Supermarkets have expanded over the years as consumers have embraced the idea of ‘All under one roof’ shopping experience, especially in developed countries. In 2011, a survey carried out by Empathica Consumer Insights Panel reported that 97% of consumers value good customer service at the grocery store, while 44% weren’t satisfied with the customer service experience at their local supermarket among more than 16,000 U.S. and Canadian Consumers. Most supermarkets offer homogeneous products and services, which means they aren’t competing on prices, but quality customer service experience. An outstanding customer service could give a supermarket an edge over its competitors.
One of the most important aspects of running a successful supermarket business involves retaining customers, which can be done through customer loyalty. In order to build and maintain brand loyalty, the following areas should be given consideration:
Supermarkets need to develop an efficient stock management system, which will allow them to maintain optimal level of stocks at all times. Nothing annoys customers more than not being able to find the products they are looking for, because they are out of stock. Stock levels can be predicated in advance based on forecasts so that customers aren’t faced with inconvenience. Supermarkets need to stock a variety of products, so that shoppers have maximum choice. Multiple products in the same category also gives customers various price options. Moreover, supermarkets should ideally have working hours that are convenient for all customers, for example opening for longer hours on weekends.
Supermarkets must strike to provide a comfortable and inviting ambiance to its customers. The premises, including the parking space must be kept clean at all times. Any spillage or dirt must be cleaned immediately. Air fresheners could be used to keep the smell of various products at bay, so that customers can comfortably shop. Many shoppers complain about not being able to find their desired products/shelves. This problem can be eliminated with proper, clearly marked signage across the store in the most commonly spoken language of the country. On-the-floor staff or assistants could also be designated to guide customers, if they seem lost.
Self-service has often been criticized for a lack of personal service, which includes inquiries and advice. Supermarkets should have helpdesks and sales staff on the floor, so that customers can inquire about the products and seek advice if they want. Supermarkets should have customer service counters, where customers can exchange products, obtain refunds and make complaints. Additionally, supermarkets should hire staff, who can handle telephonic inquiries to help customers. Supermarkets spend a lot of time handing out free samples, advertising various products, but management generally doesn’t pay enough attention to what customers have to say. In order to rectify this shortcoming, an effective feedback system must be designed. Supermarkets should proactively develop customer relationships through social media. Websites should be setup, which can be updated with new products, discounts and the latest promotions.
Supermarkets must realize that each customer is unique and has unique needs, and the management should try to accommodate these diverse needs. In order to win loyalty customers should be shown some flexibility in terms of return or exchange policy. For example, if the return policy puts the limit of 10 days after the purchase, and for some reason the customer was not able to make it during store hours and calls to inform, the management should try to accommodate the customer on the 11th day. Such an action would win over the customer. After sales services are also very important, as some products are highly technical and require help from the experts in terms of setup. Technical staff should be available for this purpose.
All major supermarkets across the globe have embraced the concept of self-service checkout counters, which let the customers’ checkout themselves without any delays or help from the checkout staff. Long queues at the checkout counter and limited number of active counters is one of the most bothersome aspects of shopping at supermarkets for customers. In order to resolve and subside the issue many supermarkets have employed queue management technology, which is an emerging technology that is used to control and manage queue. This technology does not only shorten a waiting queue, but its smart features help increase service efficiency and decreases the perceived waiting time for customers.
In order to retain customers and build strong customer relationships superstores should offer incentives to its regular customers. They could initiate loyalty schemes, exclusive memberships and special discounts. Regular newsletters should be sent out to advertise the new products and discounts. All supermarkets should have the facility of rewards cards, which allow customers to collect points on purchases. These points can be later exchanged for discounts.
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