Tricks of the trade: customer service tips

Tricks of the Trade is a space for retailers and consultants to share knowledge and tips on facing everyday business challenges. This month, they give advice on providing good customer service.

Coco de Mer, customer relations, Laura Bartsch

Adapt to different customers’ needs
Good customer service is about getting a feel for the person as quickly as possible. At Coco de Mer, we have a highly-varied clientele with an array of needs and desires. The quicker you can gauge the customer, the more you can set a tone for conversation and efficiently find them the perfect purchase.

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Customer service must reflect the brand in question
To shop at Coco de Mer is an experience of high quality and intrigue. Our customer relations team for online customers will communicate much like our boutique staff, with extensive knowledge, a friendly attitude and with the priority of making the customer happy and offering an exciting experience.

Remember, good customer service does not end at the point of purchase
We develop a long-standing rapport with our clients, which works particularly well in store. Knowing their interests and informing them on upcoming pieces or events ahead of their launch in order to make them feel valued is important.

Match your customers expectations
Our customers are intelligent and well-read, and, in this age of online resources, they have often researched ahead of contacting us. Our team have to match
their expectations and our knowledge and advice has to be second to none.

Guide your customers in new directions
People have preconceived ideas of what they enjoy, the fit of their lingerie and so on, and they don’t always embrace change. Good customer service should have the flexibility to inform these customers and push them in new directions whilst also understanding that some may have affinities with brands and pieces because of previous experiences.

Bordello owner Michele Scarr

Go the extra mile
Be flexible with your opening hours and appointment times – nobody likes to be ushered out the door on the strike of 6pm. I refund when possible and offer a made-to- measure service if I can. I’ve even been known to hand deliver an item on my bicycle for a local client, free of charge.

Tell the Truth
I never lie to get a sale. I’d rather the client looks good and returns to shop with me again. Mis-sell and your client will hate you for it when they get home or when they give their wife a gift that she loathes. Dont forget, its all about the repeat business.

Be passionate about your brand
Understand your brand. I got my nickname, Madame Bordello, from my staff and they, in turn, are the Bordelettes. If you run your own business, you are your brand and if you believe in it, then your clients will believe
in you.

Be polite and friendly
Nobody likes a miserable assistant wrapped up in their own problems. Good manners go a long way, so say hello, goodbye and take an interest in your clients; it will help you better understand their lifestyle and their needs. Also, wrestle those mobile phones off your staff and away from the shop floor.

Know your stock
Be knowledgeable about your industry and your stock. Know who makes it, where, how it fits and what its size availability is. Impress your clients with your knowledge. They might enjoy it.

Beautifully Undressed director Annabelle Mu’azu

Respond to orders quickly
We always respond to any order within 12 hours to reassure our customer that we’ve received their order. We then endeavour to dispatch orders within 24 to 48 hours. All purchases are gift wrapped and packaged in our bespoke pillow boxes, with a personal postcard thanking them for their purchase.

Deal with refunds in a friendly manner
On the rare occasion when a customer has found their purchase unsuitable, we always respond with a friendly and accommodating email or a phone call as soon as possible. We also suggest an alternative item or size, or offer money back if the customer is still
not satisfied.

Offer a bespoke service
There has been a number of occasions where we have purchased special items from the designer for “special customers” like brides, or helped to provide bespoke pieces. It is wonderful to be able to assist these customers and see and hear about the pleasure their purchase gave them.

React to your mistakes
Where we’ve been at fault – when a customer has ordered an item that is no longer available, for example – I always try to obtain the item from the manufacturer, and if it is not available, I try to suggest another item.

House of Fraser lingerie buyer Isabel Keith

Know your product
We ensure that our staff are experts on style and fit. Our lingerie specialists are trained to know our brands inside and out so that they can advise the customers on the styles, fits and shapes that are currently available. Being a large department store means that we have a wide range of customers and are able to offer a plethora of brands, from Marie Meili and Maison Lejaby to Calvin Klein and Chantelle.

Make the customer feel relaxed
The key to buying the right lingerie is getting the right fit. Having a fitting can be intimidating for some ladies, so we try to make the experience as relaxed and comfortable as possible. We assess ladies with and without top clothes and bring a selection of sizes and silhouettes to the fitting room in order get the best product to suit that customer’s needs. Encourage customers to do ‘the top test’ so they can see the benefits of wearing the right sized bra.

Know what you’re looking for
Lingerie is like any other accessory; you have different solutions to go with every piece in your wardrobe. We want every customer to leave delighted and confident with their purchase. Once they have settled on the most appropriate product, and they are happy with the style and fit, encourage them to try a variety of styles to try on with their outfit. For example, if a customer is looking for a T-shirt bra it makes sense to try it on with a T-shirt.

Gorgeous lingerie boutique owner and Champneys boutique group buying manager Elle Terry-Dawson

Let customers know you’re there to help
A lot of boutique assistants seem to lack good customer service and response, i.e. not over pestering a shopper, but letting the shopper know they are there to assist when the shopper is ready for help.

Hire friendly staff
When interviewing for boutique assistant positions, I will always question what the interviewee believes are their best customer service skills. This can vary from showing patience, helpfulness and friendliness.

Remain neutral
I always explain to my boutique assistants that they should never enter any political debates or discussions and should remain as neutral as possible on the shop floor. The customer needs to feel comfortable and at ease to encourage spending.

Be professional
No one feels happy spending in an tense atmosphere, so I ask that boutique assistants refrain from discussing personal issues between each other when around customers.

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