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HOW TO ENHANCE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN YOUR RETAIL STORE

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Do you own your own retail store? Are you hoping that 2021 is the year you are able to grow your customer base, increase sales, and really start hitting those exciting milestones that you laid out for the company? Obviously, there is a lot of planning that goes into running a successful retail store, but there’s also the customer experience. A negative customer experience is hard to erase, and likely not something you can come back from. All it takes is for that one customer to then tell their circle of friends about their experience, and suddenly you’re missing out on a number of potential future customers. So, what’s the solution?

No matter what your store sells, the top priority should always be providing an excellent customer experience from start to finish. This can be a pretty involved task and one that you need to stay on top of at all times. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which you can enhance the customer experience in your retail store in 2021 and moving forward.

 

Hire the Right Staff for the Job

First off, you need to be sure that you’re staffing your store with the right people for the job. This means they have the necessary experience, training, and product knowledge to answer the questions that customers have. Even if employees lack in product knowledge and training, this is something you can quickly remedy by offering ample training. This could be done through product knowledge seminars, guide books, and training by other more experience staff members.

Besides the knowledge and experience, they also need to have excellent customer service skills. Most people are well aware of just how challenging it can be to work in a retail environment. Those that succeed tend to have excellent people skills and communication skills. They are approachable and friendly, and have a desire to help others.

 

The In-Store Experience Has to Be Unique

In order to stand out from the competition that exists in pretty much every retail industry, you’ll also need to come up with something unique and memorable when it comes to the in-store experience. When customers walk in, they need to recognize that your store looks different, feels different, and stands out from others they have been in. This helps to create brand awareness, which then helps to build your customer base.

Unique experiences can include such things as the way merchandise is displayed, the décor of the store, the music and atmosphere, the store layout, product demonstrations and samples, a store greeter, unique carts or bags to use while shopping, and so forth.

 

Ensure You Offer Multiple Methods of Payment

When it comes to payment for the goods customers are purchasing, they need to be offered as many different types of payment options as possible. The goal should be to make the payment process smooth, fast, convenient, and secure.

Looking at statistics, debit card processing should be an absolute must-have in your retail store. In 2020 alone, 29% of payments in the U.S. were made by debit cards. Customers expect this form of payment to be offered and, without it, you may actually be missing out on sales opportunities.

You can learn more about the benefits of offering debit cards as a form of payment, as well as how to set it up in your business with this guide to debit card processing from Nada Payments. It takes an in-depth look at how exactly merchants can use debit card processing, what the fees are like, the sort of technology and equipment needed on your end to get set up, and more. No matter the size of your retail business, this guide can help lay out all the necessary steps and information.

Of course, you will want to offer more than just debit cards as a method of payment. Also coming in top of the list for the most popular forms of payment are cash and credit cards. Lesser used ones, but still as important, are store issued gift cards, pre-paid cards, and a digital/mobile wallet.

 

Is Your Store Kid-Friendly?

Here’s a question that many retailers don’t bother to ask, but the answer can have a huge impact. Even if you don’t sell items meant for kids, it’s important to think about ways to make your store kid-friendly. Doing this will attract parents to come inside, and once they see how kid-friendly it is, they will be more likely to take their time browsing the products. This works in your favor, as you want to keep them in the store for as long as possible.

Kid-friendly features can include sitting areas for the kids (kid-sized tables) complete with coloring books and puzzles, a giant chalkboard they can draw on, an in-store movie viewing area, a video gaming area, and even snacks for them to enjoy.

 

What About the Products You Are Selling?

Your inventory also plays a huge role in the customer experience. Not only does it come down to the actual products you are selling, but also whether you have a good selection of choices in terms of sizing, colors, and so forth. If stock is constantly sold-out, customers will start to get frustrated and may end up shopping elsewhere.

It’s a fine balance to achieve as you never want to carry too much inventory at once, but not having enough also causes a fair number of problems. This is why it’s so important to be tracking sales so you can identify trends, and of course keep accurate and up-to-date inventory at all times. There are plenty of software solutions that can prove to be extremely useful, many of which can generate stats, data, and charts to shed more light on your sales and inventory numbers.

 

Offer a Customer Loyalty Program

Then there are customer loyalty programs, which aren’t a new concept but they aren’t always embraced as often as they could be. A customer loyalty program is all about providing a VIP experience, making them feel important and appreciated, and giving them a reason to continue to make purchases at your store.

You can create any type of loyalty program you want, but remember that it needs to be easy to understand, simple to enroll in, and the rewards and milestones need to be achievable.

You’ll want to step into the shoes of your customers and ask yourself what would make you happy, and what would seem like a reward to you if you were a shopper at the store? This can include cash or percentage discounts off merchandise, exclusive deals, first-peak at new launches, special shopping dates closing the store to other customers, referral discounts, cash back programs, and so much more.

 

Creating the Kind of Experience That is Exceptional

At the end of the day, no matter how great the products are that you’re selling, the fact is that the retail industry is incredibly competitive and it can be very hard to stand out. It helps if you can find a niche of course, and set yourself up as an industry expert, but outside of that it often comes down to the customer experience. This can prove to be even more important than pricing and product selection.

 

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BECOMING THE CEO: THIS IS HOW CFOS CAN SECURE THE TOP JOB

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Mark Freebairn, Partner and Head of the Board and CFO Practices at Odgers Berndtson, explains what CFOs need to do if they want to become CEOs 

 

For some time now, there’s been a very clear trend in CFOs progressing onto CEOs. It’s a trend that should come as no surprise to executive leaders. With more CEOs under increasing pressure, many CFOs have become the nominal second in command, often taking non-finance related responsibilities off their CEO’s plate.

As result, CFOs have begun playing a more strategic and commercial role which has inevitably broadened their remits beyond the finance function. With many CFOs breaking out of the traditional financial management confines, executive teams and boards have begun to realise that finance and general management are more closely aligned than they previously thought. This has given CFOs more opportunities to gain experience relevant for the CEO position. From owning P&L business units to engaging with external investors, the CFO’s evolving remit is making them likely candidates for the top job.

That’s not to say it’s a done deal for anyone who is currently a CFO. The CEO jobs market is comparatively small, CEO turnover is typically slow, and competition is intense. So below, I’ve outlined the key areas CFOs should gain experience in and the opportunities they should capitalise on if they want to compete for the CEO positions out there.

 

Mark Freebairn

Take responsibility for P&L business units 

Overseeing specific business units is a natural extension of the CFO’s responsibilities. It provides experience of managing products, costs, and revenue generation – all of which are staple requirements for the CEO role. But it also provides operational credibility internally, which will prove advantageous for any CFOs lining themselves up as a succession candidate to their own CEOs.

If possible, CFOs should take on responsibility for turning around a failing business unit. This is the fastest way of gaining commercial experience relevant for a CEO role. Particularly as economies emerge from the pandemic, boards will be looking for leaders who can demonstrate an ability to drive growth and new business despite significant internal and external challenges.

Likewise, CFOs should involve themselves in other business functions. Whether it’s procurement and the supply chain, or facilities and security, CFOs should play a role outside of the finance function in order to gain broader business experience.

 

Build a highly-autonomous finance team 

The CFO’s role within organisations and their ability to easily expose themselves to other P&L units makes them suitable candidates for CEOs. However, CFOs are only as good as the team around them. Building a high-performing finance team that can drive the day-to-day operations of the function will have several outcomes. Firstly, it will free up a CFO to take on more responsibility around the business and gain more time with their CEO. Secondly, it’s a valuable proof point that CFOs can use in any interview to demonstrate their ability to build strong teams – as a CEO, building a strong cadre of trusted executives is crucial for success.

This should be a team that can be trusted to perform autonomously, with a strong second in command that the CFO can rely upon.

 

Take on a non-executive director (NED) role 

While financial management is central to any successful organisation, CFOs still need to develop expertise outside of the function if they are to step up as CEOs. Taking responsibility for P&L business units will provide this, however it won’t provide a CFO with the same board-level perspective that a NED role will.

Taking on a NED role will not only help CFOs to understand what boards expect of CEOs but it will also provide experience of a different kind of leadership; one that is less hands on and more about guidance and mentorship.  Within the commercial sector, there are board roles among smaller quoted companies, those backed by private equity, or family owned businesses. Advisory boards and subsidiary boards are also a good option.

On the public sector side, board roles exist within organisations owned by or reporting to government. These include major infrastructure operators, the NHS, regulators, museums and other arts institutions. Likewise, a charity trustee role (while unpaid) is similar and will help to develop both a CFOs network and board skills.

Auditing, budgetary reviewing and balance sheet responsibilities are often sought after skills in non-executive directors, making CFOs ideal for these positions.

 

Take on internal leadership positions 

These types of leadership positions should be separate to the finance function and can include things like internal workstreams, strategic initiatives such as I&D and sustainability, or CSR projects. The benefit of taking on this responsibility is two-fold. It helps build necessary leadership skills and provides leadership experience. But it also showcases a CFO within the business in a leadership capacity outside of finance. The later will be beneficial for any CFOs looking at internal progression onto the CEO position.

Mentoring achieves similar outcomes. This helps build leadership skills and can lead to greater exposure around the business. What’s more, any mentee may later become a useful contact in a CFOs network.

 

Network outside of the organisation 

CFOs often underestimate the power of a personal network. Building relationships with other senior leaders will enable a CFO to generate career opportunities that can lead onto CEO appointments. While professional networks within the CFO community are valuable, networking outside of these types of environments is likely to be the most profitable for career advancement.

Any CFO looking to make the jump to CEO should build relationships with a variety of third parties. These include shareholders and brokers, investors, M&A specialists, bankers, and even lawyers. A CFOs experience and perspective can be incredibly valuable to these types of professionals so getting on their radar shouldn’t be difficult. Making the effort to build a relationship with them will pay dividends in the long run, and may lead to hearing about, or if you’re good enough, even being recommended for a CEO position.

 

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REDUCE CUSTOMER DISPUTES WITH DATA TRANSPARENCY

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By Gabe McGloin, Head of Business Development EMEA at Verifi

 

The digitisation of commerce has escalated the need for card-not-present (CNP) businesses to bring proactive customer communication to the fore. From digital receipts to high-tech AI chatbots, sellers have more options than ever to interact with customers. Not only will embracing these efforts heighten transparency, but also improve customer service and foster better relationships which plays an important part in preventing disputes, preventing disputes, and ensuring ongoing custom to the seller.

According to a recent report by KPMG, 90% of consumers regard a complete resolution of transaction issues as one of the most important qualities of great customer service[1]. Providing customers with clear information at the precise point they need it should be a central part of all companies’ dispute strategy, as resolving the issue early is in everyone’s best interest.

Keeping customers informed through proactive communication and delivering clear transaction information can lead to reduced friction in returns and refunds. Such efforts should be coupled with greater sharing of transaction data between seller and issuer, allowing purchases to be easily confirmed and understood. Clear but not invasive communication pre-empts disputes and can prevent the escalation of many far-reaching problems related to disputes.

 

Prevention is better than a cure

A company’s disputes strategy should feature preventive tactics at the presale experience. Sellers should ensure at the point of purchase that customers have all the appropriate information needed for a complete and satisfying purchase. Ensuring customers are making well-informed decisions is not only important as best practice, but a good measure to help minimise returns, refunds, and disputes.

At or before checkout, sellers should provide easy access to policies. Clear and concise terms & conditions allows customers to understand their rights and what is expected of them. Likewise, returns & refunds policies should outline the procedures for customers to take in the event a product or service does not meet their expectations. Subscription services must also be clear around commitments and cancellations. A key area of needed clarity is in the scope of free trials: unclear rules can leave customers feeling cheated when they see an unfamiliar charge on their billing statement. To avoid disputes, service providers should clearly outline the end date at the outset and remind customers at the appropriate time of the pending close of the free trial period.

By giving customers clear information about their rights and available actions up front, confusion and speculation leading to disputes may be reduced. In the unfortunate event a dispute does occur, clearly presented presale terms and customer purchasing history can provide sellers with important compelling evidence for successful representment and recovery of funds from unwarranted chargebacks.

 

Did I buy that?

Unrecognised transactions can often lead to consumers disputing charges with their issuer. Far too often, customers contact their bank to submit a dispute, simply because they do not recognise transactions on their statement. This type of activity is a key driver of friendly fraud. Research shows that 77% of heavy online shoppers who reported a problem transaction on their statement are in favour of having access to enhanced transaction details. In fact, 75% of credit card users will do research on an unrecognised transaction before they call their issuer (83% for debit card users). It should also be noted that 25% of calls to the issuer could be prevented with clearer seller transaction descriptors on billing statements[2]. The ability to effectively head off confusion around transactions is the most cost-effective way to reduce customer disputes.

After the point of sale, proactive and continued communication is key to reducing disputes. Sellers should follow transactions with purchase confirmation and transaction details via email or text. If possible, confirmation should include business name, contact information (email, phone), purchase amount, date of purchase, item(s) quantity and descriptions. Also, if applicable, sellers should provide tracking and shipping information and receipt confirmation of goods/services. These standard practices should leave customers no doubt about the purchase they made, as well as instil confidence in the sell with whom they have conducted a transaction.

Sellers must embrace technology in their communications with consumers. In a recent survey, 60% of customers thought a digitally posted picture of the printed receipt would be most helpful in validating a transaction[3].

Despite best preventive practices, some disputes are inevitable. Sellers that provide data transparency throughout the sales process – maintaining all documented communications and records of customer purchase history and behaviour – can provide compelling evidence to build effective dispute responses for improved revenue recovery.

 

Reduce disputes with collaboration

To be most effective, all communication should be coordinated across consumers, sellers, and issuers. By practicing transparency and opening the lines of communication, consumers can self-resolve disputes or address them directly with sellers. Sellers can share information with issuers, so issuers can deliver vital purchasing data to their customers, thus minimising customer confusion that could result in disputes. Such collaborative technologies are now coming into the payments ecosystem, fostered in large part by major card brands.

It isn’t just sellers that benefit by supporting data transparency for their customers. 70% of customers contact their issuer’s call centre at some point in the dispute process[4]. This creates an unnecessary workload for issuers, as many questions and disputes could have been expediently handled by the seller by providing their customers with essential transaction information.

Data-sharing solutions enable sellers to provide purchase information to card issuers, which in turn can be delivered to customers through online banking channels or reviewed by customer services personnel at the point of transaction inquiry. Not only can these services help prevent unnecessary disputes, but also provide a more enhanced experience for customers in the post-transaction phase of the payment lifecycle.

 

Don’t lose touch

Dispute strategies should be underpinned by efforts to build a bridge of trust with your customers – using email, text, digital receipts – which includes, and in some ways depends on, issuer collaboration. Embracing digital alternatives is key; as multichannel retailing becomes commonplace, so should multichannel customer service.

 

[1] Customer experience in the new reality, KPMG

[2] Aite Improving the Dispute Experience May 2020

[3] Aite Improving the Dispute Experience May 2020

[4] Javelin Report – Optimizing Dispute Strategies / October 2020

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