It may seem obvious, but small steps can keep jewellers in business.
By Jo Causon, chief executive, Institute of Customer Service
At the risk of stating the obvious, times are tough out there. We only have to look at the vacant premises on the high street or out-of-town shopping centres to see what happens to companies that lose sight of the customer: they fail.
In the boom years they could survive, but there are fewer customers today and they are careful where they spend their money. Price may be a driver but when it comes to that timeless, lasting piece of jewellery, it is also about making every customer feel special.
Institute of Customer Service research shows that companies with a reputation for service excellence and committed frontline staff have a 24 percent higher net profit margin and can achieve 71 percent more profit per employee than rivals who do not enjoy similar standing.
Giving good customer service is something many small businesses do naturally and often it can be what sets them apart from their larger counterparts. Twice yearly the Institute runs the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, with 26,000 consumers rating the businesses and organisations that give them the best customer service. Historically, it is the small, local businesses that come out on top as they are naturally closer to the customer.
All is not lost for the multiple jewellers however, as the last survey published in January and reported on professionaljeweller.com showed that the retail trade was the top performer across the 13 industry sectors researched.
The great thing about customer care is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Making the client feel special by understanding exactly what they want and delivering it to them is the key. From their first foray into the shop or online, to on-time delivery and any subsequent after care, customers want the reassurance that what they are buying is perfect for them and that they have made the right choice of – both in terms of what they buy and who they buy it from.
It is also about getting it right every time. Consistency of customer service is essential. Putting customers at the heart of your business improves employee performance, which increases business performance and makes organisations more competitive. In specific terms, a purchaser may visit several shops before deciding to buy, so make sure yours is the most memorable for more than just the item they purchase.
Training staff to uphold a high level of service throughout the transaction can make all the difference. Employees enjoy knowing they have a pleased customer, they get greater job satisfaction. So an organisation that emphasises customer service goes a long way to retaining staff.
We at the Institute of Customer Service believe that organisations large and small can create a better environment for effective customer service delivery by being part of our increasing community of members dedicated to professionalism in customer service. These organisations have access to our knowledge and service and can learn from one another through our various networking events.
So to summarise: recruit and train the right people, keep them happy, lead by example, welcome complaints and act on them, build a good reputation, communicate your strengths through marketing, measure and benchmark your performance, talk to your customers and recognise the importance of their loyalty. It might seem obvious but getting these customer service points right time and time again can make a massive difference.