Reflecting on Retail Reputation

When it comes to customer service it’s true what Tesco say; every little helps. All of us have experienced some kind of customer service to different degrees of satisfaction from our shops, banks or insurance providers. But who’s the best at it? There’s nothing worse than the realisation that something you have bought isn’t quite what it seemed. How the retailer deals with your disappointment is key to whether you will shop there again or if the negative experience causes them to lose your custom. The trust that the business builds with the customer can be ruined if customer service isn’t dealt with correctly. If the confidence isn’t there then the business won’t be either.

Econsultancy conducted a survey of 2000 customers in order to gain an insight into their experiences with customer service. The results showed that 47% believed that retailers were ahead of other companies such as car makers and the travel industry. Amazon, BT and Tesco came out on top; Warren Buckley, Managing Director of Customer Services at BT commented: “Customer service is an area where businesses, in a competitive marketplace, can really stand out and differentiate themselves. This research shows that while many are still lagging behind, there is a growing number of savvy companies that, instead of viewing customer service as a cost centre, see it as a way for them to excel and increase brand loyalty”.

Since the market is so wide then retailers have to go the extra mile to attract business. All forms of modern technology need to be embraced and taken advantage of in order to reach every single customer they possibly can. Although the Econsultancy survey results cited the telephone as a customer’s preferred method of contact, 48% also found it the most frustrating. Email came as a second favourite suggesting there is room for improvement all round.

Some brands have been turning to social networking sites in order to drum up business. With Facebook being the second most visited website in the UK, it enables companies to speak to a wide audience. John Lewis has recently made use of the online resource and gained almost 180,000 ‘likes’. However, whether the ‘likes’ translate into business is another matter. There may still be more work to go on getting that one step further and getting customers to make a purchase. As Robin Goad comments there: “is no doubt that certain fans will be worth more than others – simply playing the numbers game may not necessarily deliver the best results on Facebook – as with other marketing channels, quality often provides a better return on investment (ROI) than quality”.

Of course bad press can also ruin a retailer’s reputation, when things go wrong it is hard to win back customers no matter how good your previous record of trust. For example take former retail tycoon Gerald Ratner who back in 1991 slated his jewelry company’s own products during a speech by referring to them as: “total cr*p”. He managed to bring down his own business as well as having the rather embarrassing phrase “doing a Ratner” named after his gaffe. There are other more subtle ways of creating negative press for yourself. How about the recent example of the head of JD Sports being interviewed for the BBC news regarding the London rioting and coming out with the classic line: “As the riots showed – there is a strong demand for our products on the high street”. There is of course a way to effectively manage any negative event by ensuring your company is up to date on its crisis media training.

Written by Megan – – September 2011

Share this article