Customer Service - Online Presence or In-Store Interaction?

With today’s advanced technology and endless apps, it can be tempting to merely shop online and basically avoid any human interaction. Thankfully, trusty brick and mortar stores are still going strong, the question is: are they still as popular as they once were?

Surely, we’ve all encountered the situation of finding the perfect item online (and not wanting to pay for delivery…), so we run to our local store only to find out that the product is not in stock. Do people still visit the High Street if the store’s online equivalent stocks more products in larger quantities?

We believe people head to the stores for the personal touch of customer service, that is not present online.  Inspired are rewarding businesses that challenge the norm and reach out to customers through new and innovative ways. So, is your level of customer service worthy of an award?

Is online taking over?

 Image: Sproutsocial

Image: Sproutsocial

Sprout Social’s 2016 results for People’s Top Choice for Customer Care demonstrated that customers most prefer to interact over social media and are least likely to visit a store.

This could be due to several reasons, one being, it is easier to voice our worries / complaints / queries behind a screen these days, than visiting a store and facing possible confrontation. Customer care through social media (when done right) is quicker and requires less effort than store visits, which we all need in our busy lives! However, the stores themselves still need to be on it.

Depending on the size of your business, it would be ideal to have a staff member (or a whole team) who is responsible for social media and responding to comments. Many consumers tag friends in a retail business’ Facebook post to draw their attention to something about that particular store. For example; Primark’s new Harry Potter range, many shoppers tagged friends to share their excitement to purchase these products. Businesses that monitor their social media have been known to comment back on their customers’ comments with promotions and updates to encourage a store visit, such as “Don’t forget, bags are 2 for 1 this Friday!”. Even with rude comments or negative posts from customers, a high level of customer service needs to be consistent, with an apologetic reply or possibly a voucher to make up for any unsatisfied products / experiences.

This level of customer service should continue from online to in-store. Customers appreciate the personal touch that can be offered in-store, from friendly, approachable staff to interesting conversations with regulars.

Technology should not replace customer satisfaction, instead it should enhance it. With this considered, if businesses ignore the importance of a positive customer experience, then they can be missing out on differentiating themselves and maximising their success.
— Stuart Parker, ert online

From the moment you enter certain stores, you can be greeted by a member of staff - an instant opportunity for customers to ask for help if necessary. According to Live Person’s global survey on the ideal online customer experience, 83% of global users need some form of support during their online journey and if that support is not available then 34% will abandon their cart.

Improving in-store customer service

Yes, delivering good customer service is not rocket science, but when the effort is minimal, it can create a rather negative outcome. Just remember these key points of great customer service:

  • Happy Face, Happy Customer - We’re not saying that you need to skip around all day beaming like a west end star, but greeting customers with a smile and a “Hello” can really make a difference. Providing friendly acknowledgement to those who have taken the time to enter your store will create a more welcoming and approachable atmosphere for the people who are supporting the company.


  • “Manners Maketh Man”- Good manners cost nothing. No matter how difficult or rude the customer is, make sure you treat them with respect and use your dashing charm to be the bigger person. Even if they claim that they will never return, remain polite- it’s their loss!


  • Know what you’re selling - Product knowledge is extremely important as this will be what customers will enquire most about. Take time to know your product and services inside and out, be aware of anything new in store, any current items on sale, any add-ons that can benefit a customer’s purchase, etc.


  • Happy to help - Don’t hide from customers! Position yourself where customers can easily see you if they need your assistance- or offer help first if you can see a shopper looking confused. Make sure not to overstep the line with your assistance, some customers are happy to shop alone, and it can become uncomfortable and hassling when continuously approached.


  • Time to say goodbye - Just like you welcomed the customers into the store, don’t forget to show your appreciation by thanking them (even if they didn’t purchase anything!) and bid them farewell. Hopefully this will leave them wanting more!

Come in we're awesome.jpg

Shopping is not just about the end product, it’s the journey. If a live chat is non-existent online, then customers will not feel fully supported and will leave in one click, therefore your in-store interaction must be impeccable to make up for any online hindrances. PWC’s 2017 Total Retail Global survey states that 59% of shoppers believe the most important in-store attribute is sales associates with a deep knowledge of product range, and 32% of shoppers find mobile websites difficult to use.

Have you been rewarded for your amazing customer service or believe you should be?

Register now to be in win the chance of winning our Consumer's Choice Award.

Fran Page