Stores need skilled and knowledgeable staff to survive

Almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers think store staff with a lack of knowledge is their biggest irritation about shopping on the high street.

The retail industry is still in the first month of a new decade and department store Beales has already been placed into administration. But research from RetailEXPO suggests retailers could encourage more footfall if they upped their customer service levels.

According to the report of 2,000 UK consumers, shoppers who make an effort to visit a store are obsessed with customer service. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of shoppers say highly-skilled store staff who deliver better service and in-depth product information make them more likely to visit a physical store, while 75% of shoppers go as far to say that good customer service encourages them to spend more money in store.

The report suggests retailers should use technology to automate tasks currently undertaken by employees so they can spend more time with their in-store customers. Shoppers are calling out for technology to help them find products and speed up taking payment at the till point. Meanwhile, 50% of shoppers want staff to have access to additional information online via mobile or wearable tech, with staff lacking access to digital catalogues cited as a major irritation by 20% of younger 18-24 year old shoppers. 

“At a time when shoppers can buy almost anything online, the service offered by in-store staff is a key differentiator driving customer loyalty and increasing average order value,” said Matt Bradley, event director for RetailEXPO. “It’s clear that retail businesses who optimise their workforce by using technology to allow them to spend more time on the store floor with customers will enhance customer experience and therefore customer lifetime value. In 2020 delivering customer experiences that are deeply personal and distinctly human is more important than ever.”

At NRF last week, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson detailed his use of technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) to enable “human connections” between his store staff and customers.

He said AI isn’t about “robots replacing baristas”, but providing technology to conduct the manual tasks, such as inventory stock checks, to give baristas more time to spend with customers.

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