Mr. Lagois, in which customer service areas do you currently see the biggest changes?
André Lagois: In the future, especially delivery and assembly services are becoming more and more important to be able to offer customers comprehensive service. What’s more, customers getting information on their own via interactive media and digital product presentations is becoming more and more popular as well. And information is service.
This means service is becoming more technical?
Lagois: Of course. New multi-channel technologies can simplify information services that were previously provided by staff. When I go shopping with my Smartphone today, I can scan in any product and immediately obtain the cheapest price on the Internet. With the help of QR codes, I also have the option to read the retailer’s webpage.
This costs both the retailer and the customer practically nothing. Stores also use more and more product videos. If I take a product off the shelf for instance, a small monitor starts to play information about its applications and ingredients.
Does this mean customers need to do without personal service in the future?
Lagois: That depends on the store concept. Many specialty retailers are of course not going to get rid of their employees. In the case of premium brands, it is more and more all about the shopping experience in pleasant surroundings. The customer finds everything on the subject and receives sound advice. However, in places that focus on the lowest sales prices possible, retailers increasingly cut down on staff to save costs. Sales support by staff in large-scale retail stores is therefore decreasing. That’s why it is only helpful, when customers are able to inform themselves on their own.
How is this change reflected in sales volumes?
Lagois: If I have well-trained staff, I also sell more. What’s more, well-trained staff on location can also appeal to the emotional level of customers. The customer then enjoys shopping and in the end buys more than he/she actually originally intended to buy. Getting your own information on the other hand can be beneficial since information about products is constantly increasing and not every salesperson is able to know it all. A product video on the other hand does.
What kind of service do you prefer?
Lagois: For me that depends on the product. When I go to the supermarket, I know roughly what I need and therefore need less help. When I buy a high quality item, I prefer to get some service and might possibly not be able to discern where the pros and cons are compared with other products. In this case, I follow my instinct on how much I like the salesperson and the shopping experience. In this case, I am willing to spend a little more money.
The subject of delivery service is still in its infancy in large-scale and online retail.
Lagois: Yes, that’s true. Specialized retailers still have a clear advantage in this case: I order a product, the retailer then delivers and assembles it. Online retailers and large-scale retail stores are still lagging behind in this area. The reason for this is clear: the specialized retailer has local connections or offers these services himself and is thus able to easily service the field. The big chain stores still have very big logistical issues in this area.
What benefits do the so-called added services have?
Lagois: With these added services for the customer for instance, an extra charge is added to a product where a service has already been included without actually specifying it. For example, when I tag a garden shed that actually costs 1,100 Euros for 1,400 Euros and advertise that I am also delivering and assembling it, sales for this product are clearly higher. The advantage for the customer is that he/she can then also be sure that the shed is being professionally assembled.
How important is good customer service at the POS?
Lagois: I deem it very important, because I need to stand out from my competition. I can accomplish this with service.