Customer service is more important than ever, but meeting consumers’ expectations is also harder than ever. Many consumers love the ease and precision of online shopping, while bricks-and-mortar competition is increasing with international challengers moving north of the border in many categories. Having a good customer service policy is only part of the answer. Finding the right staff to deliver on your brand’s promise is another.
Marketing spoke with customer service champions from six different companies – all of which are well regarded for their high levels of service – to find out what traits they look for in sales representatives, how they measure customer service and the biggest challenges they face today.
Vyara Ndejuru, director of marketing at Aldo Shoes
How does customer service fit in the marketing mix?
We are a youth-oriented lifestyle brand, so there is a constant renewal of our customer base, which means you need to be immersed if not obsessed by your customer not to lose touch.
What is the customer service strategy?
We created a guiding principle that supports our core values of love, integrity and respect. We created a philosophy that we called “Stay Bold” in 2010 as part of a company-wide revamp related to the branded experience—everything that had to do with the way we looked, the way we spoke, the music that you heard, the types of people that were working in our stores and the types of attitudes or values we were looking for them to have, as well as customer service.
How often do you revise that strategy?
Our core principles and values never change. What will change is the tactics we use. One of the things that has become top of mind is the usage of social media. That’s a tactic that has evolved since the last time we revisited the program in 2010.
How does social media play a role in how you now deal with customer service issues?
Social has really put the power in the hands of the customer and, depending on the size and score of their network, they can have immediate impact on the perception of your brand. I think the speed at which you respond and the type of responses you’re able to give your customers online speaks volumes, especially if you’re able to turn a not-so-happy customer into a happy one.
How do you measure customer service?
Customers are chosen randomly and asked to fill out an [online] customer service questionnaire that rates everything from the in-store experience to anything else. One in three customers are selected, but it’s voluntary to go online and fill out a pretty exhaustive survey and every quarter we review them and make changes. Every store is identified and they get those surveys back so the district manager can relay back the information. It’s a very transparent system that goes from the customer right back to the store that is rated or the experience that is rated.
When interviewing potential employees, how do you determine if they’ll be strong brand ambassadors?
We look for stylish people because we work in fashion, but we [also] look for people who are approachable, because we believe we can make fashion a lot more approachable, and a little less scary. We want people who are natural and genuine and curious. If we have people who are curious about the world they live in, who are energetic, ambitious and positive, we believe that is going to translate in the in-store experience because how you deliver the product is as important as the product itself. We are selling shoes ultimately, but there are a million other places people can go for shoes. We’re looking to sell an experience that we hope no one else can replicate.
Check out Marketing’s Oct. 29 double issue for more Q&As with Kiehl’s Kristin Armstrong, Porter’s Andrew Wilson, Longo’s Liz Volk and Rob Koss, Indigo’s Michael Smyth, Mendocino’s Jessica Kaplan and more features on the state of customer service in Canada.