Faiza Samad (December 18, 2014)
Booklovers everywhere find no greater pleasure than immersing themselves in a good book. They are always on the lookout for well-equipped stores which offer them with a great environment and great service. With so many choices out there, bookstores are looking at new ways to attract customers. Below are some tips that will help bookshops improve the customer experience and provide quality assistance both online and in-store.
The ambience of a bookstore is the make or break of its success. People come there to explore and buy new books. For that purpose it is of utmost importance that the environment aids potential customers in achieving that goal. Bookstores are increasingly being innovative in their approach as they cater to their customers. For example, many stores are adding coffee shops within the confines of the store so that while the customers are looking for their favorite book, they can also enjoy a cup of coffee. Any bookworm would tell you that tea or coffee is the perfect accompaniment to a great book.
Cozy and comfortable furniture along with perfect lighting are all factors that enhance the book reader’s experience while he’s at the store. Similarly, different sections of the store can be decorated according to the genre of the books and target audience. For example, the children’s section can have a colorful theme with decorations which appeals and attracts kids.
To further add to the customer experience, stores can add a separate reading corner with a fire place for instance, attractive wallpaper, rugs and floor cushions to create a great reading environment.
Just like any other store, customers expect good service at the bookstore. They expect the staff to be well informed. A customer might need help regarding locating a particular book or section for instance. Some customers who are buying a book for someone else as a gift might even ask for a recommendation in a particular category.
Not only is the ideal bookstore supposed to be up to date with the latest editions and newest collections, but the staff needs to be knowledgeable enough to handle that stock as well. The store should hire representatives who are friendly and have a passion for reading so they can adequately guide customers.
Let’s take a look at B. Dalton (before it was acquired by Barnes and Noble) which set an amazing precedent of customer service. The customer went to the store to pick up a book requested by her son. While the inventory showed that the book was in-stock, it had actually been sold out. The staff decided to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer by calling the competing bookstore, Borders, and asked them to reserve the book for their customer. Such gestures are a great surprise for the customer which always makes them remember your business.
Bookstores are increasingly offering incentives such as discount cards and vouchers to ensure customer loyalty. Discounts and special offers such as ‘buy one get one free’ adds value while attracting both existing and new customers to purchase from the store. Many customers especially students are looking for bargains and cheaper books. A great way to cater to their needs is by adding an old books section to your store. Old books can be offered to customers at reduced rates, making you the store which caters to the needs of everyone by offering alternatives.
Bookshops need to have clearly defined policies regarding exchange and return for customers so that there is no confusion. Bookstores usually have a 30 day timeframe within which they cater to demands of returns or exchanges. This is conditional to the fact that the book is in good order at the time of its return. The policy should be mentioned on the receipts and staff should be trained to handle all customer queries accordingly.
The customer service representatives need to be proactive as they try resolving any complaints that may arise. They should make customer satisfaction their utmost priority. The principle concern of a business is to ensure customer loyalty and listening to complaints can go a long way in doing just that.
Good books can sell themselves but bookstores still need to be committed to having an active online presence in terms of improved service and giving customers the option to reach them from the comfort of their homes. Besides having a user friendly website which lists all the information and has a “contact us form”, social media can also be used for addressing queries and complaints of customers. An active online presence also ensures that customers have a say in what happens at the store by giving their feedback. This will help the store improve in various directions and provide better service.
Having an online presence also ensures that customers can check inventories and stocks online and save themselves the effort of having to look for it at the bookstore.
A simple, well-designed website enables the customer to easily look for information and place the order. All processes to place the order online should be made easy with clearly defined policies. Additionally, if customers find a book in the inventory, they should be given the option of placing the order via phone if they want. After the order is placed, customers should be able to track the progress of their deliveries and check the status. The shipping policy must be clear to the customer. Rates should be fixed and a plausible delivery time period should be set. The staff needs to make sure that items are delivered within the predetermined time to ensure customer satisfaction.
Furthermore, stores should offer multiple payment options to customers which adds to their convenience. If an order has been placed online, they should be offered the choice of payment through card or cash on delivery. This will not only result in increased sales but also improve the customer’s buying experience.
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