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Apple's retail stores have been highlighted as champions of the shop floor customer experience by customer service experts at leading consultancy Abeo Consulting, who are warning other retailers to follow if they are to survive a turbulent Christmas trading season.

With retail sales down due to the continuing credit crunch, retailers will be fighting hard for their share of depleted Christmas revenue and experts at Abeo suggest retailers need to be flexible and ‘nimble’ with their staffing and be capable of increasing staffing to cope with increased demand, as those that will win on the customer service front are those that can react effectively and quickly to the changes in customer demand.

“Peak times like Christmas are often when broken processes, or inefficient customer handling becomes evident and those that have reviewed their processes and customer experience in light of upcoming and rapidly changing demand will be those who benefit from a good reputation and word of mouth advocacy from customers”, explains Derek Bishop, director of Abeo Consulting.

Bishop believes that Apple stores have achieved success by focusing on streamlining the customer journey in a way that benefits both the retailer and the customer and believes that other retailers can learn valuable lessons from their customer and process efficient approach.

“All the Apple staff have portable devices for processing transactions on the shop floor, so there was no need to got to a separate till or stand in a queue. They also encourage emailing the receipt to you, thus saving on time and paper and capturing valuable customer email addresses at the same time. Apple demonstrated a streamlined approach with a personal touch, efficiency combined with customer service and in the current economic climate, the result was a clear win-win”, explains Bishop.

Bishop predicts that retailers will experience a further ‘battle of the nerves’ as a reduction in customers disposable income means they are prepared to sit and wait even longer for the inevitable sales. He believes this will force retailers to start promoting their sales even earlier in order to win new customers and warns that when the sale rushes kick in, pro-actively communicating with customers about their stock availability, particularly for this year’s ‘must have’ items, will be critical in managing the customer experience effectively.

“Providing this information so customers can look up the details themselves not only helps customers plan their shopping, but also keeps costs down within the retailer by avoiding unnecessary phone calls, or staff assistance”, suggests Bishop.

Abeo Consulting specialises in delivering sustainable change in customer service and retention with particular expertise in financial services, retail, distribution, direct marketing, outsourced call centres and charity sectors. For more information please visit: www.abeoconsulting.co.u.

ENDS

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