business’s mission.

 

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