Simon Boocock is managing director at CRL Stone, manufacturer of quartz and porcelain surfaces for the kitchen and bathroom
Service with more than a smile
Posted 5th June
Much emphasis is given to the importance of good customer service, and with good reason. Without it, customers will simply take their business elsewhere. Retailers can have the most appealing product range in the world, but if their offering is not backed up by a high level of service, it really means very little.
A friendly, approachable sales pitch is only part of the expectation too. The retailer needs to be able to deliver on their promises and be accountable if things don’t go completely to plan. In this way, retailers play something akin to a middle man role; they are reliant on the manufacturer to deliver a good level of service so that they can offer good customer service themselves.
Competition is fierce, particularly with the rise of online shopping, which means that retailers need to be able to trust that their suppliers will deliver when they say will. We live in a time-starved society where consumers expect a quick turnaround, whether that’s in terms of getting a quote, placing an order or taking delivery. Retailers therefore need to rely on the manufacturers they work with to be able to provide them with a same-day quote, a straightforward ordering system and flexible delivery. After all, if the goods don’t show up when you say they will, it’s the retailer who has to take accountability. Similarly, if the consumer needs to put a hold on the delivery, which is often the case on large refurbishment projects, the manufacturer needs to have the ability to store the stock until it is required.
Ensuring there is a good stock of goods in the first place is crucial though; having a few samples on display in the showroom is all well and good but if they are not going to be available anytime soon in any large quantity then they are not worth very much to the retailer trying to provide a good level of customer service.
Just as the retailer will gain the trust of the consumer through face-to-face contact, so they in turn benefit from developing a professional relationship with the manufacturer. This helps with being able to trace problems and for getting the back-up required, whenever it is needed. While no-one likes a hard sale or being unduly hassled to place an order, retailers appreciate regular communication with the manufacturers they are working with. This means having representatives on the road, armed with point-of-sale material, samples and a willingness to listen to any queries, backed up by an ability to resolve them.
Compare this to dealing with a faceless organisation where you can never be sure if the phone will be picked up, your email answered or your customer's order tracked and it is easy to see why good customer service is about so much more than the products alone. Approachability and accountability go just as far as service with a smile.