RETAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE TIPS

Dec 13, 2018

MINUTE READ

Dec 13, 2018

4 MINUTE READ

A smoothly run retail operation will eliminate most customer service complaints, but no shop is perfect. Mistakes and miscommunications are inevitable. Here are some techniques to help diffuse tense customer service situations that emerge in both traditional and online retail. 

In Store – The first step is fine-tuning your in-store customer service. Even experienced retailers might be able to benefit from some of these tips.

1. Returns
Occasional returns are inevitable, and customers making a return may be agitated. The process of returning to a store is inconvenient for them. It’s best to be understanding and apologetic where necessary. You should have a staff, or at least a manager, capable of evaluating wine faults. All personnel should know to pull expired beer off shelves, and which products need to be stored cold. Returned products that are damaged, faulty or expired should be met with an apology and a replacement. For example, even though some bottles of corked wine are unavoidable, it’s a disappointment for the customer that requires some sympathy. Returns resulting from a customer mistake, such as an unwanted gift or a mistaken purchase should be met with the kindest face possible, even if a return isn’t permitted. Remember, alcohol returns or refunds are illegal in most states, except in the case of exchange for damaged product. Make sure that you know the law.

2. Out of Stock
Customers can be disappointed when their favorite bottles go out of stock. There are many causes for an out of stock situation. Distributors may themselves be out, or sometimes buyers make mistakes. When you run out of a customer’s favorite item, make sure to have a suitable replacement in mind for them. It’s important to have a procedure in place for out of stock disappointments. It’s courteous to contact customers when their product arrives back in the store. You should offer this service to anyone interested.

3. Pricing Pushback
Pricing in liquor retail isn’t always as simple as an even percentage mark-up. Small stores often have to pay more for products because they don’t have the storage to buy them in large quantities. Shops with a higher service standards might need to charge a higher margin to pay for their staff. A more universal problem is that when distributors raise prices, retailers are forced to follow suit. If a customer complains about high prices, tactful transparency is the best policy. Tell them that prices went up for you, and that you had no choice but to make a small increase. The best compromise is to offer them a lower-priced alternative product. We don’t recommend offering discounts to satisfy complaints. Haggling sets a bad precedent and is unfair to other customers.

Online – Understanding common in-store customer service problems can help to prepare you for similar problems that arise in e-commerce. While the problems may be familiar, the strategies for solving them are different. Online customers should feel personally connected to your business, even if the purchase is mediated. They may live far away, but you’re still their neighborhood shop. Great customer service is the best way to strengthen this connection.

1. Inventory Showcasing Mistakes
Mistakes on your online inventory may result from an improper inventory count or a lack of communication with your online platform. In the event that your inventory online is incorrect, make sure to fix it as quickly as possible, before the issues below arise. Keeping inventory accurate is one of the most certain ways to foresee customer service issues with e-commerce.

2. Swapping/Subbing
Customers may prioritize getting a product quickly, over getting exactly what they ordered. If a vodka is out of stock and you have a similarly priced one that looks and tastes similar, a substitution for the order might be appropriate. Always make every effort to contact the customer first. Even if a customer approves of a substitution, you want to make sure you make a thoughtful suggestion. Preferences are very personal and products may be favored for unexpected reasons. A Pale Ale that seems similar to you might be a disappointment for a customer with particular tastes.

3. Late Deliveries
Late deliveries are the most common source of online customer service complaints. Timely delivery may depend on external factors, such as the weather or traffic, or internal issues, such as the flow of your retail business and sudden staffing problems. Good communication is vital. If you anticipate a longer delivery time, it’s best to be honest with the customer. It’s better to lose one sale today than to lose a customer for good. If you charge delivery fees, it’s an appropriate act of good will to waive them for customers who don’t get the promised service.

4. Damaged Deliveries
In the event that a bottle is damaged during delivery, it’s good policy to offer a re-delivery with a fresh bottle and a sincere apology. A third party delivery driver or mail carrier might be at fault, but they were still stewarding your product. You are the one customers will first look to for restitution. After making things right with customers, you can investigate the cause for the damage and take your claims up with the delivery service that damaged the bottle. Holding third parties responsible for damaged products is important, but the customer always comes first.

 

These inevitable common customer service problems that arise in doing business online can be solved simply by working with an e-commerce partner. Drizly has a dedicated service team ready to respond to customer issues with delivery service. Their customer service team can rectify most service issues without your staff needing to get involved, and they can work directly with you to help determine the best solutions in the case of refunds or exchanges.

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